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Using Google Alerts for Outreach

Monday, July 22nd, 2013 by Dave Colgate

SEOIf you’re not already using Google Alerts, I highly recommend you do. If you work for an agency performing SEO for clients, I recommend you consider each of your campaigns and set up key Google Alerts based on:

  • Brand mentions
  • Keyword mentions

The information and intelligence this can provide you with is incredibly useful from several perspectives:

  • Shows key areas of the web where your brand is being mentioned and discussed
  • Shows potential brand evangelists
  • How prolific your reach is
  • Where people and sites are linking to you and how they are doing so
  • Who is linking to you and from where

To provide that all important context, I’m also going to delve into; alternatives to Google Alerts; how to setup alerts; search operators; and country specific alerts. But if all you want is how to use them for outreach you can get to it from here.

Alternative to Google Alerts

We all know that Google products can have interesting life expectancies (think Google Wave). With this in mind, I have an alternative tool for you to try that not only works in the same way as Google Alerts, but provides even more information for you (just in case Google decide to cut their alerts service). The best part about this tool though is it’s free!

I use Talk Walker Alerts, the alternative to Google Alerts. Although the use is the same, I find it provides much better information. I’ll be focusing on this tool throughout.

How to setup Alerts

Whether you’re using Google Alerts or Talk Walker, the setup of alerts is exactly the same. Here’s a quick step by step on how to do this:

  1. Sign-up for the service
  2. Login to your account
  3. Click “create alert”
  4. In the “search query” box, insert the phrase or keyword for which you want alerts
  5. Change the “result type” drop-down to specify the type of content you want to see returned for the query. I usually leave this as “everything” so I can sift through the results myself
  6. You also have the option to choose what language in which you want results
  7. The “How often” box specifies how often you want the alert returned to you. Depending on where you work and what the objective is, I recommend choosing the one most befitting. If you need to keep close track of brand mentions, for example, I would keep this as “as it happens” so you get notified as soon as the information becomes available.
  8. Next you choose whether you want all results or the best. I leave it as the best because I find the quality of the search results is better and more accurate. However, if you’re after every mention, everywhere I would change this to include everything.
  9. Finally, you’ll need to enter your email (on Talk Walker)

Walk Talker screenshot

Search Operators to narrow alerts

Just like you can in ordinary search, you are also able to use search operators in Talk Walker and Google Alerts. Below are some useful operators that I use on a regular basis and find very useful for narrowing down the search results and making them even more specific to the query:

“[query]”                             Use quotation marks to specify exact match phrases
-[query]                                               A minus sign beforehand will exclude certain phrases from the search
-site:[query]                      Minus site will remove a certain domain from the search results
[query] OR [query]         Returns a query or another query that you specify

Talk Walker has lots more Boolean search operators that can be used and they can be found on the website.

These operators can also be used in combination with each other too, which I do on nearly every alert I create. It leads the way to much more specific queries and gets rid of the rubbish you don’t want to see or in which you aren’t interested.

Country specific searches

The only problem I find with Google Alerts is specifying countries. There’s no drop-down option to choose a country of origin for results and there’s no specific search operator for specifying country either. Talk Walker, however, has much more flexible search operators that allow you to search according to specific country of origin.

When specifying your “search query” you can use the operator “sourcecountry:” to specify a country of origin. I’ve found this to be a pretty reliable way of narrowing down to a country by country scale although it’s not always perfect. This works on the ISO 3166 country codes (Alpha 2 codes) so when using this search operator, use these to reference the country in which you’re interested.

Using location search opertators

Using alerts for outreach

Because alerts provide you with curated information from wherever you specify, it can provide real insight to brand and keyword mentions from many corners of the web that you may otherwise not look into. This is a great tool for outreach and prospecting.

To specify an alert specifically for use with outreach, you can define the search query using a combination of the keywords and search operators. For example, if I was trying to find prospects and people regularly talking about “aviation” in the UK that is blogs I could try the following:

Walk Talker showing example search for outreach

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About the author

Dave Colgate

Dave Colgate

Dave came on board with Vertical Leap in 2010 with a strong SEO and web development background, having worked on Content Management Systems and eCommerce websites. With a creative flare, Dave combines his knowledge of design, usability and SEO with advanced technical skills for a broader view of search that achieves great results. Follow me on Google+