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    Google Alerts via RSSI’ve long been a fan of using Google Alerts – as far as I’m concerned, alongside subscribing to relevant RSS feeds, it’s certainly the best way to make sure that I keep up to date with any new information appearing on the web on topics that I’m interested in. It’s also a great way to ensure that I can follow conversations and articles which are relevant to my clients, their own reputation management as well as the markets they work in.

    Now for me, Google have recently made it even more useful through the simple act of allowing me to receive this information via RSS rather than by email. This means that I can now have all of this information coming into one place (my Google Reader) as well as any keyword searches I have running through other sites and of course all the feeds from the key blogs I follow.

    Google Alerts via RSS

    All you need to do is select RSS instead of email as shown above and the system does the rest. Of course, there’s no longer a need to specify the frequency (ie. immediate, daily or weekly) because RSS will always update as soon as you have new information to read. (BTW, if you want a recap on the benefits RSS can bring in general then have another read of this.)

    Anyway, if you aren’t already doing so, then set up some keyword searches on Google Alerts, get them automatically sent to your RSS Reader and keep a step ahead of your competition by getting all the latest information before they do.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Google Blog SearchGoogle Blog Search has just had a bit of a facelift, though it’s not so much of a ‘new look’ as a ‘news look’ given that they have essentially taken the format that they use for Google News and applied it here.

    In many respects though, that’s a very sensible route to take. Blogs do tend to fulfil a dual role of providing the latest news on topics where timing is critical as well as being a type of interactive website where good information is always in demand no matter when it was posted. In the case of Google Blog Search, their results are skewed massively towards the most recent information posted – even when sorted in terms of relevance rather than date. Probably better this way or we would simply be looking largely at a rehash of Google’s main index and that’s not what we are after here.

    So what Google Blog Search is good at is letting you find the latest information appearing in blogs – does very much what is says on the tin, so to speak – and so the redesign is clearly playing to its strengths. It also benefits from Google’s general uncluttered approach which I sometimes think that Technorati might like to be mindful of again. So check it out and don’t forget to use the RSS feature – will save you masses of time!

    A quick run through

    So what do you get for your beta now and how can you use it. Well, on the homepage, you now get a pre selected set of blog posts in the main results area and, in the lefthand sidebar, you can select one of 11 other pre-ordained categories to look at. Alternatively you can of course head straight for the search box at the top.



    Once you’ve searched on a term, you’ve got the chance to do some filtering, essentially on how recent you want the results to be – you can also sort the results either by relevancy or time, though this makes less difference than you might think. From a business perspective, a really important function sits rather inconspicuously at the bottom of the lefthand sidebar where you can quickly set up either a Google Alert or an RSS Feed for the search terms you’ve just used. Can save you loads of time and keep you up to date!


    So overall, it’s a change but not a revolutionary one by any means – more a shuffle forward and to the side rather than a giant leap. I do, however, find myself using it more than Technorati now for general searches, although to track links etc I still return to the Big T.

    As an aside, at this time of intense political as well as economic debate over in the US, I like the fact that Google chooses to re-iterate at the bottom of the homepage “The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program”. So that’s all okay then …

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    Not so much blogging tools, but rather tools I use in the course of blogging, if you see what I mean! Anyway, here are 12 tools that I find massively useful in and around my blog.

    1. Feedburner

    One of the blogging tools I would recommend unreservedly. While I may not visit the site every day, I run all of my RSS feeds and my clients feeds through Feedburner which allows me to use them so much more effectively than I could otherwise. It isnt just so I can see how many people are following my blog through my feed or that they can automatically receive updates via email if they are not familiar with RSS. I can also use it to brand the RSS feed, create a signature using the feed to promote my blog on my email or on forum postings, add messages about my services to the feed and much more. Oh and its free.

    2. Aweber

    Although I use a bespoke email marketing system for the larger client campaigns that I run, I also run a number of mailing lists including my own free Business Blogging eCourse (over 2500 takers now, BTW!) via Aweber. This started life as an autoresponder system as well as a bulk email system which seems to have gradually expanded so you can do tracking and all sorts now. In addition, they launched Blog Broadcast which will automatically create an email newsletter from your blog posts that you can schedule according to your needs.

    3. Google Webmaster Tools

    Now at the end of the day, a business blog is still essentially a website and as such can benefit from the tools that Google makes available to webmasters everywhere. Lets face it, businesses may run blogs as an interactive mouthpiece with their clients and the good ones benefit from all of the intangibles in terms of trust, relationships etc they can create; however, this doesn’t stop businesses also tapping into the fact that they are inherently attractive to search engines and so ideal to help develop your online marketing. So check in with Google Webmaster Tools over at Google Webmaster Central.

    4. Statcounter

    Its essential to keep track of whats going on your blog, which posts are attracting most attention, where readers are coming from and what keywords they are using to find you. These are all things we need to know to improve and get the most out of our business blogs. For this, I use two tools – Google Analytics, which is comprehensive but the 24 hour delay in getting the stats can sometimes be frustrating if I need immediate feedback on posts or when I get a surge of visitors from sites like Digg or StumbleUpon. For this reason I also use Statcounter free up to a certain limit but not too pricey on the upgrade if you want some additional bandwidth.

    5. RSS Reader

    To keep up with what is going on in my industry or those of my clients, I rely on two tools. Essential tool no.1 – my RSS reader, which provides me with the news and views of selected sites delivered straight to me. Personally I have gone with an offline reader called FeedReader and I like it. However, I would be remiss if I didnt also point you in the direction of the two most popular readers when it comes to people who follow me: Google Reader and Bloglines. My only advice is to check them out and see which ones appeals to you most. Actually Im wrong my real only advice would simply be – get one!

    6. Google Alerts

    Essential Tool no.2 – Google Alerts. A great little tool which keeps me up to date by sending me emails with any blogs, sites and news articles which mention any of the topics or companies that I am monitoring. Daily updates on some keywords but for others I prefer to get immediate notification so that I can follow up if necessary, perhaps leave a comment or be the first to share the information with my own readers.

    7. WordPress

    Im a WordPress fan, I cant deny it. All the blogs I run for myself and those I set up for clients are based on the WordPress platform powerful, flexible and, in my opinion, the best tool to future proof your investment in blogging. (Oh dear, that sounded a bit like marketing speak!) However, there are often things that I want to do with a blog to achieve a business aim that I need to research from a technical standpoint. Enter the WordPress site. Not only an invaluable source of information on themes and plugins but also the support of other developers and users in the forums. Fab!

    8. Yahoo Site explorer / SEO plugin of Firefox

    Linking is such an important element of the development of a blog that it’s great to keep a close eye on who is linking to you. Specific sites like Technorati are really good but I also like to use another tool (or rather tools) to give a view across all areas of the internet – firstly you’ve got Yahoo’s Site Explorer which allows focus on inbound and internal links and secondly there is the SEO plugin for Firefox (from Aaron Wall of SEO Book fame). Both excellent.

    9. Core FTP

    While I could use WordPress to load images and pdfs etc onto my blog, I guess my years on the business development and marketing side of things havent totally suppressed the techie within (I blame my years at Psion for that) and I like to use an FTP program to load stuff onto my blog. Of course it also comes in very handy for setting up WordPress in the first place together with the plugins I use as part of creating fully optimised blogs for clients. Many recommend Filezilla but I still love the rather bare simplicity of Core FTP bless!

    10. SnagIt

    After trying a number of other products to capture images on screen, I finally forked out for SnagIt and dont regret it for an instant not that that makes me a big spender either at $50. Whether it is for putting together my training courses on blog promotion, creating manuals so clients can really use their blog properly or just to liven up posts or forum comments, its easy and very flexible. Well worth the money.

    11. Dreamstime

    Having looked at a number of different graphics sites, Dreamstime is the one that I use the most when I am looking for images and graphics to use in my posts. There are a number of others such as iStockphoto or Big Stock Photo which are widely used but I found that Dreamstime has an excellent range of images and a reasonable price structure so have stuck with that.

    12. Technorati

    Still the daddy of Blog Search Engines and Blog Directories all rolled into one. If you want to find a blog in your chosen area of expertise then Technorati is where to start and then just follow the links that you find there. Since its important to check out blogs that already exist as part of your own setup process, then this is definitely a site to be familiar with.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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    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.

    If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

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