Google Alerts: Free has a price

Being the last to know about something sucks – and if you’re being paid to know, it may even be ‘career limiting’.

That’s why reliable and real-time media monitoring matters – and why you shouldn’t be relying on Google Alerts.

If you’ve ever been involved in either public relations or media, you probably know about Google Alerts. It’s the grandaddy of online media monitoring, born all the way back in 2003.

For a long time it was one of the best and only options to monitor online news. In the last few years though, we’ve seen the usage of Google Alerts by media and comms professionals slowly dwindle – and there’s a few good reasons why:

Poor reliability

With Google Alerts you have the option to be notified of matching news ‘as it happens’, ‘at most once a day’ or ‘at most once a week’. Regardless of the option you choose, it is well documented that the alerts will come through fine for a little while – then they will stop coming (despite there being new relevant results in Google) … and then the cycle starts over and repeats.

Sites like fixgooglealerts.com have been setup in direct response to the reliability frustrations with Google Alerts.

Limited results

If you’re monitoring terms that generate very few mentions and missing some of them doesn’t matter to you – then Google Alerts may just about do the job. If on the other hand you need to track topics that generate a lot of news, it is probably not for you.

While the service does let you choose to receive alerts of ‘Everything’ that matches – they don’t really mean everything. If the topics you’re monitoring generate lots of news, what you actually get is a Google selected sampler of some of the best matches.

Yesterday, for example, “John Key” matched 181 articles in Fuseworks, versus 12 that came through via Google Alerts (searching for ‘Everything’, delivered ‘As-it-happens’).

Limited ability to target your criteria

Imagine being ‘Spark’, or ‘The Blues’ or ‘Tower’ and you just want to follow mentions of your organisation within New Zealand media – and you don’t want to be inundated with irrelevant matches.

High quality media monitoring is as much about filtering out the material you don’t want as it is delivering comprehensive results. It often requires extremely complex and continuously updated criteria, which just isn’t supported by Google Alerts.

Limited functionality

Google Alerts is just an email. Modern media monitoring is so much more than that.

With sophisticated tools like Fuseworks you have:

  • Automated analytics – so you can understand key metrics like volume, media types and sources at a glance.
  • Tagging tools, so you can create your own bespoke analytics and ROI measures.
  • There’s no need to identify all the possible topics you’d like track in advance. You get access to the entire database and can run custom analysis reports on the topics you’re interested in – at any time.
  • Many more configuration options around when you get reports and what’s included (ie: graphs, tags etc).

No support

Setting up useful search criteria for Google Alerts can be a real challenge and there’s no human support provided. This generally leaves people with unwanted results to sift through, or missing key information.

If you need help changing your setup, adding new criteria or making use of advanced features – with professional media monitoring services, help is only ever a phone call or email away.

Google Alerts is a limited and some would say broken tool. Whether Google Alerts is limited in a way you can live with will vary – but if being on top of what’s going on in the media is important to your job – it may be time to look at your options.

You can learn more about the common pitfalls of free media monitoring tools here.

If you’d like to learn more about Fuseworks, please contact us.