31DBBB Day 10: Set Up Alerts to Monitor What is Happening in Your Niche

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This is Day 9 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, a group project 60+ of us bloggers are doing together in an effort to help each other become better bloggers. You can read an overview here.

The purpose of today’s lesson is to help you as a blogger stay informed about what is being written about you and your niche.  Every day massive numbers of news articles, blog posts, and tweets are written.  Sorting through all of it to find what is relevant and helpful to you can be a daunting task.  Fortunately, there are tools that can simplify and speed up this task.

Why Monitor?

Before we get to how to monitor what’s happening in your niche, let’s talk about why.

  • Stay informed about what’s happening in your niche. The best bloggers know what’s happening in their field.
  • Be among the first to blog about news. When something happens people are much more likely to read the first or second blog post written about it that day than the 100th post written about it a week later.
  • Networking. When someone writes about your niche and you know about it, it gives you the opportunity to get to know them and perhaps comment on their article or follow them on twitter.
  • Manage your reputation. When someone writes or tweets about you, your organization, or your blog – good or bad – you want to know about it so you have the opportunity to respond.

Keywords to monitor

The first step in setting up alerts is to determine what keywords/phrases you want to monitor.  Some options include:

  • Your name
  • Your organization
  • The name of your blog
  • The domain names of any websites you or your organization have, including your blog.
  • Keyword related to your niche.

This can be challenging.  If your name is John Smith or you work for First Baptist Church, you might as well forget about monitoring your name or organization.  Even selecting keywords that are relevant but not too broad can be challenging.  Monitoring “Bible study,” “parenting,” or “web design” is likely to result in an overwhelming deluge of alerts.

There’s some guess work and trial and error that goes into selecting the right keywords to monitor.  It’s also a good idea to periodically review the keywords you’re monitoring and consider adding and removing keywords.

Tools for monitoring

Once you know what keywords you’re going to monitor, the next step is to set up notification services.

One of the challenges with this task is that old tools get discontinued and new tools come on line all the time.  For example, in the 31 Days e-book it recommends using watchlists.  However, Technorati discontinued watchlists almost a year ago, and they also no longer supply blog search results to an RSS feed.

At the moment, there are essentially three types of items to monitor.  These are the tools I use to monitor them:

You can set up Google alerts to email you any time it finds a news or blog article with your keywords in it, but receiving email alerts throughout the day can be very distracting. In my opinion, you are much better off subscribing to the RSS feed for each alert using Google Reader, and then checking them once or twice a day.


  1. What keywords are you monitoring?
  2. Can you give an example of a useful alert you received?  How did you respond? How did it benefit your blog?
  3. Are there any tools other than Google Alerts & Twitter Search that you use or recommend?
  4. What questions do you have about alerts & setting them up?

The Extra Mile

A few other things you can do to take your blog, other bloggers, and this project even further today…

  • Reply & give other bloggers feedback on the little things they do.
  • When other bloggers include a link to a new article they’ve posted today, click, read, and comment on it.
  • Check previous posts in the series for new comments.
  • Tweet, share, & bookmark this post.
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About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.


  • I am monitoring my name, my twitter handle, my blog name, my blog URL, and the keywords "faith", "family", and "homeschooling" for now. I set up Google alerts two days ago in anticipation of this lesson and am still trying to figure out how to tweak my alerts to be of the most benefit. I was surprised by how easy it is to set up Google alerts and make changes to them as needed.

    I'm spending time with family this weekend and won't be online much. I will respond to any replies here, e-mails, and moderate comments on my blog on Monday. Have a blessed weekend!

    Oh, and my post today was part 3 of "My Second Chance" the story of how I survived divorce and met my husband.

      • I'm having trouble narrowing it down, so that's what I'm using for now to see what I come up with in the alerts. I'm getting some good blogs that mean I can do more networking and see what other people are writing.

      • Thanks, Richard! That was my first "series." I wasn't exactly sure how to do it. I tried to keep the posts fairly short, and it worked out this time that a cliffhanger occurred right about 400 words or so! 🙂

        Let me know when you try a series. I'd love to read your story!


      • Since I am doing a series on the beatitudes I used that as a keyword, along with discipleship, prayer, devotionals.
        I found that if I put more than one word in the alert and tell it to look for all the words, it cuts down on some of the junk. Also I sent it to Google reader, not my e-mail so I could more easily manage it.

  • I set up about a dozen Google Alerts last night. Frankly after the work on niches and forums I didn't expect to get any results. I sure was wrong. In fact some results have even led to potential forums! Now I just need to check for value and see what I want lo continue receiving in alerts. I have not set up for my name, blog names, etc., yet. Listening To God has produced some great leads. I also have alerts for Quakers, the practice of stillness, personal transformation, modern prophets, among others. We'll see what I think after a few days!

  • Here's another one I'm having issues with. If the niche is broad in itself – say Christian inspiration, what kind of keywords do you use? Something like "Inspiration" or "faith" would bring back way too many results. I'm really interested to get started, I just don't know what to look for.

    • That's a tough question. It's exactly what I was talking about when I wrote, "Even selecting keywords that are relevant but not too broad can be challenging." Perhaps you can think of sub-categories that fall within Christian inspiration. Or perhaps you could look at the 3-5 most popular posts you've written and focus your alerts on the topics discussed in those posts.

    • I agree with Paul, this can be kinda tough. But I do think that there could be some keywords hidden within "Christian inspiration" that could be worth trying, depending on what you are shooting for. In fact, the search result my bring back non-religious stuff that may be worthy of monitoring and might open doors for evangelism.

      I'd start by answering questions about why people need inspiration…
      dealing with difficult times?
      …which ones?
      loss of a loved one?
      job stress?

      Make sense? I think just digging deeper into the who, what, why -type questions may lead further down the right path. And if you are watching for 'job stress' then you may find yourself talking with non-Christians about it and opening doors to talking about how faith helps deal with it.

      I hope this helps! That was a great question!

  • It's good to learn some tricks of Google searches to set up alerts. I've had an alert to watch for anyone linking against my old URL, thus:

    But reading the exercise, I thought, "What if someone types that but doesn't turn it into a link? I'll miss it." So I changed it to simply

    This was too wide. My first result was for

    So now I have enclosed the search in quotes, to say, "match exactly this:"


    My post today is one of my "out-of-context quotes" I put up from time to time:

  • I have been listening for a while now, ever since I heard the concept of 'Listening posts'. I think Chris Brogan also talks about them like this. As for actually doing something about them – hmmm, not enough.
    Apart from the above ones I use:
    I even think is an interesting was of monitoring you engagement between the different social networks

    and I had setup watches on 'filmmaking' and 'synapticlight'

  • I have found that using Google Alerts can be a little tricky because of my topic: running. It's a term that gets used a lot of different areas, so I have had to get more specific in my search terms.

  • I've used Google alerts for several years for gathering helpful information about my job, my church, my Sr. Pastor, etc. Besides the obvious searches for my blog name, personal name, etc, I haven't used this tool for my blogging like I could. This will be a good exercise for me to press into.

    One funny site I found a couple of months ago is called the Dirtch Reputation Monitor. You can find out what people are saying about you (or other people with your name) here. I guess it would be helpful to a politician; I just found it humorous:

    My blog post today should get some interesting responses: When a Pastor Decides to Leave their Church

  • Haven't written a post today so I won't put a shameless plug of my blog here.. haha.. I've been doing Google Alerts for a while now. Currently I do them for the following words:

    Thrive Church, Tom Elmore, Scott Ayres, IQ Transport.

    The reason I do Thrive church is because I run the social media for our church and want to see if anyone talks about us. Although most of the alerts just pickup the word thrive and church separately. Hasn't been real useful. Tom is our pastor and I run his blog so I try to see if anyone is talking about him.

    IQ Transport is my business I run. It's been fairly helpful. I was able to respond to a good and bad review quickly through the alerts. and obviously I watch my own name. Which until this blog challenge didn't come back with many results. But now it does! Kinda cool.

    I used to keep up with words relating to car shipping, since that's what I do, but too many results came back and it was just annoying. Mainly was sending me alerts of competitors sites.

    I use TweetDeck more than anything though to monitor keywords and etc. I follow words like "transportation", "car shipping", "freight" and etc. Through that I've been able to immediately respond to people tweeting that they need a car shipped and give them a live quote. Actualy gotten business that way..

  • I have keywords for my name, my site, my twitter, (which are all very close to being the same) and also Spiritual Formation, Christian Discipleship, Online Bible Study, Youth Conferences, Christian Music Festivals, Dunbar Youth Activities, and Teen Parenting. Some of these are new and others I have been reading long before I started blogging.

    I think we will always have to sort through useless information, but it is worth reading 20 worthless articles to get one good, IMHO) For me it is more about listening to an extended dialogue.

  • This is new territory for me. I just set up the suggested keywords in Google Alerts in an RSS feed. I also set up a couple of keywords for news articles. Being a stay-at-home mom to young children often puts me in a bubble. I am typically the last to know of major world events–embarrassing.

    Any tips on keywords for Christian/moral news articles???

    • Hmm… I don't have a ton of keyword ideas off the top of my head. I think it depends on which morality issues you want to monitor (abortion, marriage, etc.).

      BUT… I have seen a site that lists lots of news that you might be looking for! It might give you some keyword ideas, or you can follow the RSS feeds that they already have set up! Check it out here…

  • Just set up google alerts to monitor the words "community, my town (not giving town name here for safety), church." I'm also subscribed via rss to blogs that are sort of in my niche, and follow them on twitter. So a lot of my ideas and other things i've learned about blogging come from that too.

    Blog posts for yesterday and today –
    Your Community – School –
    Your Community – Neighborhood and Town Events –

  • I set up a google alert for a part of our "elevator pitch". I have gotten pretty good articles and blogs from it.

    Speaking Grace Online – Church on Your Time

    I put in "church on your time". Good results so far.

  • I just reread the rules for this series. I'm supposed to leave a comment here everyday so everyone will know I'm still participating. Oops. I do link to the intro post everyday, so I'm hoping the pingback/trackback counts as a comment. I also send Paul bossy email. Those should count double. This is turning into a ramble, which is kind of what happens to my comments at the end of a very long week. Happy Friday!

  • Can we get really practical for a moment?

    For those of you who have been receiving alerts for a while or are getting some good results today, can you speak to the specific benefits you experienced from a specific alert you received? Some possible examples…

    – I received an alert about X article in which I learned about Y, which I otherwise would never have known about.
    – I received an alert about X blog post where someone wrote about my organization. I went to the blog and posted a comment thanking them.
    – I received an alert about X selling bootleg copies of my latest CD. I reported them to the FBI & their doing 5 years in federal prison. 😉

    I think everyone would benefit from hearing each others' specific stories.

  • I'm at my parents' for the weekend, where the computers are slow and the internet access is slower, so my participation will be lower than usual, unfortunately. Even just getting to the point that I could type this response took a long time, and I can't seem to log in to Intense Debate for some reason.

    It'll be interesting to try this out for my blog, since my topic is prayer, and I don't know how many advances are being made in the field of prayer lately, although with the recent scuttlebutt about the national day of prayer, there's stuff happening in the news. I will have to wait until next week to try this out, though. When I typed 'I will have to wait' just now, I had to wait a good 15 seconds for it to show up on the screen. Ugh.

    But I did want to check in – I'm really enjoying this 31 Days, and I hope to move past this busy period next week and focus more on this. The community that is happening here is a great thing, and I'm glad to be a part of it, and want to be more so.

  • Haven't done Google Alerts before. For my blog I'm thinking:

    1. Christian marriage
    2. Christian divorce
    3. Church divorce
    4. Marriage problems
    5. Spiritual marriage
    6. Husband advice
    7. Wife advice
    8. Life partners
    9. Ken Nair
    10. Marriage answers
    11. Discovering the Mind of a Woman

    Here is the final installment having to do how we affect our wives with what we, as husbands, do with our eyes. It starts like this:

    "The reason I've spent so much time on this subject is that we can gauge the emphasis of our lives by what we do with our eyes. Is the emphasis of our lives on the flesh or the spirit?"

  • This is great! I didn't know these types of alerting services existed. I had been trying to monitor other sites myself and was not doing a very good job. So, I will set up monitors for my twitter handle, blog name, and some of the major brands that I cover.

    It is possible that I will be inundated with posts, though 🙂 It will be a work in progress.

  • At last, I have set up some alerts on Google, using keywords that describe my blog. I also added Google Reader and will be making more of an effort on Twitter (I almost abandoned it). As I looked over Jennifer's post, it made me decide to add the URL for my blog to my alerts.

    Everyone is probably out for the weekend. I am finally going to relax with Hubby.

    post for today:

  • I think at this point for me Twitter Search is enough. I can search my name, my blog name, twitter name, web site name & inspirational gifts, inspirational poems, inspirational stories, inspirational articles, inspirational crafts. I tired just one search so far and the results are amazing. It gives me lots of new people to follow, become friends with ,check out their sites & blogs to exchange post comments with, retweet, etc.

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