Guest blogger, Icy Sedgwick - How to use Google Alerts

After a discussion on twitter with Icy Sedgwick and Rob Diaz about how writers can use Google Alerts, I invited Icy to pop over for a bit and explain them for us.

The Internet is chock-ful of blogs, websites, Twitter hashtags and applications aimed at helping writers at any stage of their career. It's not my intention to cover all, most, or even several of them, but I do want to cover a very simple tool that lets you know when you, or your work, is mentioned online.

Google is stuffed with handy bits and pieces that can aid a writer, from Documents (which helps enable writers share documents for collaborative pieces), Notebook (where you can jot down your ideas), to Alerts. I'm going to walk you through setting up a Google Alert so you'll be alerted to those instances when you've been mentioned in a blog, or on a web page. Think of Google Alerts has being a service that eavesdrops on the Internet, and gives you a gentle prod when it overhears your name.

With most Google services, you need to have a Google account, but Alerts is an exception. You can just head straight over, and set one up, without tying yourself into Google if you don't want to. If you do have an account, hurrah!

Enter in your address bar in your browser of choice. You'll see a very simple screen, allowing you to customise your alerts. Your first box is the 'Search terms' field. Enter what it is that you'd like to be notified about. In this case, maybe your name, the name of your blog, or your novel or serial, if you have one. As an example, mine alerts me to 'Icy Sedgwick'. I'm so cunning.

In the 'Type' dropdown box, you can select Everything, News, Blogs, Realtime, Video, Discussions. I've just got mine set on Everything, since you don't know when or where you're going to pop up.

In the 'How often' dropdown box, you can select once a day, as-it-happens, and once a week. It's entirely up to you what you choose, but for a writer just starting out, 'once a week' is probably enough. If you attain Stephen King status and are desperate for attention, maybe you'll want to see alerts as they happen.

In the 'Volume' dropdown box, you can select Only the best results or All results. I kept getting reports about icy conditions in Sedgwick County in Kansas, so I changed mine to Only the best results!

A sample Google alert - click to enlarge
The final dropdown box lets you choose where the alerts should be delivered. If you've got a Google account and you logged in before you visited the page, it'll show your Gmail address, otherwise you can add your email address now. Then you're done!

Google will helpfully send you an alert email according to your preferences. It will show you what the alert is for (so whatever you set up - in my case, 'Icy Sedgwick') along with a link to where it found your term. In a lot of cases, this might return your own blog posts, or Twitter feed, but every now and then you might find someone has mentioned you on their own blog.

If you decide you want to tweak the settings, head back to the Alerts page. This is where it becomes handy to have a Google account, as you can just sign in, and click the link "click here to manage your alerts". You can add more alerts (as far as I know, there's no limit on how many things alerts you can set up) which can cover more keywords, you can delete existing alerts, changing the frequency - whatever you want to do!

Have a go at setting one up - you never know what it'll tell you!


Buy "The First Tale" at Smashwords
Blown far from her Northern homeland, Icy Sedgwick now lives and works in old London town. She’s only 27 but she remembers the days when she wrote stories in crayon. She writes about everything from steampunk automatons to telepathic parrots, though her pet project is a supernatural YA novel.

You can get "The First Tale" over at Smashwords. Icy's website is, and you can follow Icy on Twitter as @icypop.

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  1. It's funny, I've set up Google Alerts for lots of clients in the past, but never for myself! I suppose I had better take a deep breath and do it, but there is immense resistance there. Probably stemming from a fear of getting an alert that turns out to be a terrible review. Ah, the bliss of being a timid writer :)

  2. Here was me, sitting twiddling my thumbs and now I've got something to do! Thanks for the heads up on this.

  3. Alerts is a great tool. I've had it for a long time. Nice explanation, Icy.

  4. Thanks for turning me on to this, Icy. It's been fun seeing what all pops up. So far I've found a real estate agent, a journalist and a butcher ... all from various parts of the world ... that share my name.

  5. I have been using Google Alerts for some time now as a way of monitoring my creative work. I have had trouble in the past with articles being reposted without permission. With Google Alerts I am able to keep an eye on the internet in a very passive way.

    I would also suggest including your blog name or a unique keyword into your RSS Feed (Where the footer also gets auto-posted) so that Google Alerts can keep an eye on your work, even if you aren't credited.

  6. I'm indebted to Icy for bringing the subject up on Twitter. Once you start having work out in the wild, it's much easier than trying to follow those linked trails manually.

    Granted, most hits these days for "Tony Noland" lead back to me talking about myself, but I'm hopeful one day this will change.

  7. I still keep getting wintry weather reports for US counties that share my surname but hey ho, it's nice to know the territories I shall attempt to claim at some point.

    It is a very useful service though, I've found myself, or my blog posts, retweeted or promoted in places I never would have found myself! Such as my post on a London cemetery that ended up on a Russian travel site :-p

  8. Thanks for this explanation!

    I've now set up one for myself. Unfortunately, my name is VERY common, so I got my first batch of information about some obscure actor, some less obscure boxer and some other dude who has my same given name, same surname, same middle initial and even the same suffix.

    Very few people, apparently, actually talk about me in public. It's all behind my back, I guess.

    At least that's what the voices are telling me.

  9. @Rob: If you use quotes, you might focus the search a bit better with quotes & boolean search. ("Rob Diaz" + thirteenth)

  10. Thanks, Tony! The quotes helped enormously, at least based on the preview. It seems there are, in fact, some folks talking about me.

    Thanks again.


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