I’m a great fan of RSS and all that it can do and I use it on a daily basis both to keep me up to date on a range of business topics that I’m interested in and also for writing my blog. However, I’m also realistic enough to know that RSS use by publishers is still relatively hit and miss, and so if I want to keep abreast of all information being published on the web, then I need to be looking at other tools as well.

Enter Google Alerts. A great research tool and free to boot which can really help you with your blog posts, either to add additional reference sources to a topic that you have already written about or indeed to help you if you are searching for ideas of new topics to write about.

It’s very easy to set up – just head along to Google Alerts and select the search terms that you are interested in. If you like, you can select new entries just from Google News, Google Search, Google Blogs or Google Groups, but by far the best option is the comprehensive search which checks all of them. Then when a new post hits the top 10 or 20 in your selected terms, you receive an email alert with description and link.

So what different pieces of information might be of use to you when writing your blog? Well, anything that you think your readers would be interested in really, but here’s a few thoughts on the subject.

  • Industry information: news and announcements regarding the industry that is relevant to your readers including developments, company news and trends;

  • Competitor information: either new product or service releases or the different go-to-market strategies that your competitors are using. Forewarned is forearmed.

  • Exhibitions, seminars or other live events which might be of interest, either before they happen or to give reports afterwards on what happened there, announcements, who made the news etc.

  • New reports or surveys which might give you figures to add to your blog post and add additional credence to the points that you want to make

Of course, you can also see what comes up with your own name or your company name as well – a lazy form of egosurfing, I guess.

However, knowing who is talking about you and the areas you’re interested in as soon as it happens certainly puts you ahead of the game. So, alongside your RSS feed reader, make sure you have Google Alerts set up and get the comprehensive search sent over to you every day – you’ll be surprised how valuable it can be.

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