A world without Google Alerts?

5421517469_d0d2997eec_mAbout a month ago, Google shocked the blogging world by announcing it was going to be killing its popular Google Reader in July. Google Reader was like  a web-based RSS feed. In the “old days” (about 7 years ago) you could use Reader not only to keep up with your favorite sites but also to share important articles with other people. Now that social media has become such a force, including Google’s own Google Plus, the ability to share was not as much of a differentiator. Even though Google cited declining usage as one of its reasons for killing the popular site, there was a big outcry about the decision in the online world. However, another story has been flitting away in the background of the Google Reader story, and this one may be even more shocking. There is a rumor that Google Alerts may also be on the chopping block.

If you are not familiar with Google Alerts, they are essentially ways for you to monitor keyword usage. Whenever a keyword is spidered by Google, you get a notification via email of the context in which that word appeared. Google Alerts is a great way to monitor industry news, and one could also call it “Social Media Listening 101.” Some companies have been relying on the information Google Alerts provided for close to ten years.

What really started making ripples was an open letter that The Financial Brand, an online publication dedicated to the finance industry, published about the decreasing quality of Google Alerts. Namely, the number of alerts sent together with the poor quality of the alerts has rendered the tool virtually useless to a lot of companies. Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand.com offered similar complaints, which The Financial Brand cites.

As Mashable reported in mid-March, Google Reader experienced similar lapses in quality shortly before Google announced it was killing the service. Maybe Google Alerts is headed to the same fate.

If Google Alerts Go, What Are Your Options?

The most commonly praised alternative we’ve heard buzz about has been Talkwalker. If you use Google Alerts now, you will find the interface looks very familiar:

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 12.39.53 PM

We will be experimenting with Talkwalker in the coming weeks and will let you know what we think about it.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that if Google decides to put an end to “Social Media Listening 101,” some companies may be forced further into the world of social media simply to monitor mentions of important keywords. Google has used this tactic in regards to their long-standing Google Maps. The site, which use to help companies show up by location near the top of search results, has been integrated into Google Plus as “Google Places.”

If Google kills Google Alerts, it may cite lower usage as it did for Google Reader. Many companies have shifted to any number of robust social media listening tools, some of which can be used for free (like socialmention.com) and some of which can represent a heavy investment like Radian6. For the companies that have not yet jumped into social media, however, this could be a tough blow.

Do you use Google Alerts for your business? Have you noticed lagging results? We’d love to hear from you!

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kalexanderson/5421517469/ via Creative Commons


12 comments on “A world without Google Alerts?

  1. Hello Margie!

    I hope you will be very pleased by Talkwalker Alerts. I think you would also be interested in knowing more about our full social media monitoring tool, in which the Alerts are a part of. It is a powerful paid solution but by no means heavy! Drop me a message if you are interested in a test account. I would love to hear from you.


    • Thanks Julie – I will definitely keep you posted 🙂

    • Does Talkwater offer a similar service to Alerts in publishing the created Alert to an RSS feed that can then be picked up and published. I use this feature of Alerts a lot across different markets and I’d never heard of your product until I read this article.

      • Hello Colin,

        Thanks for your interest in Talkwalker Alerts! The results are available by e-mail and by RSS feed as well. In the “Manage” tab of your Talkwalker Alerts account, click on the RSS icon in front of your alert, and you will be able to subscribe.



  2. I have noticed decreasing quality over the years with Alerts, but whether that’s due to the sheer volume of Alerts I once employed, and my inability to effectively monitor and process them, or an actual decrease in usable data from the Alerts themselves – I have no idea. I know many of the social media dashboard app/services, such as HootSuite, Vocus, and (many) others seem to feature some type of monitoring capability, to help with brand and reputation management, not to mention social media monitoring.

    I will miss Alerts, as I will Reader too – but this opens up the possibility for other companies to step in and build apps/services to fill the void – and build new capabilities.

    It’s funny, when Microsoft encroached on various utility software company’s turf by incorporating more and more functionality into Window, developers and customers complained. And now, as Google exits some markets/service areas, leaving them open for innovation and more competition… they are still complaining!

    • Yeah, I think in the online world the saying “You can’t please everybody all the time” changes to, “You can’t please anyone most of the time.”

      I think the diversity of “listening” tools out there may be part of why the alerts could get chopped, but we always thought of Google Alerts as “listening 101.” You can monitor the online world without having to immerse yourself in it. I think that’s an important “training wheels” type step for a lot of companies. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

  3. Yes, I’ve found that Google Alerts has not been working well recently. I’m ok with paying a reasonable for a service that works, I really, really want something that offers a good site specific search option.

  4. So, I thought Talkwalker was the bee’s knees, but the last few days I’ve found it missing stuff. So now I don’t know what to do.

  5. […] As we reported a few months, ago, Google Alerts have decreased in effectiveness and may be on Google’s cutting block. There are other viable alternatives, however, and this is a good way to keep up on what Google is […]

  6. Talkwalker is cute, and interesting because it filter by language, but witout getting the result to a feed, it’s pretty useless for people with reader or person who autoblog with IFTTT… please add feed !

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    dailly and get pleasant data from here every day.

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