Google

How Do Google Alerts Work? Why Are They Not Working?

By Elisa Gabbert April 10, 2012 Posted In: Google Comments: 47

Google alerts not working

Are your Google Alerts not working? Maybe you've set it up wrong. But before we walk you through how to correctly set up a Google Alert for yourself, let's revisit how does Google Alerts work.

Google Alerts are a way to monitor the search results for a given query. In theory, setting up a Google Alert is a great time-saver, because you get an email from Google whenever your specified query shows up on the web. These web alerts are useful for a number of reasons:

  • Brand monitoring – Keep track of mentions of your brand and products.
  • Reputation management – Respond in a timely fashion to negative mentions and reviews.
  • Link building – Push social traffic to positive reviews of your brand, or ask webmasters to turn citations into links.
  • Journalism/Blogging – Follow media coverage of a topic so you can report on it over time.
  • Job search - Track job titles that get posted on the internet which match your interest.
  • Staying informed - Are you an expert in a rapidly changing field? You'll want to create a Google Alert to stay on top of the newest trends in the industry.

There’s also good old-fashioned curiosity and ego-stroking. Maybe you just like to know when people are talking about you, and you don’t want to have to comb the results on a regular basis. No shame in that! (Well, maybe a little shame.)

How to Set Up a Google Alert

It takes a minute or less to set up a Google Alert:

  1. Go to http://www.google.com/alerts
  2. Type in the search query you want to monitor.
  3. Choose what type of results you want to follow (everything, news, blogs, video, discussions, or books).
  4. Choose how often you want to receive updates (as-it-happens, once a day, or once a week).
  5. Choose if you want “Only the best results” or “All results.”
  6. Choose the email address you want your alerts sent to, or create a feed.
  7. Click “Create Alert.”

You’ll see a preview of your results to the right of the form:

Google Alerts

The Only Problem? Google Alerts Don’t Always Work

I set up a Google Alert on my name years ago. It worked well for several years – didn’t always catch everything, but it caught most mentions. In the past year or so it stopped working. I do occasionally get a Google Alert, but it’s rare and it misses the vast majority of appearances of my name that show up in Google’s index. For example I never get an alert when I publish a blog post. You might think that Google had figured out I was the author of those posts and was weeding them out proactively. But I do sometimes get alerts for syndicated versions of the same posts, which still list me as the author, so that doesn’t really explain it.

It also doesn't explain all missing stuff I didn't author. Again, it's not that my name isn't getting cited anywhere; a simple Google search verifies that it is. If you want to check if you own Google Alert is catching everything, do a search on your chosen query and change the time frame to "Past week" or "Past month." Have you gotten Alerts for all those new results?

I have two theories:

  1. Low query volume: If your name is Jack Smith, your Google Alert is going to return results more often, but not all the results will actually be referencing you. My name, on the other hand, is entirely unique as far as I know – I’ve never seen a reference to another Elisa Gabbert. Maybe they changed the algorithm so alerts don’t work very well under a certain threshold of search volume?
  2. The "only the best results" filter is too restrictive: I don't believe this was an option when I originally set up the alert, but now "only the best results" (versus "all results") is the default option. I just changed my Google Alert from best to all and it already seems to be returning more stuff. If you want to catch more mentions, make sure you choose "all results."

Has anyone else experienced similar problems with their Google Alerts? Did you create a Google Alert in the past that doesn’t work as well as it used to? Share your story in the comments.

And feel free to petition to Google to fix Google Alerts!

Fix Google Alerts!

Google Alerts RSS Feed




If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment.

Comments

Tuesday April 10, 2012

Brad Shorr (not verified) Said:

I've been looking for a post like this for years. Google Alerts have never worked for me, and I always thought I was doing something wrong. 

Tuesday April 10, 2012

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Did you change the setting to "All results"? The "only the best" setting seems really borked. I hope that helps you!

Tuesday April 10, 2012

Victor (not verified) Said:

Here's another helpful tip (especially link-builders):

You'll want "all results," but you certainly don't want too may e-mails. To qualify these links, exclude sites you know you don't want, and make sure those keywords already show up on important parts of their site. In other words, add Google search operators to your alerts (My favorite ones are "-site:www.youtube.com, inurl:keywordIamInterestedIn, and intitle:keywordIamInterestedIn")

Customize and improve your own alerts over time instead of having Google decide for you.

Tuesday April 10, 2012

Manchester photographer (not verified) Said:

I've always found google alerts to be a very useful tool, not perfect but very good.  Does anybody know of a better free or paid for alternative?

Wednesday April 11, 2012

Fabrice (not verified) Said:

Hello,

I have the exact same problem even with "All Results"...

If I do a google search for the last 24h or last week, i have much more results that my Google Alert... I don't really understand because it used to work ok before.

If some Google guru see that message, please comment a solution :)

 

 

 

Wednesday April 11, 2012

Victor Pan Said:

Fabrice,

Do you have the alerts come in "As it Happens?" (For how often)

Warning: You'll want to filter VERY well if you use as it happens.

Wednesday April 11, 2012

Ben (not verified) Said:

Haven't tried it. Another foreign tool to me from Google. Glad for the information. I'll be setting it up shortly. 

Sunday April 15, 2012

Mike (not verified) Said:

My alerts don't work either. I have about 6 or 8 and only one has worked in the past 3-4 months since I set them ALL up

Glad to see I'm not the only one. Google - fix your sh1t or don't advertise a service that doesn't work.

Monday April 16, 2012

Nick Stamoulis (not verified) Said:

Google alerts isn't perfect which is why you can't rely on it.  To monitor your brand or keep up with certain trends it's important to actually conduct a search and browse all of your online profiles on a regular basis.  Alerts will catch some things, but not everything unfortunately. 

Thursday April 19, 2012

Anonymous (not verified) Said:

Mine died about a year ago too, I have to remember to go in and do a manual search for key words in Google and then filter by a timeframe, Disappointing coming from the search power house.

Friday April 20, 2012

Jonas (not verified) Said:

Same for me Google Alerts stopped working with alerts on my name and my phone number.

"I've been looking for a post like this for years" : me too.
I found you post after typing the following keywords : "Google Alerts not working on long tail"...

Friday April 20, 2012

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Glad to hear I'm not the only one having problems with Google Alerts! Changing the setting from "only the best" to "everything" definitely helped, but they stlil miss all kinds of stuff.

Tuesday April 24, 2012

Tony (not verified) Said:

I refreshed some Google Alerts that i was taking as Feeds, that had stopped working months ago.

They seemed to work OK again for a few days and now have dried up once more.

If I knew how to alert Google to the problem I would, but they are inaccessible downunder.

Can someone knock on their door in the US?

 

Wednesday May 02, 2012

Parajunkee (not verified) Said:

My blog name and name I publish under is very unique and am usually cited in regards to Parajunkee, as opposed to my real name Rachel.  I fostered this mainly because there are a lot of Rachels in the blogging world. I've been suspecting my Google Alerts havne't been working for awhile, but it became very very apparent last week. I wrote a very popular post that was quoted and linked back to on numerous different blogs. My pingbacks were working through Wordpress, nearly 20 or so pingbacks - but not one Google Alert. But I got a Google Alert today (even though I have it set for EVERYTHING & as it happens) from a post that I wrote about three weeks ago.

 

I don't get the "dried up" thing? Is it that we have to keep poking it for them to work?

Tuesday May 08, 2012

Ben Racicot (not verified) Said:

Google alerts only gives me two options for the email dropdown... Can't figure it out. Everywhere else and here explains that I can add the email I want my alerts sent to. Why not me?! haha

Wednesday May 09, 2012

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Are you logged into your Google account when you sign up? Maybe log out and then try?

Sunday March 17, 2013

Clodagh (not verified) Said:

Ben, have just seen your comment. Me too, I can't get the wretched drop down menu to reflect the email

address I need the alerts sent too, though judging by the comments it doesn't seem worth it. Are there

any other non-Google ways of gettting alerts?

Thursday September 27, 2012

Tracy (not verified) Said:

Thanks for the information!  It eases my mind to know that I am not the lone ranger here. My alerts set for key terms are no longer catching references to our blogs, youtube videos and other online activity. 

Monday October 29, 2012

katalog stron (not verified) Said:

Google alerts only gives me two options for the email dropdown... Can't figure it out. Everywhere else and here explains that I can add the email I want my alerts sent to. Why not me?! haha

Friday November 16, 2012

Kevin (not verified) Said:

 

Here's the problem I have. When I set up an alert for a phrase, I also get alerts for the individual words within that phrase, as well as other unrelated combinations.

For example, I set up an alert for a book I edited called “Gods of Justice." Ever since I’ve gotten multiple alerts for posts containing "gods" or "justice," or phrases posted on religious sites like “god’s justice” and “the justice of god.”

It’s irritating. They need an option that requests “exact phrase” only. 

Saturday December 15, 2012

Daniel Lago (not verified) Said:

Google Alerts just doesn't work. I've notified them. Nothing happens. Moving to bing alerts...

Monday December 17, 2012

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Let us know if Bing Alerts are better!

Friday February 15, 2013

Pierre (not verified) Said:

Bing alerts....humm might be a good alternative. Has it worked well for you Daniel?

Tuesday December 18, 2012

Anonymous (not verified) Said:

I also used google news alert with good success for over a year, and have about 50 alerts set up. In the last three days I've received one alert... very strange. I reset it but so far today, I've received 'zero' alerts. Has google ever commented on this becasue it is not a user problem, its a google problem?

 

 

Thursday December 20, 2012

Tomcat1765 (not verified) Said:

I agree with anonymous above...in the past 2-4 weeks, the 8-10 separate Google Alerts I have created for a variety of keywords, including a couple of my business names, have decreased to almost zero.

One alert I had looked for "news results' for the terms "rabies" and "rabid".  Despite some breaking news on rabid cats, etc, I have not seen one Google Alert come into my email inbox

 

AAnyone have any ideas??

Friday December 28, 2012

Thom (not verified) Said:

How you enter the search data seems to make a difference—though I don't know if will for the long-term.

If I enter two or three words in sequence (with no quotes), I get nothing. Enter the words with a "+" between and suddenly there are results.

Friday February 15, 2013

Pierre (not verified) Said:

Elisa, which solution did you came up with to solve  the problem? Is google alerts working for you? Bing doesn't

seem to offer something similar to google alerts. Google came with a few interesting websites using the query terms

"website alert" (without the quotes). At www.gigaalert.com, i could read in their pdf brochure "formerly known as

Google Alert". Has Google transferred this service to a separate company? i am bit surprised because Google Alerts

is still showing as part of Google...I am not sure i am willing to pay to receive alerts.

 

Thursday February 28, 2013

Robert (not verified) Said:

for me google alerts is not working either... I need this tool very bad, I tried all the settings but it doesnt show any results.

it worked few years ago but not now.

Thursday February 28, 2013

Martin (not verified) Said:

I got the following automated response from google:

If all your subscriptions are verified and active, please note that it
might be few reasons why you didn't receive your alert:

1. There are no new results for your search. Google Alerts only sends you
email if new articles, webpages or blog posts make it into the top ten
Google News results, the top twenty Google Web Search results or top ten
Google Blog Search results for your query. If the top results remain the
same for a while, you won't receive email on your topic.

2. Alerts were caught by spam or bulk mail filter in your email system.
You may want to check your account's filter for an email from
googlealerts-noreply@google.com. If you're using Gmail, for example,
please make sure you've added googlealerts-noreply@google.com email
address to your Contacts list. Gmail always delivers messages from your
contacts.

3. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) prevents Google Alerts from coming
through. Unfortunately, we do not have access to the necessary information
to help you with this issue. Please contact your ISP for further
assistance.

Thursday February 28, 2013

Elisa Gabbert Said:

None of these explain why they'd suddenly stop working, of course. Sigh.

Sunday March 17, 2013

Greg (not verified) Said:

#2 was the solution for my issue.....   advise is only good if we take it and test it!

-Greg

 

 

Wednesday April 03, 2013

Jan (not verified) Said:

#1 was my reason. It depends on the position in the results, how f***ed up is that??

I think there could be a better solution from google, in order that google alert users receive their news

which they are searching for.

Wednesday April 03, 2013

Elisa Gabbert Said:

Yeah, not very helpful at all.

Wednesday March 06, 2013

Anonymous (not verified) Said:

I have to say that quoted response from Google is lame to the max, not to mention extremely condescending. "It may be because there are no new results for your search?" Get out of here.

And yes, I've found the exact same thing as you describe, Elisa. I would get alerts for a while then they just stopped. Now I google manually using a filter to get only recent updates. It seems like the only way to go.

 

 

 

Tuesday March 12, 2013

JSK (not verified) Said:

I believe this is our answer - you have to pay for it now! but why do they keep it up as a google service??

Giga Alert is dedicated to keeping you informed of your vital interests online.
Giga Alert, formerly known as Google Alert, is provided by Indigo Stream Technologies.

 

Sunday March 17, 2013

Clodagh (not verified) Said:

I have two google accounts - both are gmail accounts but while one is gmail.com

the other is visible as a blue yonder.co.uk account (though in fact gmail). I am trying to set up

Google alerts and have changed the default for alerts to the blue yonder account. However,

the drop down boxes will only read the one with the gmail.com ending and RSS feed but

I cannot find out how to get the alerts sent to my blue yonder address - this is the one I 

use regularly so need the alerts to be sent there. Any help would be very much apreciated.

Thursday March 21, 2013

Edouard - mention (not verified) Said:

Thanks for the great article. That's exactly the reason we've builthttps://mention.net, a powerful free alternative to Google Alerts.

http://blog.mention.net/google-alerts-dont-work-anymore/

Wednesday April 03, 2013

Hillard Fried, Esq. (not verified) Said:

 

Dear Google:

 

I am a google fanatic. So much so that I have been known to occasionally and blurt out - GOOGLE IS GOD! Why? Simply because google  produces results on every level. I've reaped bug results, thanks to google’s products.

 

One google service that I use everyday is google alerts. I've created 81 of them. They comb the news articles for me.

 

My alerts are geared to yield articles from Michigan news sources. The system has been running like a Swiss watch for years.

 

A couple days ago, however, the system chugged, coughed and finally expired and collapsed - like a 1953 Nash Rambler. The bottle neck? The system won't implement my "location" command (i.e., location:mi). Thus, 90% of the articles that google now pulls down for me are useless garbage (because the alerts pull down articles from irrelevant locations).

 

I did find a work-around, though: I can click any google alert link to land on another google search page (such as the one that you might see accompanying this feedback message), which provides me with a template or format for inserting my google alerts parameters (key words, excluded words, time frame, location).

 

Yes, I can get the job done that way, but it's like driving my 4 cylinder Huandai Elantra on just 2 cylinders. It still chugs along, but at a snail's pace.

 

Considering that each google alert yields an average of 10 articles - and further considering that I have to read each article, bringing in the articles the "horse and buggy" way quadruples the amount of time it takes to get through all 81 google alerts (about 800 articles).

 

Does google intend to correct the problem?

 

Your customer

 

Hillard Fried, Esq. amerilaw@gmail.com

Wednesday May 08, 2013

Quan Nguyen (not verified) Said:

Hi  google

I have been using goolge alerts and find it very useful. But recently, for my personal reason, I created a google account and started setting up the same alerts as I did with the old account. 

However, I never received any notification to the new account meanwhile there were hundreds to my old account. 

So, what's wrong with that? This bothers alot, Mr. Google!

Regards

Quan Nguyen

Thursday July 11, 2013

Lelala (not verified) Said:

Is this strange behaviour somewhat related to the current problems, that even just the startpage doesn't load when trying to reach google alerts  in the browser?

Sunday September 01, 2013

Paul Christian (not verified) Said:

Google alerits is very much broken I think... it used to be good, but now the only notifications I get are ones totally unrelated to my queries... I hope they fix this...

Tuesday September 03, 2013

Mark Bailey (not verified) Said:

Absolutely having the same problem.  Misery loves company, thanks for the post.

Tuesday September 10, 2013

henq (not verified) Said:

Hi, after 3 years hit on this page.

I am still puzzling myzelf, I have about 30 alerts and the last mail that i recieved is 9 months old... 

I still don't know why it is not working BUT a lot of my searches have the + sign.  And I, dumb looser, only just today learned the plus is gone since 2 years... Oh well.

  http://waxy.org/2011/10/google_kills_its_other_plus/

So at least remove any plusses you have, if they were intended for the old use: 'this word must be in the result'.

~henq

Tuesday October 01, 2013

Pisanie prac (not verified) Said:

I agree with you

Friday January 10, 2014

Hillard Fried, Esq. (not verified) Said:

Google Alerts No Longer Implement Location Parameters (i.e., location:mi)

 

EXAMPLE Google Alert: “serious injuries” -assault -shot - shooting -stabbed -stabbing -tornado location:michigan

 

Dear Google:

 

Google Alerts No Longer Implement “Location Parameters” (i.e., location:mi): FOR EXAMPLE this google alert “serious injuries -assault -shot - shooting -stabbed -stabbing -tornado location:michigan” used to bring in news articles from MICHIGAN NEWS SOURCES

 

When you look at the google page that the alert brings in - you will see that the "location" parameter no longer works, in that the page has news articles from all across the country.

 

I am a google fanatic. So much so that I have been known to occasionally and blurt out - GOOGLE IS GOD! Why? Simply because google  produces results on every level. I've pulled in millions, thanks to google’s products.

 

One google service that I use everyday is google alerts. I have 81 of them. They comb the Michigan news articles for me.

 

My alerts are geared to yield articles from Michigan news sources. The system has been running like a Swiss watch for years.

 

Several months ago, however, the system chugged, coughed and finally collapsed - like a 1953 Nash Rambler. The bottle neck? The system won't implement my "location" command (i.e., location:mi). Thus, 90% of the articles that google now pulls down for me are useless garbage - in they are from random states other than Michigan (I only have use for news articles from Michigan).

 

I did find a work-around, though: I can highlight the google alert (which I created), copy it and click the google alert, at which point, I am sent to another page and provided with a search box containing various fields. I then paste my  copy of the google alert (which I copied), into the google search box, at which point a drop down arrow is provided. The google search box containing the drop down arrow  gives me a google alert creation template, complete with a LOCATION field, into which I insert “MI” or Michigan. Once the MI data is inserted, the form will search for news items from Michigan news sources.

 

Yes, I can get the job done that way, but it's like driving my 4 cylinder junk-box on just 2 cylinders. It still chugs along, but at a snail's pace.

 

Considering that each google alert yields an average of 10 articles - and further considering that I have to read each article, bringing in the articles the "horse and buggy" way quadruples the amount of time it takes to get through all 81 google alerts (about 800 articles).

 

Does google intend to correct the problem?

 

Your customer

 

Hillard Fried, Esq. amerilaw@gmail.com

Monday August 25, 2014

Anonymous (not verified) Said:

Here is a quick question.

I've created an alert inclusive of filetype:pdf as I would like to received the alerts uploaded in the PDF, XLS OR DOC file but I've not yet received a single alert wherein while seraching, I can see thet content is being posted each day on such file type.

Example as mentioned below:

Automobile, India filetype:doc

Same link can be posted on google search & the results will come but I'm unable to receive alerts.

Please advice.

 

Vicky

Saturday December 06, 2014

Susan Weiner (not verified) Said:

It's interesting that no one has come up with a good explanation of why Google Alerts are so ineffective these days. It's very frustrating. Thanks for shedding some light on the issue!

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