What would you like for Christmas this year?  How about an insight into your customers’ minds?  Or a peek at the marketing and communication plan of your competitors?

These little gifts would last much longer than the box of chocolates on your desk, and they’d make sure you could react as soon as you identified a potential market.  You could respond to competitor campaigns and new products.

But what if Santa doesn’t deliver an invisibility cloak on Christmas morning?

No problem.  Google alerts might just be the answer…..

Google alerts are emails that come straight through to your inbox, giving you links to web pages where any key phrase or words are mentioned.

I always advise clients to set-up Google alerts for:

  • their own company name
  • the names of their competitors
  • phrases used by their customers

This way, they receive an email each time they or their competitors are mentioned online, and any time new content is published that their customers might be interested in.

To set-up your first alert, visit google.co.uk/alerts.

google alerts how to set up

Type your business name (or the name of a competitor, or the phrase you want to monitor) into the first box, then choose what type of information you’d like sent through to you.

google alerts how to use

For you company name, it might be an idea to leave it as ‘Everything’ so you don’t miss anything.

Next you choose how often the emails are sent through to you – you may find yourself inundated if you are monitoring a very broad search phrase, but for your company alert, select ‘As-it-happens‘ so you can respond swiftly to any new content.

Your final choice relates to the number of results you receive – for broad search phrases, select ‘Only the best results‘, but for your business name and the names of your competitors, choose the ‘All results‘ option from the dropdown menu.

The final box asks for the email address to send the alerts to – you don’t have to have a Google account, just type in your normal email address.

And you’re done.

Useul tips:

Be as precise as possible when setting up your alerts to ensure the results you receive are most relevant

Use quotes around phrases that are more than one word long:

  • “holiday cottages in Cornwall”
  • “money saving tips at Christmas”

Use the minus (“-“) sign in front of words you want to exlude from your search:

  • Cornwall -Connecticut
  • apple -fruit

Only include results from individual sites or sites from specific countries:

  • “HR consultant” site:.telegraph.co.uk
  • “business training” site:.co.uk

Exclude certain websites from the search results:

  • “Theo Paphitis” -site:bbc.co.uk/dragonsden

Now you’re in a great position to stay on top of online conversations about your business and your competitors – what better Christmas present could you ask for?

PS Other than perhaps some help to set it up….. which is where today’s advent calendar gift might be just the ticket.  Sandy Dale offers one-to-one computer tuition in Cornwall, to help older people explore the web and take advantage of the wealth of information and resources online.

If you know someone who would appreciate some support getting online, contact Sandy, who’s offering one to one tuition for just £10 an hour (normal price is £15 an hour).

You can access all the other treats here that have been revealed in the Perfect Balance Marketing 2012 business advent calendar.