Google Alerts

Google Alerts are emails generated by Google when it finds new results. Alerts have mentioned on Slaw including an interesting article by Omar which offered an alternative service that uses a desktop or mobile device download – Mention.

Despite reports of concern about the continuing functionality of Google Alerts, I have continued to use the service for select monitoring with success. Google Alerts continues to be generally reliable and it was recently used by a team member and I to watch for notice of a newspaper article. There is an interesting story about our watches that may be relevant to those still hanging on to their Google Alerts.

Google Alerts

My alert was set up with “all results” as the volume, “as-it-happens” as the frequency and was a search in the “News”.
My colleague’s alert was set up with “best results” as the volume, “as-it-happens” as the frequency and was a general search rather than being a search in Google News.

My email came through at 11:10 PM last night, my colleague’s was received just before 4 AM this morning. Both results were timely and successfully delivered the relevant, identical article.

Where am I going with this? To one conclusion – Google Alerts is still a functioning, no fee service that can be used to monitor the web – at least for now.

So, who else is still using it?


  1. I still use Google Alerts for sure. I’ve also been using the alerts available via Topsy to follow Tweets. There are a variety of alert options. Perform a search and click the settings widget to set up an alert.

  2. I’ve been looking for alternatives and didn’t like Yahoo!‘s and am not in the market for paid services like Talkwalker or Meltwater.

    Topsy’s one I’ve added too. And I was glad to see Google Alerts bring back RSS support so I have added a number of “Everything” alerts that just churn into my feed reader as they hit matches. But I’m still looking for something so that if/when Google decides to drop alerts, I won’t be scrambling. I’m hoping Huginn – an open source project that uses alerts and triggers – will be the answer.

  3. David Collier-Brown

    Me! –dave

  4. @legalaidontario

    At Legal Aid Ontario we use Google Alerts for our daily clippings, along with tools like Yahoo Pipes to filter and merge multiple RSS feeds and IFTTT (If This, Then That) to push emails to our alerts account.

    A few tricks you might not know:
    Google alerts supports the full range of boolean parameters that you can use on a Google search. While the tilde (~) is no longer around, the following commands are some available that can help narrow down your results:

    • – (NOT) : typed prior to a word, will remove it from your query. For example: cute animals -cats
    • OR : can be used as a variable for one or another. For example: vanilla OR chocolate cake
    • “ “ : quotation marks, useful for ensuring the inclusion of items. Example: animal hats “cat”
    • AROUND(#) : my favorite new command, is an undocumented proximity variable. Must be used in all caps and with search items in quotation marks. Replace the pound (#) with the number of words to search around. For example: “Poverty” AROUND(4) “Ontario”

    You can also use things like site: to limit to a specific URL. A more complete list of search operators can be found here:

    Brackets however are a bit tricky because of this issue explained on the Google product forum:

    If you’re feeling adventurous, a nifty script was put together by someone to bulk import Google Alerts via cURL and PHP (but it does take a bit of savvy knowledge to get together). If you’re only managing 10 or so alerts it might not be worth setting up, but it does makes processing 100+ alerts a snap.

    As always, if you’d like to connect with us or have any questions, shoot us a message on Twitter at @legalaidontario.

    – Katelyn

  5. I still use Google Alerts (have about 300 running) but have also been setting up the new alerts in “Mention” and “Talkwalker” in addition to Google. Am in the process of comparing results from all 3 services. Both of the alternative services have unique features.

  6. Glad that I am not alone in enjoying the continued functionality of Google Alerts. Thanks for the great suggestions!

  7. I find my alerts are not working very well at all. I probably need to tweak them. I’ve also been using Mention, but you only get a couple of alerts for free.

  8. I co-founded a company 4 years ago in part due to the inneficiency of Google Alerts. While not free (get what you pay for), we are in 1/2 of largest law firms in the country. Soon to release a paid service for individual users (ABA Tech Show) later this month. While not free, you will get a lot more than one search. All the best – Peter