Use Google Alerts to stay aware of your digital dirt, or stay current on anything

We all know the saying “knowledge is power,” right? It helps us make better decisions, keep informed, and act intelligently. What if the information you care about was emailed to you the moment it hits Google? You could act on it immediately. You could work towards removing negative information about yourself, learn about a company you might be investing in, or any number of things. This can be done using Google Alerts and it’s incredibly easy to setup.

My interest in exploring Google Alerts began when I read an article a couple of years ago suggesting readers to setup a Google Alert about one’s self, especially when looking for a job. This was a fantastic idea! When companies are interested in people, they tend to search these candidates online to validate information on their resumes or find any reason they may not be ideal for the position. We don’t always know the kinds of information that can be found on the web about us either. Pictures of us partying too hard in college your best friend posted and never told you about could pop-up in a search, for instance. With a Google Alert setup about yourself, the moment those pictures are visible in the Google Search engine, you will be notified and can take action to remove them. The initial search for what exists already will still need to be done manually. Alerts will only send you newly published content.

Another useful way I’ve found Google Alerts is in following a company. Last year, an energy startup announced a revolutionary new type of battery and I was excited to see how this would develop. Rather than relying on my memory, I setup an Alert for this company and have been able to track every development this company has made since then. I took this a step further and wondered if this could aid in predicting stock performance. Keep in mind I have zero experience investing on my own and barely understand the stock market to begin with. Regardless, I was curious how the information I received about this startup affected their stock prices. I only followed the performance of this one company, so it’s hardly a conclusive test. However, I did find a correlation between news about this company being released followed by significant movements in their stock price. I would be alerted of news that looked negative, several hours later, sometimes a day later, the stock dropped. Similar behavior was mirrored for positive news. The interesting thing is that I had hours, sometimes a day, to react to the news with this particular company if I chose to invest or not. I’m curious if these alerts can be just as useful on company stocks that are more active and well established.

Setting up a Google Alert is easy. Google’s own how-to guide can be found here, but I will outline the steps below as well.

  1. Start by going to www.google.com/alerts and sign into your Google account if you are not signed in already
  2. Type a topic, company, name, etc. you wish to be alerted about in the Create an Alert search box near the top
  3. Click the Show Options button under the search box to customize how you receive alerts
  4. Click Create Alert

That’s it! With this setup, you will receive emails regarding the alert you have created and can stay current on anything. Try your first alert with your first and last name, unless you have a common name. Setting up an alert about yourself will help you keep tabs on what others will find if they search your name.

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