Google Alerts: Free notices of web content updates


Tool: Google Alerts

Time to Use: Less than 10 minutes

Cost: Free

Purpose: Scheduled notification of online content posted across the web

Description: Google alerts provides a way to be notified on a regular basis about key terms of interest to you. A natural starting point is to set up alerts for the name of the group with which you are working. However, there are many other ways to use alerts to gain knowledge about key decision-focused issues.

Let’s say you are working with a group that is striving to change the way we talk about new immigrants. Two possible phrases are “illegal immigrants” and “undocumented immigrants” and your group is working to increase use of the latter. Regular alerts would allow you to see what is being said and to respond through any of a number of channels.

Key advantages to google alerts as a decision-making tool are:

  1. Filtering: They may be scheduled for a frequency that meets your needs, including receiving notices as they occur, daily, or weekly and they may be set to look at all sources, or just news, groups, or
  2. Management: You can very easily set up and manage multiple alerts, with different frequency notices, and
  3. Delivery: They may be sent to an RSS feed, or to email, a key ease-of-use function for many.

How to:

  1. Figure out the key words or terms on which you want to set of notifications,
  2. Go to and set up one or more alerts, if using a phrase rather than a stand-alone word, but the phrase in quotes such as “undocumented immigrants”,
  3. If you set up multiple alerts, it is worth setting up a management account to be able to see and refine all of your alerts information in one place. First, set up a google account ( Then, go to the google alerts page and you will see a “manage your accounts” link that will now be live and working.

Finally, if you are not getting exactly the responses that you anticipated, refine your search using the advanced search tips found here:


  • Following key changes in campaigns or outreach efforts to allow for immediate responses
  • Updates on programs or products
  • Capacity building -allows users to become invested in looking at and using data

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