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Google Alerts are a great way to keep up on new occurrences of topics you care about on the web.
Google Alerts are an under-appreciated feature provided by Google that let you monitor for new occurrence of search terms, getting notified either in email or as an RSS feed.
In this video clip from an Ask Leo! webinar, I'll discuss how a Google Alerts can be used to stay on top of new pages published about almost any topic almost anywhere on the web.
Google Alerts are really interesting if you are - if you want to watch the web for things. That's probably about the best way I can describe it. I'll use one example that I think will make it fairly clear.
I'll make a search query for Leo Notenboom - my name. I'm going to have it return everything; it's going to do it once a day; it's going to give me only the best results. In other words, it's going to filter out some spam and some other things, but I'm going to change the 'Deliver to'.
Now, you can set up Google Alerts to email you these search results once a day or however often; how many options they give you here. However, an alternative is to say 'Feed'. So you'll notice the 'As it happens' is the default. So what it's done is it will create an RSS feed that gives you the search results for the term you've entered on a regular basis. So I'm going to 'Create Alert' and here is the RSS link to deliver to Google Reader.
So what I have now is I have this Google Alerts set up for my name. Now you can tell that Google Alerts needs to actually run its processes. What I expect they do is they batch up all of these searches for all of these Alerts and run them periodically so when you just create a feed and add it to your Google Reader, there may not be any results right away. In fact, there may not be results for a few hours. However, that's why I have this other Google Alert here that you saw.
This is a Google Alert for the word 'Corgi'. So what this has done is sometime overnight, since I've put this together, it ran a Google search for the word Corgi and returned the top results. I can go through these and read them all. You can tell that the unread count has now gone to zero. Sometime later today or tomorrow, that unread count will go back up because the search; the alert that you're running is always running. So the next time you fire up Google Reader, if there's been a new page posted that mentions the word 'Corgi' that shows up in Google Reader under these Google Alerts.
Same thing for the ego search on my name. The Google Alert for Leo Notenboom which is in fact one of the searches that I run regularly will automatically show up unread new pages that mention my name or one of the two other people on the planet that I know of named Leo Notenboom and will let me see what page I was mentioned on and let me go take a look at it.
So it's an easy way and a quick way of staying on top of not just specific web pages or websites as we're doing with these other feeds, but by using Google Alerts, you can now keep track of terms that Google can find across the entire internet.