How to Set Up a Google Alert

Google alerts are useful for tracking your personal reputation (your name), your product, your brand, your competitors, your website name and topics of importance to you. You can even track your children’s names** to discretely check on what they are up to on-line, to the extent their names appear on publicly accessible* pages. This free service from Google provides a customized search for words or phrases of your choosing delivered to you as you wish: as it happens, once a day or once a week.

Steps to set up your alert:

1. Go to

Google Alert Page Screenshot
You can use any email to set up your alert, however, signing in with your Google account will give you more options to manage your alerts. If you are not signed in with your Google account when you set up an alert, you will receive a confirmation email so that Google can verify your email.
2. Enter your word or phrase that you want to track
Note that you can preview a search result.
Use quotes to keep phrases and full names together such as “Linda Sherman Gordon”
If there is someone else with your name that frequently comes up in search, you can add a minus to tell Google to ignore them by using something that describes them like: “Linda Sherman” -professor
If you prefer to exclude Twitter or another website you use a site exclusion “Linda Sherman”
There are additional advanced search suggestions on the alert site.
3. Choose the type of alert you want from the following choices:
– Everything: Also called “Comprehensive”, gives you everything on this list
– News: If you only want results from newspapers
– Blogs
– Realtime: Appears to be mainly Twitter
– Video
– Discussions: Forums
4. Choose how often you want to get alerts
As it happens
Once a day
Once a week
I generally find “once a day” sufficient.
Keep in mind that you get alerts when Google indexes* content with your search term on the internet, not at the instant it is published. I find that Twitter gets indexed fairly quickly (reminder not to drink and tweet) but some content may take days.

Each time you get a Google alert, there is a link at the bottom to delete the alert. If you signed up with your Google account, you will also get a link to manage (tweak) your alert.

You can set up to 1,000 alerts for one email account.
Make a conscious decision which email account you want these alerts sent to.

** Please find here a video interview with Ian Lurie introducing the concept of setting up Google Alerts with your children’s name. Internet Safety article by Bruce Sallan.

*Boomer Tech Talk Guide to Technical Words Used in this Article:
Publicly accessible: Google searches and Google alerts do not include content that require a password to view them. Publicly accessible pages on the internet can be seen without a password. Facebook personal profile walls are passworded so they are not publicly accessible. Facebook Fan Pages, Myspace and Twitter are among sites that are publicly accessible and indexed by Google.
Indexed by Google: Google uses search spiders or bots to crawl through fresh entries on the internet and store them.

  • Bruce Sallan

    I can’t emphasize enough how important this is for parents! Great Post Linda! This isn’t used to “spy” on your kids but to KNOW what is going on and in this cyber world, you as a parent MUST be aware and protect your children!

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