Gini Dietrich

How-To: Use Google Alerts

By: Gini Dietrich | January 11, 2010 | 

Yesterday I spoke to the WIN Home Inspection franchisees at their annual conference. As is typical, I had a few people tell me before the session began that social media is for their kids and they just don’t get it. One partner even told me that I had better have enough energy to keep him awake because he was really tired and, besides, he has kids at home that do this Facebook thing so he doesn’t see the need for his business.

You know comments like that just get me fired up and I picked on him a good bit during the workshop. I love taking the cynicism and fear of a room and turning it into motivation and excitement. And that’s precisely what happened.

But that’s not the point of this post. The point is that some great ideas came out of our three hour workshop and I want to relay them to you here.

They were sitting at tables of 10 so, after the intro on social media, I had them work to come up with terms they could use for Google alerts.

I know, I know. Everyone has Google alerts, right? Um. No. They don’t. It’s step one in listening, which is the foundation to a great social media program, so we always start there…in understanding why they’re important and what to search in order to make yourself most efficient at listening to the online chatter.

Some of their ideas included:

  1. Their name.
  2. The company name plus the city in which they live.
  3. Top producers in their city (I especially love this one because they work with real estate agents and this is a great way to target new prospects).
  4. Local competitors.
  5. The company name plus the word “sucks” (I’m reading “What Would Google Do” and Jeff Jarvis suggests all of us should be searching for our companies with the word “sucks” in it; i.e. Arment Dietrich sucks. No, there’s nothing in that search, but believe me, it’s an alert I have set up!).
  6. Services they offer.
  7. Local organizations they either currently support or want to support.
  8. The names of the people at their competitor’s offices, not just the company names.
  9. How-to or advice on keeping your home up-to-par so it’s ready for an inspection when you sell it.
  10. Products that typically fail in homes.
  11. Companies that sell products that typically fail in homes.
  12. Industry organizations.
  13. State regulations around home inspections.

Though some of these ideas are specific to their industry, they can be tailored to use for any company.

Be honest. Do you have Google alerts set up? Are they this detailed? What would you add to the list?

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I have Google Alerts set up for all of Element-R’s clients and on more than one occasion they’ve made us to critically important information related to the client’s businesses and our ongoing programs. Every business should use this extremely simple listening tool.

  • My alerts aren’t this detailed. If they were, I imagine I’d be spending the better part of my day reading my Google Alerts. They are a great tool however.

  • I follow common phrases for my work such as “failure of leadership”, “failure of teamwork”, “executive failure”, etc. It gives me good case studies to talk about during executive team strategy sessions without having to reference a real client example. It’s also good blog fodder where I can show how we’d handle the situation *before* it got that bad. This also works for press releases.

  • I would add a Google Alert that would tell me if and when the government has added me to a “watch list” of some kind, and left it lying unprotected on a publicly facing server somewhere.


    confidential “ItStartsWith.Us” filetype:xls OR filetype:doc OR filetype:pdf site:*.gov

    One can never be too careful.


  • Great examples. I’ll be setting some of these today.

    And a business owner saying “My kids have Facebook, what do I need that for?” reminds me of the day my then 9 yo daughter told a teacher “My Mom has a history degree, why do I need to know this stuff?”

  • Gini,

    Yes, I have a few Google Alerts set up. To Steve’s point, I can imagine that it would get overwhelming to have too many. That said, this blog post has definitely stretched my thoughts on a few more alerts I should be watching.


  • I have at least 20 Google Alerts set up for everything from our company name to our top competitors to specific services we offer and new markets we are considering. I usually find the most interesting information about our competitors this way.

    Having the alerts really helped last year when Google found an article about a company with whom we had a very large subcontract. The article explained that the company was shutting down. Without the Google alert, it would have been weeks before we were given the news, but with the alert we found out immediately and were able to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves earlier rather than later.

    For those who think the alerts will be too time consuming, they really aren’t. Most alerts are easily scan-able in a couple minutes.

  • I would add that, in addition to company name, companies should add frequent misspellings of their name.

  • I love, love, love Google alerts! I’ve also used them to track candidates I wanted to hire, potential prospects, and more. Gini – what’s your take on the other alerts? I’ve found that there are some variances between Google and other providers.

  • Putting your company name with “sucks” is overkill – Google alerts would send you an email just because your company name, or your own name, is in the posting. You can select how often to receive the alerts – hourly, daily or weekly so that you will not be overwhelmed with results.

  • Perri Collins

    I have been using Google Alerts for YEARS. I am constantly telling people to use it, so I’m glad you put this post up. It’s getting retweeted all right.

  • Gini, I have quite a few, but not this many. Also, if you have your company name set up wouldn’t it show up with “sucks” or “amazing” or any other term? I’d be curious to hear how often people get the alerts, do you limit how many you recieve. Having a name like Tim McDonald provides me with a ton of results including professional football player, video game developer, off the grid green living dude, reverend, and more. Any tips of scaling back on those without missing anything?
    Don’t want to diminish the fact that way too many people don’t even have alerts set up. Such a powerful tool that doesn’t cost a cent.

  • Erin

    I use Google alerts for industries I am interested in like pr and non-profit. And I add alerts of companies before an interview so I can talk about recent news.

  • By no means am I suggesting you have this many alerts set up. We do this exercise to find the ones most relevant to the audiences, but also to generate some new thinking around tweaking your alerts.

    To combine Jamie’s and Linda’s comments…adding the word “sucks” actually isn’t overkill because most people will write things such as AD sucks and not type out the full name (this just happened to Ernst & Young, but it was under EY sucks). So also think about how people would abbreviate your name.

    Tim, to answer your question, narrow it down. Do alerts such as “Tim McDonald” + Chicago. Or “Tim McDonald” + real estate. That helps narrow it down.

    Then, just like I do with the blogs I subscribe to, I have offline folders in Outlook set up to catch the alerts, where they go until I have a few minutes to scroll through them.

    Jeannie, I like socialmention alerts, but I haven’t found anything else that catches things Google does not catch.

  • very helpful… thanks!

  • It is really interesting, especially with a new site to see how long it takes Google to scan new content. So one alert you can set up for a domain, say, is “”. This will give you an alert whenever Google spiders new content on your site. If you set it up for “as it happens” alerts, you will get up to the minute content updates.

    Also, this is an interesting search in Google itself to see how many pages of content Google has from your site.

  • Gini- The geography limits are important for local businesses, glad you included that. I’ve gotten Google alert hits from Twitter handles and website addresses; CompanyName as one word rather than two.

    Sure you can have too many, but they can be easily changed per the campaign. For example, you can track a specific promotion or event and when over, cancel the alert.

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  • Mary Deming Barber

    Great list of Google Alert components. I am always surprised how many people don’t have them. It’s a fairly simple first step in listening to what’s being said.

    I have several but think I’ll rethink that list now. Your suggestions are more comprehensive. Geographic alerts are really critical in our “remote” area too. I would also remind people to use the quotation marks and “+” symbols, etc. to make sure they are getting the alerts they want.

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