Google has been with us for decades now (yes, really – it was founded in 1998, according to Wikipedia) and it is now so much part of the fabric of our lives that it has become almost invisible.
As a company if is of course far from invisible – it is the one of the big five tech companies globally, and is in the news all the time for all sorts of reasons, both good and controversial.
But that’s not what I mean by invisible: I mean instead that it has become invisible in the same way a pile of books on the floor becomes invisible. After a while, the pile of books is just the way that part of the floor has always been.
In the same way, all the things that Google does for us have become part of our mental furniture, just “the way things are round here”. And there are so many things that Google does that it is easy to lose track of them.
One of these is Google alerts. They are used by millions of people (according to this article about Naga Kataru, the man who invented them). But when I talk about Google alerts to friends, family and colleagues, people usually look a little blank.
The idea is really simple: you lodge a search term (“Burmese cats”) with Google, and it will send you an email alert when an article turns up with that search term in it. You can opt to get the emails “as it happens”, daily or weekly. You get an email with a list of search results, and can click on them, or not.
Uses of Google alerts
As in my example above, you can use the service to keep tabs on subjects or people you are interested in: for example, I have two for Bruce Springsteen and Terry Pratchett (but I don’t have one for Burmese cats!).
You can use alerts to follow topics that are important in your job, or for your blog. (And read my blog post on content curation here).
But there’s one use I would urge you to deploy: set up an alert with your name in it (or the name of your company, or both).
If you are in any kind of business, or have any reason to care about your reputation, a Google alert will keep tabs on any mentions of you on the Internet. (A tip: put your name in quote marks (“Renee Moodie”) to make Google search for that whole phrase.) It’s one of the simplest and most effective tools in reputation management that I know.