Ah, Google.  The 800 pound gorilla in the search engine race, that shows no signs of wanting to lose any weight.

According to Google’s corporate philosophy published on their site, their number one driving principle or guideline is to focus on the user (that’s you and me) and all else will follow.

That’s important, because oftentimes as business owners and marketers, we think the gorilla serves us.  Sadly, that’s simply not the case.  They serve the person searching for information and it is their overriding goal to deliver the most contextually relevant search results on the first page.

They don’t really care if YOU show up on the first page.  Unless your page is exactly what their user is looking for.

While it’s true that advertiser’s pay Google lots of money every year to have the privilege of being “found” in the form of advertisements, there are other ways to leverage Google to find your customers and communicate with them directly… but to do it, you’ll need to become one of the people that Google has committed to serving above and beyond all else.

You need to think like a searchER instead of a searchEE.

Google Alerts, The Secret Tool For Finding Your Customers

Are you family with Google Alerts?  It’s an automated search function that you can “set and forget”… that is, until an email arrives telling you about any new pages with your specific search time have shown up on the internet.

Here’s the basic usage of Google Alerts:

  1. Visit http://www.google.com/alerts
  2. Type your specific search term in the field provided
  3. Set the filters and email address to deliver the results to
  4. Create the alert

I have an alert for my name.  Any time my name is used online, I get an email notifying me about it.  In fact, this post will generate an alert once Google crawls my site again.  This helps me because it helps to manage my reputation online – I know what people are saying about me and I can respond accordingly.

I have another alert set up for “Make My Marketing Work“.  That’s the name of my book and I’m interested in knowing when people refer to it in their blogs or other online conversations.  Again, I can enter the conversation if/when appropriate.  (Using that phrase will generate another alert to my inbox when this article is crawled.)

I also have alerts set up for certain keywords like “first marketing plan” so that when someone blogs about needing help writing their first marketing plan, I get a notification and can swoop in with some free advice and a link to my book page for more detailed help if they want it.

You’d be surprised at how much traffic you can generate to your website over time by being one of the “first responders” to blog posts or articles that contain one or more of your keywords.

How to Use Google Alerts to Find Prospective Customers On Twitter

Ok, so using Google Alerts to stalk yourself (or your competitors, by the way) may not seem overly valuable, particularly if no one is talking about you yet.  And getting email alerts and having to respond whenever someone uses your keyword could become a full-time job if you’re not careful.

But there are more interesting ways to use Google Alerts, particularly if you want to find targeted followers on sites like Twitter.

Let’s say your business serves people in the Vancouver, Canada area and you only want people on your Twitter list from around Vancouver.  You can set up an alert for that.

Or if you provide services to the small business owner or entrepreneur market.  You can set up an alert for that.

Or let’s say you want to know whenever someone uses the phrase “can’t lose weight” so that you can swoop in and offer some weight loss advice in 140 characters or less.  You can set up an alert for that, too.

And it’s not as hard as you might think.  The process is the same as above, but the trick is in “how” you search for information.  Using some of Google’s advanced search features, you can be finding people on Twitter all day long, without ever lifting a finger.

Here’s the search syntax you would use:

If you want to search Twitter by someone’s occupation you would search for:

allintitle:”*entrepreneur*” site:twitter.com

Of course you’d replace “entrepreneur” with the specific occupation you’re looking for.  The asterisk is a wildcard and allows for other words or phrases on either side of the word entrepreneur.

If you want to search Twitter by information they include in their bio you would search for:

intext: “bio* life coach*” site:twitter.com

Again, you’d replace “life coach” with the specific word or phrase you’re searching for.

Finally, you could simply search all of Twitter for a particular phrase using:

“*can’t lose weight*” site:twitter.com

The Skinny

Here’s the thing.  Google doesn’t care about you wanting to be FOUND by people.  They only want to help people FIND what they’re looking for.  Fortunately, if you want to FIND your customers, Google is more than happy to oblige.

You can set up an alert for that.

Paul Keetch

Do you have a powerful Google Alerts tip?  Share it in the comments below!

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