Got Writers Block? Use Google Alerts to Find the Best Stories for Your Blog
By: Michael Benninger
What happens what the well dries up and you find yourself without any website content ideas?
Regardless of what topics you generally cover, every writer sometimes gets stumped and could use a hand coming up with a fresh subject to write about. A surefire way to clear the roadblock and give your fingers the fodder they need to craft another captivating post is to scour the Web for recent news relating to your topic of choice. But finding that information can take time, especially if you’re not sure where to start looking. Luckily, Google Alerts exist to keep you up to date about news in your industry, which can help you find valuable inspiration for your next blog post.
Here’s a look at Google Alerts, how the service works, and how to get started using it.
What are Google Alerts?
Google Alerts is an often overlooked, but incredibly useful service powered by the Internet’s most popular search engine. The way it works is simple: You give Google a set of keywords to monitor, and whenever those words appear on a newly published Web page, you’ll receive an email notification. Using Google Alerts makes it easy to get ideas for website content by having the search giant keep tabs on keywords relevant to the scope of your blog.
It’s no secret that some of the most-shared content on social networks relates to current event topics. By using Google Alerts to find out about the latest trends and developments in the area(s) that you write about, you’ll be better positioned to share your thoughts about that news while it’s still relevant to the rest of the world.
Getting Started with Google Alerts
It’s free and easy to get started using Google Alerts, but it helps to know a few tricks about how the search engine works first. To begin, head over to http://alerts.google.com, and you’ll immediately be presented with a search box prompting you to “Create an alert about...” Enter the keyword or phrase that you want to keep track of in this field. Use quotation marks around groups of words if you only want to receive alerts about pages that include those words in the same unbroken order as what's inside the quotes. Use a dash before a word or phrase to exclude results that include that word or phrase. (There are several other ways to use symbols and punctuation to fine-tune your search results, but those are the biggies. Learn about the rest here.
After entering your keywords or phrases in the search bar, you’ll see the most recent results relating to your query. These are the results that Google would email you for that particular alert. Depending upon the popularity of the words you’ve chosen, the results could range anywhere from just a few, to a few thousand. Fortunately, Google Alerts also gives you the ability to determine how often you’d like to receive your alerts.
Customizing Your Alerts Experience
After you’ve defined the keyword(s) that you’re interested in tracking, you can customize your alert experience by clicking the “Show options” link underneath the search bar. You can select if you’d like to receive alerts once a week, once a day, or throughout the day, as they happen. Based on the popularity of the terms you’ve chosen, alerts could range anywhere from a few a week to a hundred or more each day. For more common keywords, a daily or weekly digest might be your best bet. You can also denote which sources you’d prefer to receive alerts from, whether they be blogs, forums, news sites, or anywhere else on the Web. You can also choose to only receive alerts in a particular language, or from a certain region of the world. Finally, you can opt to receive alerts whenever your phrase is mentioned on any site, or you can leave it up to Google to only send you the results that it deems most relevant.
Now that you know how to get ideas for writing blog posts by using Google Alerts, you’re in a powerful position to create killer content for your website. Using Google Alerts can help you generate blog material that can keep you top-of-mind with your readers, while also enabling you to grow your digital following. So if you’re looking for personal website content ideas, count on Google Alerts to save you time and energy by doing the legwork for you. One you receive your alerts, you can just scan the headlines, and if it looks like something you’d like to write about, you’re well on your way to crafting another winning blog post.