How to Track Your Online Community with Google Alerts - dummies

How to Track Your Online Community with Google Alerts

By Deborah Ng

If anyone is talking about your online community on the web, you’ll hear about it if you use Google Alerts. This free service allows you to sign up for specific search keywords by filling out a quick form and receiving the results in your e-mail inbox.


Google Alerts is a good way to find out what’s being said about you, your community, and your brand, as well as what’s being said about your competitors. Here’s what you need to do to set up a Google alert:

  1. Go to the Google alert site.

    You’re taken to a form with self-explanatory fields.

  2. In the Search Terms field, indicate what word or phrases you’d like to search for.

    You have several options:

    • Keywords related to your product or brand

    • Your blog, website, and community URLs

    • The names of prominent members of your team or organization

    • Your name

    • Your competitors’ names and URLs

  3. In the Type field, determine what kind of results to receive.

    For example, you can choose to receive all results (that is, every result Google Analytics has for your search term on that day) or all the best results (the most popular and most relevant to your search).

    Try receiving all results and see what happens. If you receive too many results that aren’t relative, you’ll want to tweak it a bit to give you the best results.

  4. Indicate how often you want to receive alerts.

    If you have more than one alert set up, and it’s a popular search term, you’re going to receive quite a few e-mail alerts during the day which can be inconvenient. A good option is to receive one daily e-mail with all the alerts.

  5. In the Volume field, choose what kind of results you want to receive.

  6. Choose where you’d like the results delivered, such as your personal e-mail address.

You can set up as many alerts as you’d like. After you enter your information, Google will send you e-mails every time these items are mentioned on the web.

When you receive the alerts, they’ll tell you what is being said and where. Now you need to determine whether each mention is worthy of investigation. Your e-mail alert will consider an excerpt from the mention. It may be a blog post or forum entry having nothing to do with your brand at all and someone is using a similar term in their content.

However, if it’s obvious you’re being discussed online, click through the link to view the content and determine whether the content is worthy of a comment or action.