How to Use Google Alerts for Content Marketing: Collect & Store Content Ideas

After all Google's updates, more and more people come to realize that high-quality content marketing is your best bet to secure stable search engine presence as well as the variety of traffic sources (good content does equally well in both search and social media).

google alerts for content marketing

There are many tools out there that are recommended for this process, but I have always found Google Alerts to be the best. It provides the most useful features you could hope for, and sets the hook for gathering data you can use to adapt your content.

Here are some ways that you can use Google Alerts for content marketing.

Google Alerts: Basics
“Google Alerts” is a free Google’s tool that sends you email alerts of the latest relevant Google results based on your search terms.

There are 5 options to set up:

1. Your search term
This is where you’ll provide your search terms. Mind that you can get really creative here as it supports major advanced operators general Google search engine does. Learn Google operators here. Also get some creative ideas on how to use them here (download the cheatsheet as well.)

2. Result type
You can search through news, blogs, videos, discussions, books or everything. Since we are talking about content brainstorming here, “Everything” might be the best option here (to get varied results), but keep experimenting!

3. Update frequency
You can receive alerts daily, weekly or as it happens. Your choice depends on how often you need to brainstorm and create content.

4. Result quality and quantity
This is a vague option but I’ve had more luck with “Best results”. Again, this one is worth experimenting with.

5. Deliver to: email / RSS
Since I have trouble finding time to check my RSS feeds, I’ve had more luck with email updates. You can’t escape it when it comes straight to your inbox!

Mind that you’ll see the result preview each time you search, so you can experiment with various options and search queries a lot before creating an actual alert.

Content Brainstorming
There’s nothing more inspiring than a post idea coming straight to your inbox: You just scroll down the list of results, scan search snippets and done: You feel enlightened!

Here are a few tips for you to craft a great brainstorming Google alert email:

1. Monitor Questions In Your Niche
You are probably already using sites like Quora or Yahoo Answers to keep an eye on what people want to know in your niche. For those already well visible on the web, you might even be using it to watch out for any mentions of your brand. But there is a way to expand your focus and see what questions are being asked anywhere, especially since Google began running forum and message board results on a higher priority a few years ago.

Set an alert to find any questions that are asked around the web that are relevant to your niche. Then use the chance to give the answers to market your content.

Example: [“how to * blog” OR “why * blog”]

(* will be substituted by any phrase that happen to be found by Google: Great for random brainstorming!)

2. Monitor Trends
New brands, concepts and designs are frequent. Some are long lasting, and some are a flash in the pan that die out before they really gain a footing. Either way, you should be looking to base some of your content on what is trending, both as a major niche and a subgenre of your own. It is a quick way to give yourself a shot in the arm by focusing on a popular item sure to attract attention, but also a way of finding additional niches that might be beneficial to you in the future.

Generic search example: [~diets]

(~ will tell Google to search for all possible synonyms of [diets] like [eating], [nutrition], [food], etc, so you’ll see random relevant results in your niche)

google alerts screenshot

More ideas focusing on “popular”:

  • [“best of * health”]
  • [“popular * movies”]
  • [“social * trends”], etc

3. Monitor Your Favorite Author(s)
Mind that watching active and popular bloggers in your niche doesn’t mean you are going to copy them. Remember that we are talking about brainstorming! Write reply-type posts if they are asking a question (and link to them), argue and discuss (and link to them), expand upon some points they slightly mentioned (and link to them). Remember linking is still one of the best ways to build relationships. Next thing you know it, you’ll notice power bloggers you are linking to share and promote your articles!

While there’s no way to force Google to search by author inside Google Alerts, try this trick:

Example: [“danny sullivan” -intitle:”danny sullivan”]

(This will force the author name in the body of the article)

Going Advanced
Getting a weekly email full of cool content ideas is already an effective brainstorming tactic. But since you have already started playing, why not try a few advanced ideas.

1. Get organized and motivated
Here’s my personal trick. If I get an email update with some nice idea I feel like giving a try, I will not remove the email message or mark it as read until I write that article. That’s a cool “get things done” tactic: I want my Thunderbird inbox to be empty and I want that so much that I will force myself to write that article!

2. Turn your Gmail account into a content brainstorming dashboard
Gmail filters and advanced operators will help you any time you feel stuck.

  • Are you too busy for regular email ideas but still need to brainstorm from time to time? Create a filter that will force emails to bypass inbox while being collected in a separate folder. Whenever you need an idea, simply go and search that folder!
  • Do you need additional motivation to go through alerts and write an article? Create a filter to star your Google Alerts automatically and only unstar those you are done with.


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Do you use Google Alerts for idea brainstorming? What's your take on it?

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  • Timber Ghost Labradors

    How can I get Google Alerts to automatically forward to my blog roll?
    I use IFTTT but its not working. Is there another way?

  • Catherine Holt

    I really benefit from Google alerts, and it is always interesting to see what comes into my inbox. I find it a really easy way to keep updated with what is going on.

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  • kizi

    Good. Thank you for sharing. I need it much.

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  • jack alvinz

    Really nice and smart idea factory tips. Keep them flowing!! @jalvinz

  • Guest

    Really nice and smart idea factory tips. Keep them flowing! @jalvinz

  • Ann Smarty

    Why don’t do both? I use Tweetdeck or HuutSuite to track social media mentions and I use Google Alerts as a help / additional medium. It’s not really the matter of choice to me!

  • NLC (UK)

    Ann – thanks for a thorough and engaging blog piece; much appreciated.
    Where do you stand on the merits of Google Alerts vis-à-vis Social Media monitoring using Apps in things such as HootSuite? I appreciated that Google Alerts brings you a trawl straight to your Gmail inbox, but Social Media sentiment seems to me to a more useful indicator of trends and pertinent content.
    I know in an ideal world a marketer should do both of the above activities, but in reality something has to give.

  • Ann Smarty

    Thanks for reading! I am glad people learn something new from this article!

  • Ann Smarty

    Do you use parentheses, e.g. “My blog title”?

  • Mel

    Hi! I have had my wordpress blog for over twelve months now and have subscribed to keywords for my posts, I am still yet to see ‘my’ posts appear in the alerts. What am I doing wrong? Please,please,please can someone help?

  • Chitraparna Sinha

    Excellent Ann! I didn’t know about the trick to add asterisk :).

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  • Kajal G

    Thank for great post Ann! I read your first post and definitely subscribe to learn new things from you :-)

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  • Ann Smarty

    Thanks, G :)

  • Ann Smarty

    Thanks for the Google Reader tip and for your kind words!

  • Gerald Weber

    I always learn new things reading your post. I am setting up some filters in Gmail right now to funnel my Google alerts.

  • Mical Johnson

    Ann this is one of THE best posts I’ve read in a very long time! It’s only a few days into 2013 and I think this will be Top 10 for the year.

    I like the recommendation at the end with Gmail. I’m a power user on Gmail and I take the time to filter and label everything that comes into my inbox. Because I deal with so many topics I would also recommend putting a label on the incoming Alerts based on topic and not just star them. This way you would be able to just click on a label that’s topic specific and get inspiration.

    If you send the alerts to Google Reader then set up a topic folder for the same effect I find this is the best way to organize me. Thanks again for an awesome post Ann.

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  • William Patton

    I think this is a really good idea to keep you in the know. Help you focus on the content that works while motivating you to improve the content that doesn’t 😀

  • William Patton

    Hi again, Ann! Like I said, your EVERYWHERE I am these days haha.

    I like the idea of monitoring certain authors. You could monitor a bunch of them and see what they all write about to find really good trending topics and then use them to create a nice little infographic or something.

    The tip from Nick about monitoring your own content is a really good idea too.

    I’m going to experiment with the advanced operators because I had no idea that GAlerts supported them.

  • Ann Smarty

    That’s an awesome tip. Thanks for sharing, Nick!

  • Nick Stamoulis

    Another excellent post from Ann! On the other side of content marketing, I like setting up alerts on specific pieces of content we publish to see how they are performing. It helps us better measure what content is getting shared and what isn’t.

  • Ann Smarty

    Thanks for reading, Chris! :)

  • ChrisMakara

    Excellent tips Ann! I am like you in that I find it much easier to read the results in my inbox rather than checking RSS. Look forward to trying out some of the tips you listed.

  • Nadeem Khan