Services & Software

Google Alerts: what they are, and how to use them

Google Alerts can fill your inbox with all sorts of goodness. Figure out how to use them properly, and avoid getting over-run.

Yesterday Google rolled out video alerts to its Google Alerts service. If you've never used Alerts, it's a handy way to get Web content updates delivered straight to your e-mail inbox based on keywords. In the case of the new video search, Google will deliver links to videos it's indexed. So how is this helpful? Say you're a big video fan, and you dig seeing those Diet Coke and Mentos videos online. There are always some crazy teenagers out in the suburbs doing new things with them, and that equates to a lot of new videos. Setting up a Google Alert for all the videos of said activity will pass along any new items as they come.

You can now set up Google Alerts for video, too. Choosing CNET Networks

What makes Google Alerts really interesting is its flexibility. Besides videos, you can set it up to scour the Internet in general, blogs, and Google Groups. There's also a comprehensive option that will do all of the above. To keep your inbox from overflowing, you can set up the frequency of alerts, too. There's a simple drop down to select once a day, once a week, and an as-it-happens option that will send you notifications the second Google finds it. Although a word to the wise: You might want to use a spam e-mail account if you've got more than one alert going for a popular topic.

If you're a news junkie, or a fan of using RSS readers, you're likely to prefer using your current system to subscribe to blogs and other news feeds. Luckily for you there's a neat way to take your Google Alert and use it as an RSS feed to simply plug in to your RSS reader. To replicate how this works and put it into your RSS reader, you can do this with a combination of Google's services:

    • Web: On Google news, just enter a search term. On the left-hand menu you'll see a link for the RSS feed. Just grab that and plug it into your RSS reader. It will automatically update in your feed reader every time there's new content.
    • Blogs: Just like Web search, you'll find the RSS feed link on the left. Copy, paste, and you're done.
    • Google Video: Google video search uses the same method. Just do a search, and you'll see an RSS feed logo on the top right, a little bit below where you'd log in. Take it and drop it into your reader.

Interestingly enough there's no RSS feed for Google Groups searches, so you're stuck with an alert. On a related note, if you're a Gmail user and want to keep your alerts super organized, you can set up filters and auto-labeling, which will automatically categorize and index your incoming alerts--keeping them from cluttering your inbox.

Finally, more important than adding feeds is editing and deleting them. You can manage this from your Google account under Alerts. Got tips of your own? Share them in the TalkBack.