Google Alert lets you automate the process of running regular queries, sending you an email whenever any new content is added to the Google database.
This makes it easy to keep up with any topic you're interested in. Simply create a set of keywords, and Google Alert will run a search each day, and will automatically send you an email alert when the query produces new results.
The service is apparently quite popular with "ego searchers" -- people looking for new mentions of their name or website appearing on the web.
But it is also quite useful as a competitive intelligence tool. You can track competitors, industries, trends -- in short, the kind of information that researchers spend hours trying to dig up each day.
The service uses Google's API to perform your searches. While Google Alert creator Gideon Greenspan has negotiated a much larger license agreement than the maximum 1,000 searches per day provided by the API, you are still limited to a maximum of five searches per day.
To take the fullest advantage of the service, use the search settings page to change the number of results you see for each query (though be aware that you can see only 150 total results for all of your queries. You can also use this screen to have searches be run automatically each day, or manually when you click the "run now" button.
You should also take advantage of Google's advanced search options, by clicking the "more" button next to each query. This displays a form with many advanced search features, allowing you to include or exclude terms, and filter by language, domain, and so on.
Google Alert will email you every time new results appear. You can also view your results online by clicking "Browse Results". Google Alert results are also available as HTML or RSS feeds, or via TrackBack (a popular utility that lets your weblog display Google Alert results, among other things).
According to an interview with Traffick's Cory Kleinschmidt, Greenspan hopes to expand the capabilities of Google Alert, allowing more searches, more results, more frequent searches, and possibly even tracking the page rank of specific pages. All of these features are on hold pending the outcome of negotiations with Google.
NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.
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