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Set Up ‘Alerts’ to Monitor What is Happening in Your Niche [Day 10 – 31DBBB]

Posted By Darren Rowse 15th of April 2009 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

This post is an excerpt from the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook

AlertI’m often asked by friends, family and readers how I spend my time on an average day of blogging.

Those asking are often surprised to hear that while ‘writing‘ is one definitely one activity that I do a fair bit of that there are quite a number of other activities that take up quite a bit of my focus.

One such important activity that I spend considerable time on as a blogger is ‘watching’, ‘monitoring’, ‘listening to’ and ‘reading’ what others are writing on their blogs or social media accounts.

Reasons to Be Aware of What Others are Talking About in Your Niche

There are quite a few reasons that bloggers monitor what’s being said on other blogs and in the news on certain topics. These include:

1. Ideas for Posts – one of the main challenges that bloggers face at different times is running out of things to blog about. Keeping abreast of what others are writing about gives you an almost unlimited supply of ideas and helps you to keep your posts on topic with what is buzzing in your niche at any given point of time.

2. Awareness of Breaking News – this is more relevant for some niches than others but sometimes knowing when a story is breaking in your industry can be very important. Being unaware of such stories can make your blog look out of touch to readers wanting to know the latest.

3. Profile Building and Perceived Expertise – bloggers who are obviously aware of what else is happening in their niche are often seen as experts and authorities in their industry. I know of a number of bloggers and twitter users who’ve built profiles for themselves simply by having their finger on the pulse of their niche and linking to interesting and useful content on other sites.

4. Networking – using some of the ‘alert’ tools below enables you to know who is talking about issues relevant to your niche within a short time of them doing so. This enables you to make connections and build relationships with these people.

5. Reputation Management – knowing quickly when others are talking about you, your company, your brands and your blog is valuable information as it enables you to not only build relationships with those who are saying positive things about you but also manage negative talk.

There are other reasons to be aware of what people are saying in your niche – but lets move on to some of the ‘how to do it’.

Today your task is to set up a variety of ‘alerts’ or ‘watch lists’ for your blog’s niche.

There are many services around to help you keep track of what people are writing. I’d love you to suggest those that you use in comments below – but here are a handful that I regularly use:


  • Google News and Blog Alerts Google’s alerts will show you any mention of keywords in only ‘news’ sources (for example newspapers), on blogs, in videos, on the ‘web’ or even in their ‘groups’. You can choose to be alerted about different categories or for them all. It gives you the opportunity to get alerts via an email or RSS feed at different intervals.
  • Technorati Watchlists – Very similar to Google Alerts as it’ll feed you mentions of certain words on blogs.
  • Twitter Alerts – there are a lot of tools to help you monitor what is being said on Twitter. Some are built into twitter clients (for example TweetDeck has a great one) but others include Monitter (allows live monitoring but also gives you an RSS feed for words), Twendz, Twitter’s Search (you can set up an RSS feed for any keyword) and Twitter Hawk (a paid service that allows you not only to monitor but respond to tweets on keywords). Again, there are many others that you can use – feel free to suggest others below.

As mentioned above – there are many tools around to do this type of monitoring. The key is to find one or two that fit with your style and rhythm of blogging and to regularly check them.

Types of ‘alerts’ to set up:

Lastly – let me outline a few types of alerts to set up. These are the two that I most commonly set up:

1. Industry Words – these are words relevant to your blog’s niche. For example if you blog about the wedding industry you might like to monitor words like ‘wedding dress’. If you blog about Britney Spears – you’ll want to be watching for any use of her name. The key is to find keywords that highlight when stories are breaking about your industry but ones that don’t overwhelm you with results.

2. Vanity Alerts – these are keywords that are specifically relevant to you. They include your personal name, your blog’s name, company name, brand names and even URLs.

Warning – Monitor in Moderation

Let me finish with a word of warning. Don’t become obsessed with monitoring what OTHERS are saying.

While I do believe it can significantly enhance a blog to be aware of what others are doing online in that space – it can also become a distraction (if not an obsession). The key with all tasks of blogging is to do them in a balanced way. Set up some ‘alerts’ today – keep an eye upon them – but don’t forget to actually do some writing yourself instead of just watching what others write!

Update: See what others are saying at the Day 10 – Set up Alerts to Monitor Your Blogs Niche forum thread!

Want More?

This task is a sample of one of the tasks in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog Workbook – a downloadable resource designed to reinvigorate and revitalize blogs.

Join over 14,000 other bloggers and Get your Copy Today.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. I agree with the others that this can be a great resource, but agree that you need to schedule time to review and make sure you don’t get caught up spending too much time reviewing your different alerts. I’d love to hear feedback on how others organize their different alerts, rss feeds, etc. I am organizing my content, but sometimes feel like I get caught up with “tag” syndrome where I use to many closely related keywords which in turn messes up my organization. I need to remember to keep it simple!

  2. Great stuff. I use google alerts but had almost forgotten about technorati and just checking it out today, have found masses of ideas.

  3. Google Alerts are my favorite. Especially for monitoring web mentions about myself or my brand.

  4. Funny, the Food Blog Alliance had that yesterday, and here it is today on 31DBBB! So, I started to do it yesterday, and will add some more with your great ideas!


  5. I have been using Google Alerts for quite a while, but I added a few today. I will also try alerts on Technorati.

    The great thing about the 31DBBB is that these task from Darren spark so many other ideas. This task gave me another idea…I changed one of the tabs on my Google page to read “Movie Blogs”. I then set up RSS feeds for blogs in my niche. Now when I recieve an alert about a blog that talks about movies, I will add thier feed to that page. And I will have all my competitors’ blogs on 1 page.

    I will do the same thing with my Concierge blog.

  6. Oh neat! I have heard about this before but never thought about using them in this way.

    I have now set some up, though I’m sure they’ll need tweaking since I suspect a few of them are a little too broad.

  7. Great advice again Darren – always important to know what topics are being discussed within your niche.


  8. I used Google Alerts before. Though they did a good job but they used to send the same blogs mostly. I will check out technorati though.

  9. I’m a big fan of Google Alerts. Not only do I use them as idea starters, they also make great conversation starters on twitter, allowing me to provide followers information that isn’t all about me.

    Off to set Technorati alerts, which I did not know about. Thanks, Darren.

  10. Great article!

    My company (http://www.deepwebtech.com/) has been offering a deep web alerts for individuals (free of charge), through our http://www.mednar.com/ and http://www.biznar.com/ properties.

    Anyone who wants to include social networks, deep web content, as well as google, should check this out.


  11. Hi Darren,

    This workshop is really great. I’ve visited your Web site from time to time, but have been overwhelmed by all the things that you recommend bloggers do.

    The workshop gives you a worthwhile piece to do every day. Thank you.

    On monitoring, some bloggers use RSS feeds to to get headlines. I get headlines from Twitter. Which is best?

    I write for baby boomer consumers at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide.

    I’m still getting a lot of hits from two of the list blogs I wrote: “Top 10 Boomer Challenges” and “Top 10 Reasons for Boomers to Be Optimistic.”


    P.S. How much does that e-book cost that you advertise about making money on your blog? The one about most bloggers aren’t making enough money to pay for their coffee?

  12. I’ve been doing this one for a while. It really can be helpful, although I tend to be kind of off and on about it.

    I have my Google Alerts go to my GMail account, and have a filter set up for them. This way I can go through them at my leisure, and they aren’t in the way of my email the rest of the time.

  13. I have been doing google alerts for some time too, and love these additional ideas for twitter (Which I just started using) – off I go to alert away…

  14. I’ve been doing this for a while but recently added some alerts to let me know who was covering a certain grocery store’s deal. That way, when I cover a big promo, I know who to email to promote my post. I did it today with success. Thanks, Darren, for this great series.

  15. Brilliant post as always!
    I have newsfeeds, Twitterfeeds and google reader. Today, I sent up Google alerts… Very easy; a breeze to set up! I have created an inbox folder for it in my gmail account and will check out the Technorati watchlist you mentioned shortly.
    I am learning so much from this 31 Day Challenge; every day I pick up something new to help me with my blogs. I even overhauled two of them last night… adding widgets and making minor changes I have picked up here.
    Yes, I even added another blog (#3) to my repetoire. Three is my lucky number. lol!
    Thank you!

  16. Thanks once again! I just set up several google alerts. I’ve never used this before. I managed to think of a few keywords that I think will be helpful for me. I’m looking forward to seeing how this goes. :)

  17. Hmmm…. never thought about this one. With an alert, I could be ahead of the pack on key health related issues that surface. Another solid idea. Thanks Darren!

    P.S. Thanks for the warning as well. I could see how we could get obsessive over new alerts.

  18. Hi Darren,

    As usual great articles. I wanted to put my blog link here, right now it’s not much since I just started the other day. Also anyone on here who thinks I need help, which I know I do…lol…please let me know in my comments section…Thank You!! If i Wasn’t allowed to put my blog page on here Darren, I am really sorry.

  19. Great idea – one I’ve been late to the dance on. I’ve always known about alerts but simply have dropped the ball. Actually, I wasn’t even carrying the ball. To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t know quite how they worked…or were suppose to work. Now I do.

    I went ahead and set up three: Industry, vanity and sports teams. I’m looking forward to seeing how the information is disseminated in the emails I receive.


  20. Hi Darren,

    I’ve been following your blog just recently and I can’t believe how useful it is. I look forward to every post you make!!! I love this tip, I’ve never even considered setting up alerts to keep me updated on the latest news, genius!! Keep up the wonderful work!!

    Take care,

  21. Great ideal. I used Google alerts for vanity reasons, but using it to keep up to date within my niche. Was just wonderful. Since adding more to my google alerts I have great ideas for future post.

    Even since joining this challenge I have had many people following me on twitter. Not sure how, but they have.

    Alease Michelle

  22. Alright, I’ve set up a few…now I’m nervous about my inbox being slammed with monsterous emails packed with the keywords I picked.

  23. Google Alerts are the “bomb” and I use them every day for several keywords and key phrases. When I am writing an article on a specifiic topic I will set up a google alert to find out what’s already been said on the topic. This saves me time so I don’t have to scour the web and read through hundreds of irrelevant posts.

    Thanks for the heads up about setting up twitter alerts. I am having fun on twitter diving in recently. I am learning so much and meeting great people. Now I can monitor subjects I am most interested in.

    Love the 31 day challenge! Looking forward to tomorrow’s lesson.

    Have a great day,

    Heidi Richards Mooney, Author, Entrepreneur, Business Coach

  24. Wow Darren, you just told me about something I was completely unaware of! It’s rather rare that I learn a super cool new online trick which is also useful. Keep on bloggin Bro!

  25. I was advised to use Google Alerts to detect scrappers for blog contents. Good to know I need to set up more Alerts for the sake of content-enhancement & writing ideas. Now why didn’t I think of that before… thanks for this golden tip. (although slow to the act, but it’s better than never, right?) ^^

  26. Just found a service that does URL search on Twitter, expanding the shortened links: http://backtweets.com/
    You can save a search as an RSS feed.

  27. I did this step but I didn’t do it properly. But I will learn and learn again.

    Great resource

  28. Hey Darren,
    Thank you so much, I was trying to set the alert but now I have done it.Its lovely post.

  29. I have been trying to find a good alternative to google alerts, and here are my findings

    Google alerts (Indigo stream)

    None of them fulfill my needs – provide a web based interface for managing alerts, where all alerts come together and I choose when to login and check, ignore some “words or phrases”, ignore specific domains, provide RSS feed, track pictures, track twitter & social networks also, track PPC ads (who is advertising about keywords I track)

  30. Google Alerts are a terrific service, but I’m using Twitter more and more these days and topic hashtags are doing a lot of the work of alerting me to stories and comment.

  31. I came to pro blogger, just subscribed to the RSS feed to monitor your blog, to get some ideas for blog posts on my blog ( http://www.alexbrooks.net ) and found a article about it, I’m going to follow your methods as well, thanks a lot for this great article!

  32. Great, I have to apply this immediately as I have never tried this before. Thanks so much

  33. ehm. its needed to setup our alert. If not, we losing something from our niche.

  34. I had done this a while back. Most interesting thing was that yesterday I got an alert for my name, someone had copied a post of mine and credited me as the writer at the end of the post. I had given the option of reblogging on activerain, however this was not on AR. Person is a member of AR however. So that is the most interesting thing I got out of that so far!

  35. As with everything, a balanced approached is always the best. I’m subscribed to Google Alerts but will check out Technorati as well. I’ve heard about it many times but this is exactly the ‘push’ I need to look it up.

    Thanks Darren!

  36. I am failing miserably… Apparently I shouldn’t have tried to do this while packing to move half way across the country! So I’ll be saving the daily emails and picking up when I get home. Thanks for all the great tips!

  37. I’m a fan of 4info.net – text messages about news, sports and a bunch of other stuff.

    I reviewed them a while ago on my blog. I have no affiliation with them, I just enjoy the (free) product.

    Here’s my review:

  38. hi Dareen,

    thanks for the task… I think it is a great way to know what is latest…
    One question: Would some “automatic blog” software pick the latest article into your blog too ?
    I just installed this software in my new blog

    Dr. L M Foong

  39. Thanks for the tips. I had alerts set up for links to my blogs, of course, but wasn’t following my niche topic that way. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes up to spark my writing.

    Love TweetDeck – just opened it this morning and saw that you can now follow your Facebook Friends Status there. Pretty cool!

  40. I believe as a blogger you should 100% check out other blogs on the daily of what you are interested in. Sometimes it can flutter your creativity but sometimes it will INSPIRE!

  41. Darren & all,
    Twitter has become my default filter for current news. I am just starting to use TweetDeck, it’s great but has been too buggy lately so I’ve spent my minutes following links from people I follow on Twitter who constantly turn up relevant and interesting material.

    As I write posts, I mentally sweep all the “keywords” away so that I can generate something original. The relevance remains because I’m steeped in the current conversation. For example, I had been journaling about collaboration for some time, preparing a post, when the Outsourcing Conspiracy came out. My post “The Collaboration Code” fit together with Brian & Jon’s launch of their report perfectly (and they seem to agree).

    The challenge then becomes to write highly original pieces while keeping them well connected to posts by others. Let the conversation trends and threads inform you, then be bold about your own viewpoint. Even for seasoned writers, journalists and bloggers, it is still a kind of surprise pleasure to unfold an article with fresh insight. And this is the kind of connected innovation that will bring about the most productive changes in our world.


  42. Google Alerts are a terrific service, but I’m using Twitter more and more these days and topic hashtags are doing a lot of the work of alerting me to stories and comment.

  43. Now this is something new! (Crawling out from under rock) I’ve never heard of such a thing! Sheesh!

    I’m off set this up!

  44. I just started using Google Alerts and I love it! I have found so many ideas on what to write about. I have so many RSS feeds stored on my Flock Browser and it’s difficult to find what to write about. There’s just so much video game news and so little anime news. With Google Alerts, I have found blogs on anime and video games that I have found interesting to read! Put the RSS feeds into Flock and I am up-to-the-minute in ideas.

  45. Interesting assignment. I have been using Google Alerts, for awhile, to monitor my online “reputation.” So, I created a new alert for a key topic of mine, real estate coaching.

    The first alert arrived almost instantly, and the very first entry looked interesting. That, in turn, led me to another site, where I felt compelled to leave comments on several examples. (Naturally, each comment is linked to my site.)

    Is that an appropriate response?

  46. Another use that I’ve found for Google alerts is to catch content thieves. I recently stumbled upon a blog from google alerts that had reprinted my article word for word.

  47. I’ve been using Google Alerts only to check for links to my site. I will now expand the alerts to include what you suggest.

    I want to try to use Google Reader consistently too. So much to learn and do, thank you!

  48. The biggest mistake you can make with Google Alerts is casting too wide a net. Google tries not to flood your mailbox, although that can happen anyway, so it limits the number of alerts it will send on a single subject. If you just search for a single phrase, like “clean energy”, you’ll get the most general results. You can get much more relevant results by thinking about WHERE you want you results from. If you want academic research, look for pages on college sites:
    “clean energy” site:edu

    If you want to see what US government agencies have to say, look on .gov sites:
    “clean energy” site:gov

    If you just want a financial perspective, search the Wall Street Journal:
    “clean energy” site:wsj.com

    I’ve collected hundreds of these tips in a free Google Alerts tutorial:

  49. enjoygame says: 04/17/2009 at 11:26 am

    hi Dareen,

    thanks for the task… I think it is a great way to know what is latest…
    One question: Would some “automatic blog” software pick the latest article into your blog too ?
    I just installed this software in my new blog

    Dr. L M Foong

  50. Thanks Darren,

    I really loved this post and I would like to use it. Thank you very much for this tip.

    Mohammad Afaq
    Free Website Traffic

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