How to Sharply Improve Your Proactivity Using Free Google Alerts

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Highlighting keywords in a document. A metaphor for keyword tracking using alerts.

Many clients think it’s important that the freelancers and agencies they work with are proactive. That can be a tall order. Staying at the forefront of your client’s thinking can be demanding at times. Google Alerts, a free keyword monitoring tool, can help you stay ahead.

Proactivity requires constantly updating yourself on your client’s situation. That can be tough with many clients to track and follow. There’s nothing wrong with using a bit of automation to make it easier to pay proper attention to the clients you consider especially valuable and important.

This tip won’t come as a complete surprise to many of you. I’m sure you’ve heard of Google Alerts. But you may not have used it exactly this way.

Using Google Alerts to Boost Your Proactivity By Staying Informed About What’s Happening to Your Clients

Using Google Alerts, you can specify keywords which Google will monitor for you and alert you as soon as someone mentions them in the content on the web. Wikipedia defines it as:

“Google Alerts is a content change detection and notification service, offered by the search engine company Google. The service sends emails to the user when it finds new results—such as web pages, newspaper articles, blogs, or scientific research—that match the user’s search term(s).”

Many of us have set up alerts for our own businesses and brand names. But how many have used it to track client companies and brands and even broken links?

It’s all possible thanks to the fact that you can use search modifiers when creating your alerts. Let’s see how.

Setting Up Google Alerts for Your Client’s Company and Brand Names

Start by going to google.com/alerts:

Google Alerts is great for helping you stay informed about new content and news that affect your help and helps you boost your client proactivity.
Google Alerts is great for helping you stay informed about new content and news that affect your client. These alerts help you boost your client proactivity.

If you’re not tracking anything, Google Alerts will suggest trending keywords to track. In the example above, I’m not logged in so Google Alerts is being helpful and suggests things I might be interested in.

Type in a keyword to start. I suggest simply writing the name of a client. Let’s call them “acme” just to be original 🙂

If you haven’t logged in to a Google account, Google Alerts will ask for an email address where to send the alerts. If you are logged in you will see a button that says “Create alert”. Next to it is an inconspicuous link that says “Show more options.” Let’s click it for the fun of it.

Alerts can be customized allowing you to limit them to certain languages or having them delivered at certain times.
Alerts can be customized allowing you to limit them to certain languages or having them delivered at certain times.

As you can see, there are multiple ways to customize the alert. You can choose to have your alerts delivered as a proactivity digest once per week, for example. For more information about these options, please see the Google Alert help pages.

Let’s look at some ways you can use alerts to become more proactive.

Get an Alert When the Press Mentions Your Clients

By just creating an alert for clientname, you will be alerted any time the client is mentioned. This is a major proactivity improvement. But you might want to be a bit more specific. By choosing “News” as source you can filter all sources save news and media. This can come in handy if there’s an interview in the press, or if the company gets other forms of media exposure.

The Gift of Proactivity: Buy Your Client a New Book Mentioning Them

If you have a look at the sources menu, you’ll notice there are more options. One of them is “Books.” Chances are you will know about the mention before the client’s representative does. You might even be able to snag a copy and present it as a gift to them before they find out. Quite a way to boost client happiness!

Track News in Your Client’s Business Vertical

To seem especially well-informed and be known for your proactivity, create alerts for content related to your client’s vertical. Let’s assume your client produces powered gardening equipment and tools. You can track news in that particular business vertical by following relevant keywords such as product categories names (“mower” and “weed whacker” come to mind).

Keep an Eye on Your Client’s Competitors

Just like how you can track keywords, you can also track your client’s competitors’ names. This will help you stay ahead of what’s going on in their competitive space. It might also help you develop new ideas and strategies based on what their competition is doing.

Monitor Your Client’s Press Releases

You can find press released by visiting your client’s websites. But it’s way more convenient to get it all in the same proactivity alert feed. By using the intitle search operator you can limit your alert match to keywords found in the titles of pages.

  • By writing clientname intitle:press or clientname intitle:release you can get alerts with press releases specifically.
  • The intitle operator has a sibling name allintitle that takes more than one keyword which we can use: clientname allintitle:press release. You can also use quotation marks to search for the phrase "press release".

Here is a list of all Google search operators you can use.

Learn What Your Client’s Competitors Are Blogging About

You can even create an alert that tracks your client’s competitors blogs. This way you will always know what your client’s competitors are writing about. Just create this alert: site:clientscompetitor.com/blog (assume that’s the URL of their blog).

  • If you want to track multiple blogs, just use the OR operator: site:clientsfirstcompetitor.com/blog OR site:blog.clients2ndcompetitor.io.
  • If you want to track specific keywords in blog titles, that’s possible too: intitle:mower + site:clientsfirstcompetitor.com/blog (for a company that manufactures gardening equipment).

Find Missing Pages Before the Client Does

Broken links and “not found” pages are no fun. These should be redirected, but that requires knowing about them. You can keep an eye out for these by creating an alert: site:clientname.com intitle:"not found”. Now you’ll be alerted as soon as Google indexes a page with the words “not found” in its title.

Google Alerts Finds Many Mentions But Not All of Them, Still Many Enough to Raise Your Proactivity Rating 

As you can see, Google Alerts is incredibly powerful and useful when it comes to achieving proactivity. But it doesn’t alert you of all mentions. Still, what it does detect and alert you about should be a big help in staying more informed about your client and their world.

How are you using Google Alerts?

Please share your tips in the comments.

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Author: Jakob Persson

Jakob is the founder and CEO of Zingsight, the company behind Bondsai. He's been involved with the web for over twenty years and has previously co-founded and grown a web agency from 4 to 70 people. Jakob holds degrees in media technology and cognitive science. He consults in product design and management, and business development. Jakob is an experienced skier and a learning scuba diver.