What are the alternatives to Google Alerts?
Why doesn’t Google Alerts work properly anymore? It used to work just fine: you set up a request to be alerted every time a certain word or phrase was mentioned on the Internet, and Google Alerts would deliver it, via email or RSS, once a day or as it happened, depending on your preference. But as of last year, Google Alerts has seemingly stopped working in quite the same way. It still works – sometimes – ish.
Google’s business was originally all about Internet search, and it’s perhaps not a coincidence that Google Alerts stopped working properly around the time when Google started branching out from its first mission. Earlier this year, Google re-launched its Alerts service, and according to the Google Alerts support page, the option of receiving every single mention still exists. But keen users will have noticed how they’re just not getting alerted about everything in the way they used to anymore.
“The volume of Alerts has decreased by at least 80%, dropping from 20-35 emails per day with 4-12 results each down to 4-8 emails per day with 1-3 results each. And the results are crummier than ever,” wrote trade publication ‘The Financial Brand’ in an open letter to Google, which concluded: “Google has lost touch with its core business model: search.”
Luckily, other companies have picked up the slack, and now offer Internet mention services that actually work. The arguably bad news is that the best ones are not free, which was the case for Google Alerts. But as its disappearance suggests, maybe it’s worth paying for good service.
Promoting itself as “the best free and easy alternative to Google Alerts”, this service does just that. Users can set up alerts for a number of phrases, which are then delivered via RSS or email.
This service searches both the web and social media, delivering hits via email either as they happen or as digests. The free version lets you receive hits for just one phrase, but the paid version lets you set up a number of searches, plus it offers social media integration, analytics and other advanced features.
Short for “If This, Then That”, IFTTT can be used to automate a number of tasks, by programming in an action. So, for example, you can set it up so that you receive an alert if you get mentioned on social media, or you can program it to create a status update if you do something like upload images to Dropbox.
If you’re looking for a professional alerts service you’re probably willing to pay a bit more to make sure you catch everything. Services like Meltwater News are used by PRs, while Bloomberg Professional targets the financial industry. They both scour the web and social media, offering real-time alerts and analytics, among a range of tools aimed at helping customers make proper use of the data they are collecting.
While there are certainly plenty of options for those mourning the demise of Google Alerts, a more philosophical point to this trend could be how the Internet is becoming a bit too unruly for us to catch absolutely everything that’s going on. Businesses can pay for powerful search software to make sure they stay on top of everything, but for the rest of us, it may be time to admit it’s out of our hands. As more and more data is generated faster and faster, maybe the future won’t be about catching everything, but about dipping in and out as the data flows by.
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