By Elaine Zimmermann
Jackson: I own a business that operates in several states. I am trying to keep abreast of actions by competitors that may adversely affect my business. I don't know how to get access to this type of information on a timely basis.
Elaine: I am sure you are aware of Google and searching the site for information about your industry. What you do not seem to be aware of is the Google feature, "Google Alerts," which was designed to solve your problem for obtaining information about a specific topic without requiring you to scour the web continuously.
Google Alerts is a free service which automatically sends content that matches the subject you request to your email address. The content is derived from Internet News, Web, Blogs, Video and Groups. You can request content from any of these sources or from all of them.
Depending on which category you select, you will receive an email aggregate of the subject you requested from the web source(s) you specified. For example, let's say you have a screen door company. You can request a Google "News" Alert about screen doors. You will receive all "breaking" news stories about screen doors (past stories about your subject will not be sent to you, only those published on or after the day you initiate your search).
Using the same example, you can request a Google "Web" Alert. This will send you links to newly created websites with screen door content.
A Google "Blog" Alert will send you the content about your subject that appears in blogs throughout the web. Following the same example, if someone were complaining on a blog about how their child left a screen door open and bugs poured into their house, you would get that blog content in your alert. A Google "Groups" Alert would work in much the same way.
A Google "Video" Alert will generate everything from videos on how to install a screen door to a video of the new musical group, "Screen Door," performing their latest music video. (Because videos require a lot of memory on your computer, do not download videos that do not appear to relevant to the topic.)
Finally, a Google "Comprehensive" Alert will generate content from all of the before mentioned sources. Results will be sent either "on the fly" or once a day to the email address you specify. You can create up to 1000 Google Alerts. They can be in various languages.
If the results are too broad, then narrow down your terms. Also try putting quotes around searches with multiple keywords. Using the screen door company again, you may want to narrow the results by requesting content on "screen door manufacturers" instead of merely "screen doors."
If the search returns no results, try more general keywords or try fewer keywords. Also try different words. Using the screen door company, you might want content on "screen door maintenance" or "screen door hardware" or possibly "screen door sale."
Elaine Zimmermann is a personal finance expert who was written about everyday ways to save money on cars, homes, vacations and more. For information on investing in foreclosed real estate you can visit her website at www.AskElaineZ.com.