In an earlier article I wrote about the importance of blog planning to help make sure you are producing quality blog articles on a consistent basis. That article received a lot of quality comments, as well as, provoked some interesting social media discussions. That’s exactly what you want to happen with all of the articles that you produce.
Each article should help you educate your target audience about a topic relevant to website design and website development. That said, sometimes its difficult coming up with ideas to blog about. Even when you keep a list of potential blog topics like we discussed in the blog planning article, you still have to come up with ideas to populate that list with. Keeping a list of blog articles that you want to write about is one great strategy to having a successful blog.
Another excellent strategy is to set up some “hooks” around the internet to alert you when someone else is writing about a topic that might appeal to your target audience. In this article we are going to explain what Google Alerts are, provide you with the benefits of using Google Alerts, dig into setting them up, discuss how to use Google Alerts to come up with Blog Topic ideas, and leave you with a few tips for using Google Alerts.
What Are Google Alerts?
Google Alerts is a product offered by Google for Google users. It’s free to use and extremely easy to set up. We’ll get into that more later. Google Alerts are simply notifications sent by Google to users who request them on any subject that you can think of. Google will send you links on:
- Everything (all of the above)
Once the user (YOU) has come up with a topic that you want to monitor on the web, such as Website Development, Google will then aggregate the results on a regular basis from around the web, and send you a list of those results to your Gmail account. Let’s use an example to help solidify this process.
You want to track all of the new blog articles being written about jquery. You log in to Google Alerts and enter jquery as the topic you want to track. You filter for blog articles only and you create your new Google Alert. You will then start to receive emails (at a frequency by which you can determine – more on this later) with a list of new blog articles mentioning jquery. Google crawls the web, finds the most relevant articles, aggregates them into a list, and emails them off to you. You can then go through and click on whatever articles you think are most relevant.
The Benefits of Using Google Alerts
Google Alerts can be a great tool for a lot of different things. You can track your competition, you can stay on top of trends, you can acquire ideas for blog articles, etc. Obviously for this article we are going to focus on the latter. Using Google Alerts to generate ideas for blog articles can be an extremely effective strategy. Google Alerts are easy to use and set up, so you can follow any number of different topics relating to your overall topic of Website Design and Website Development. You can get as granular or as broad as you’d like when setting up your Google Alerts. Before we go any further though, let’s talk about a few of the main benefits that you will get out of using Google Alerts for generating blog article ideas:
- First and foremost, you will generate a ton of new ideas for blog content
- Those article ideas, if capitalized on immediately, will be more likely to go viral as Google Alerts show that if others are writing about it, it means people are interested in the topic. Be sure to click on some of the other articles to see how many comments they have received, how many social media shares have been published, etc. This will give you a better understanding on whether or not your article on the same or a similar topic will go viral.
- Reduces time spent on blog planning
- Allows you to keep an eye on your competitors
- Educates you on new ideas, tools, and strategies that others might be using in your field
These are just a few of the many benefits that you will receive when using Google Alerts. Google Alerts really is another amazing free tool put out by Google. For all of the things that some of us may not love about Google, we cannot say anything about the software that they produce. It’s tops!
How to Set Up a Google Alert
As I have alluded to throughout this article, one of the best things about Google Alerts is how easy they are to set up and customize. It literally only takes a minute or two to set up a new Google Alert. It’s that easy! Let’s follow a step-by-step process for setting up Google Alerts so that you can see just how easy it is.
Step 1: Create a list of Google Alert Topics
Having a pre-planned list of a few, to many, Google Alerts will allow you to be more efficient when creating your Google Alerts. You can always add more alerts ad-hoc once you’re in the process of creating your Google Alerts, but having a list to start with will help.
Step 2: Navigate to google.com/alerts
Remember that in order to set up Google Alerts you must have a Gmail account. Be sure to sign-in to your Gmail account (or create one if you don’t already have one) before creating your Google Alerts
Step 3: Input a Search Query
Here’s where you can pull out your list to put in the different “topics” or search queries that you want to receive Google Alerts on. What’s really nice is that Google will actually pre-populate your query results in real-time to the right of the screen to show you what types of results you can expect when using a specific search query.
Step 4: Select Result Type
Here is where you can determine what types of results you’d like to see. As we discussed earlier this is where you can set your Google Alerts up to only see Blog Articles under a given topic, News, Videos only, etc. I usually select everything, but there’s no reason why you can’t be more specific if you know what you need.
Step 5: Determine Alert Frequency
I really like this feature as I personally don’t want to be bombarded constantly with Google Alerts. I usually select Once-a-Day or Once-a-Week depending on the topic and how relevant it is to my daily tasks. Sometimes I use Google Alerts to feed me social media content, in which case I set them up for daily. I usually NEVER use “as it happens” as that’s just too much for me. That’s the beauty of Google Alerts though, you can customize each Alert however you’d like!
Step 6: Select How Many Results You Want to See
Google will filter your results based on their algorithms for how closely a piece of content relates to your topic. You can either see EVERYTHING or filter by ONLY THE BEST. I usually see everything for the topics that are very granular and there won’t be many results, while seeing ONLY THE BEST for topics that produce a lot of results. It helps save time reviewing each Alert.
Step 7: Deliver To & Create Alert
Confirm what email address you want your alerts delivered to and click ‘Create Alert’. It’s that easy!
I know there seems to be a lot of steps for such an “easy” process, but I can assure you that after you have created one Google Alert it will literally take seconds to create each of the rest. It’s extremely simple to set up. In order to modify your Google Alerts do the following:
- Step 1: Sign-In to Gmail and Navigate to google.com/alerts
- Step 2: Click Manage Alerts
- Step 3: Delete or Edit – You can delete a Google Alert by checking the box next to the Alert you want to delete and then clicking the “Delete” button. You can edit a Google Alert by clicking the “Edit” button to the right of the Alert you wish to edit. Again, it’s that easy!
Translating Google Alerts into Blog Articles
Once you have set up your Google Alerts you will begin to receive Google Alert emails to the email address you selected, at a frequency by which you set. You will then need to read through the Google Alerts (please note that if you miss a day here and there it’s FINE) to see which articles interest you. Select a few articles that are of interest and click the links to read the article. Again, check out the comments and social shares to see how many people were interested in this article. It might even be smart to wait a day or two after receiving the alert before you check this to make sure you have given the article enough time to capture interest. Find a few articles that cover topics that are being sought after by readers and that you think will interest your audience. Then you can either add those topic ideas to our Blog Content Topics Document that we discussed in our Blog Planning article OR if they are time sensitive, you can begin writing about the topic right away.
Tips for Using Google Alerts
Setting up and using Google Alerts is simple and a very efficient way to come up with Blog Article ideas. That said, there are always a few tricks when it comes to using free tools most effectively. Here are a few tips for using Google Alerts effectively:
- Pay attention – If you set up Google Alerts, use them. You’ll be happy with the results.
- Always Evolve – Continue to refine your Google Alerts over time. I’m always coming up with new topic ideas and refining old ones to find the best combinations possible.
- Read the Content – You can’t learn about new topics if you’re not reading the articles sent to you. Take a few minutes to scan the ones that interest you. Learn something!
- Go Viral – Be sure to keep an eye on the viral meters (ie. Number of comments and social shares) as this will tell you if a topic is “hot” and that you should get an article out on that topic.
Will You Use Google Alerts for Coming Up With Blog Article Ideas
So, after reading all of that, do you think you’ll use Google Alerts to help you come up with Blog Article ideas? I use them on a daily basis and it definitely helps me. Is anyone using Google Alerts in this capacity already? I’d love to hear what you think? Please take some time to leave a comment below.