Link Building with Google Alerts: A Guide

by on November 22, 2010 | posted in Miscellaneous Strategies

Google Alerts is an amazing tool for building links, and one I feel that is relatively unharvested in the SEO world. Yes, there are certain slivers of the tool that most people use, but, used comprehensively, there is massive opportunity to find links – links that are indexed by Google (alerts picked them up!) – and fresh enough that you know the webmaster has recently monitored it, and therefore, more likely to respond – or at very least entertain – whatever link request you might make.

I might even go as far as to say that using Google Alerts for a social e-commerce company is basically printing links. Remember, though — before printing those links, think of the environment.

Setting up a Google Alert Strategy

If you use all of these queries, you will frequently end up getting a lot of mess in your inbox. Alerts give you the option to choose as-it-happens, daily, or weekly updates on these queries. I suggest you do this weekly, and also create a specific alert inbox so that you can make searching these queries a once a week activity. If you let these interrupt you constantly, you can turn something that can be a huge boost to your link building campaign into something that will suck ROI away as you let constant interruptions monopolize your time and attention.

So, to the queries. These are divided by type – from the queries that will most often generate forums and question and answer sites, to brand mentions, to the massive list of keyword specific queries for your site.

Q&A Queries

  • “what is the best [product]”
  • “I need a [product]”
  • “I need an [product]”
  • “what [product] do I need”
  • “what is a good [product]”
  • “what is a cheap [product]”
  • “what is the cheapest [product]”
  • “what’s the best [product]”
  • “where should I buy a/an [product]”
  • “where can I get a good [product]”
  • “where should I buy a [product]”
  • “what are some cool [product]”
  • “what is the top [product]”
  • Query sets for products that solve problems –
    • For wetting eyedrops, “My eyes are always dry”, “I always have redeyes”, “How do I prevent redeyes”, “How do I prevent dryeyes”
    • For protein powder, “How do I get bigger”, “How can I gain muscle”, “I need to get bigger”, “How do you gain muscle”

Yahoo! Answers created lots of copycat sites that wanted to jump on the user-generated content bandwagon – and for good reason. Because of that, thousands of questions are being asked – and answered, each day. I’d definitely say that manually going to the top Q&A sites is a bad, or fairly marginal, idea – because it’s time intensive, your topics are frequently outdated/already answered, and it’s possible they’re so far deep on the site that they’ve fallen out of the index.

But with Google Alerts, none of these things apply. Freshness. The ability to answer relevant questions, first. Sometimes, these queries will generate blog post results – the best situation. Sometimes, you’ll register and post and find you can’t even get a live URL – but some small sliver of the time, these people will actually buy your products. And some other sliver, you will help brand your business. And the good sliver, you’ll do all of this, and also get a decent, relevant backlink back to your page.

Product Giveaway Queries

  • “Product Giveaway”
  • “Product Reviews”
  • “If you have a product that you would like”
  • “Submit a product for review”
  • “Submit a product”
  • “category: product review”
  • allinurl:product review

You can find lots of good sites that accept giveaways through normal query searches. But you can find more, new opportunities by setting up these queries. For less diluted segmentation, insert keywords relevant to your niche.

By all means, go alert crazy.

Brand Mention Queries

  • “Brand name”
  • Brand name misspellings
  • URL misspellings
  • Domain name
  • Domain name misspellings

Hugo Guzman put out a great post on how monitoring your brand can garner links. You need a decent sized brand in this case, but the great (and sometimes annoying) thing about Google Alerts is that you only get alerts when they occur – so even if you’re the smallest brand on the planet, at some point someone will mention you, and some kind of new opportunity will appear.  For example, brands like Staples, SeaWorld Parks and AT&T are all the kinds of brands that could utilize this to effectiveness (maybe they’ll notice this exact post!). Once you get those alerts, you’ll run into occasions where people will mention you but not supply a link. By following up and thanking them for their mention of your brand, there’s a pretty good chance you can get them to add some hypertext. If you don’t add those alerts, well – you’ll be waiting on the second page.

Competitor Queries

  • “Competitor name”
  • Competitor name misspellings
  • URL misspellings
  • “Domain name”
  • Domain name misspellings

Similar to brand queries, but generally of a much lower ROI than your own brand and website name mentions. However, these sites are still relevant, and if your opposition got a link, and you’ve got a better product offering, there’s little reason you shouldn’t be able to squirm out a link too.

Keyword Link Acquisition Queries

Link acquisition queries are those same queries you would use to find miscellaneous sites that your content and keywords match up with. These queries are great individually, but once you’ve exhausted them, it makes sense to have these alerts set up so you don’t waste time later revisiting them and frequently running over duplicates, while still maintaining the potential value they can offer you.

Rand has a great post with a long list of search queries to get you started, and, when you want an absolutely comprehensive alerts list based on what your website offers, use Ontolo’s link building query generator.

Alert Us with More Queries

This isn’t, by any means, a comprehensive list. There are certainly derivatives of many of the above searches that you can probably think of. The point of this post, though, is to make you cognizant of the power Google Alerts has a link building tool – not just as a way to monitor your brand. If you have any more suggestions that would make great Google Alert queries for our sites, I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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  • Nabil

    Simple question. Would you like to marry me?

    • Ross Hudgens

      This feels like a spam comment, but either way, I’ll politely decline. :)

      • Ric Dragon

        Nah, only spam if they want to have your child, as well. Let’s face it, we don’t call it “link building” for nothing.

  • http://www.mytecharmor Josue

    Ross, Powerful useful information to chew on. I will explore these tools further as a result of the information you’ve provided. I will look at your other postings as well.

    Thanks a bunch,
    Josue J. Cevallos

    • Ross Hudgens

      Thanks for the comment Josue, glad you enjoyed it.

  • Namit Gupta

    Nice article. Is Google Alerts case sensitive?

    • Ross Hudgens

      No, it’s not. But if you don’t put in quotes it’ll return tons of junk for non-exact match queries.

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  • Barobtin

    Nice post Ross,
    I tried Google Alert once, but it was primarly to monitor competitors activity and evaluate their link strategy. Also, I fastly grew tired of many junks alerts and found it hard to find nice links, even if it was only once a week because the ROI was quite poor.
    But your queries list made me think that I should try again !

    • Ross Hudgens

      You can definitely see the junk alerts.. that’s why I recommended doing it once a week. You might not even find one decent one once a week, but if it only takes five seconds to look at titles+URLs to get a pretty good idea if it’s a relevant link target. If you allow this to be a weekly task – not an interruption – it can be of immense value.

      Good luck!

  • Benjamin Bellville

    Ross, first off well done. though I only started trying to make money online a little over 3 months ago through article writing and blogging I had the same idea dawn on me almost 2 months ago. I did a hub all about it on Hubpages,but deleted it as I wanted to cut down the majority of Hubs besides those in my main targeted trucking industry niche. I didn’t get this in depth on the subject,but was able to realize that if the links were popping up on Google they had to be from sources that Google liked and noticed on a regular basis.

    I get constant daily Google Alert updates sent to my email on 8 different keywords that I also use as ideas for my own blog posts and articles as the majority of news is vague at best and very rarely get’s into the matters of how it will affect small trucking companies. So in that respect Google Alerts also does my research for me.

    • Ross Hudgens

      Google Alerts can definitely be used for more than link building. Good idea – content ideas, too. It’s an amazing tool – that can be used in a diverse amount of ways.

  • Ishan

    Ross, this is a good strategy. I never thought in my dreams that this can be used to build links. As you said, using it correctly is like painting links and I am going to start this soon!

    • Ross Hudgens

      Not painting, printing. Save the trees though. :)

  • christian Hill

    HI Ross,

    Some good search parameters there

    We do this already using a relationship dashboard (IGoogle) so everyting is nicely accessible in one place, we have redeveloped aimclearblogs reputation management dashboard to incldue the new changes in the Google admin. If you want a copy go to our website and grab it from the tools section. Cheers

    • Ross Hudgens

      Awesome, thanks Christian! I’ll check it out.

  • Chris Donner

    Very good idea! I’ll give it a try!

    • Ross Hudgens

      Thanks for the comment Chris, hopefully it’s working for you. :)

  • Eric | Starcraft 2 Strategies

    This seems like a great idea, but it will take time to perfect the alert terms you use. Otherwise, you’ll end up searching through tons of useless alerts before getting any meaningful ones. I’m going to try it with specific terms and then expand them. Thanks for the idea! I hate missing blog posts that I could’ve answered because I was too late!

    • Ross Hudgens

      I agree. It’s definitely been the best for Yahoo! Answers type questions so far.

  • Laura

    I just want to let you know what you already obviously know! Good and useful post! Thanks, Laura

    • Ross Hudgens

      Thanks Laura, appreciated.

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  • Himanshu Sharma

    That’s a good post Ross. I have put your post in my link building sheet. I published a long list of search queries few months ago. Linking out to that post and that too in my first comment won’t be appropriate. But if you are still interested you can Google it ‘10000 search engine queries’. Hope to see more from you on link building. See you :)

  • Jackson Lo

    Great article on link building Ross! I’ve used Google Alerts before mainly to keep myself up to date with fresh content and also to learn more about a particular industry/topic. Never have I used it to formulate a linking strategy, but this is definitely a start after reading your post.

    I’ve noticed too that a lot of junk comes in if you don’t quote your queries, I gotta fix that.

    Are you leaving comments (keyword with link or your name with link?) + requesting links via email (example) to build those links back to your site? Is that the approach you take?

    Look forward to reading more of your awesome content!

    • Ross Hudgens

      Jackson, every site/query is different. Sometimes it’s a sponsorship opportunity so you pay – other times you give a direct request.. other times you say you enjoyed their new resource/write up a custom e-mail and shoot it out. Other times I’ll just leave a URL – it all depends.

      Thanks for the comment! Let me know if I can ever be of help.

  • Еduard @web

    Very good explanation and details. I use Google Alerts to spy competitors and to monitor my brand too. Regards from Bulgaria :)

  • Byron

    I am glad I found your blog. I have been using G-alerts, but I did not think about using them to find link building opportunities. I learn something new everyday.


    • Ross Hudgens

      Thanks Byron, I’m glad it could be of use!

  • Person

    Ross what a fantastic idea.

    I guess by answering people’s questions you can carve yourself out as an expert 2 in addition to getting a backlink

  • Siddharth Lal

    Ross, Great article. I have been using Google Alerts to discover fresh content and get links for a while but I haven’t used it as extensively as you have pointed out. Well done!


    • Ross Hudgens

      Thanks Siddharth, glad it could be of use!

  • Alexander

    Nice post, haven’t got to much experience with google alerts but i will definitely try it.
    Thanks again for the tip and keep up the good work

    • Ross Hudgens

      Thanks Alexander, good luck with it!

  • Hugo

    Great post here, Ross, and thanks for the mention!

    There’s nothing sweeter than real-time, actionable link building analytics.

  • Peter- Seo Germany

    Nice post, i use this to track Brands and niche Kws. To keep it clear i use an extra Mail account and filter all alerts in different folders.

  • Kimberly McDaniel

    I want to get into Google Search for sex crimes.

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  • Adam @ affiliate marketing

    I am using google alerts for years now and partly for this reason. It’s great to get targeted blogs about anything you are interested in.

  • Thomas | SEO Durban

    Interesting link building technique, thanks for a very useful article!

  • Hammock

    Hey Ross, thanks for reminding me of this great tool. I had previously set it up to track links to my site, but had totally forgotten about it. I’ve made a few adjustments to my current settings thanks and will incorporate your suggestions and other ideas about how to use it also. Thanks heaps!

  • Dan Toombs

    Ross, what a great guide. Been using Google Alerts for a long time, but not tailored like you suggest. I’m now re-jigging them all. Thanks heaps!

  • Onfire

    How come we never thought of that?! Tnx for sharing these great tips and your workflow for Google Alerts as a link building tool. Cheers!

  • Mike Munter

    Excellent post Ross and I am just finding it 2 years later :) I’ve been using some of your strategies, but you really helped me expand my awareness – especially with regard to the queries. Thanks! Mike

  • Joeal Manimtim

    I thought I was already using it properly. I was wrong. Thanks Ross!

  • igl00

    just writign post on those alerts and checking posts in the topic. good one.

  • Ilan Perez

    What a great article! had no idea what power google alerts could give

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