A Hidden Google Gem? Using Google Alerts for news, web updates, your name, and more.

Image representing Google Alerts as depicted i...Image via CrunchBase
Every week, I receive an email that contains all of the mentions of the high school I work at. In fact, by including its name, “Evanston Township High School” in this blog post, I’ll see a link to this post in the weekly notification. RSS feed? Email newsletter? Nope. A simple Google Alert is all that I need to make this happen, and if you’re unaware of how to use Alerts, feel free to read on.

A Google account is not needed to setup alerts. Once you navigate to the Alerts setup screen, you can then enter the search terms for your alert. You can choose to monitor just news, blogs, videos, discussions, or opt for the whole nine yards. Frequency options include immediately, once a day, and once a week. Currently, your length options are either 10/20 or 50 per email. Lastly, enter your email address, and your alert is set. If managing with a non-Google account, you'll need to verify your email, and you'll later have the option to opt-out.

So, why bother with another email in your already clogged inbox? For parents, students, and the general population, it might be useful to set up a Google Alert for your name. This way, you’ll be kept abreast of when your name is used in a blog post, video, web article, or local news item. Of course, if you have a common name (there are a lot of us David Chan’s in the world), you may have to do some refining.  For teachers, scholars, and researchers, a Google Alert about a topic of study would be useful to keep up with any new publications. For example, I may have benefited from an alert set up for the “periodic table” to stay current with recent findings.

And for fun, you can setup an alert on a celebrity (not my cup of tea) or better yet, your favorite sports team (or can fantasy football fans say "football injury list"?) My bet is that you can find a use for a Google Alert sometime soon.

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