It seems that Google has a tool for everything; search engines, analytics, webmaster tools, maps, document sharing, and video hang-outs just to name a few!  One of my favorite tools is Google Alerts, completely customizable email updates of published news stories or any mention on the world wide web based on your keywords.

Simply log into your google account, if you don’t have one get one NOW, and then go to http://www.google.com/alerts.

This is what the page looks like when you arrive:

google alerts for photographers

As you can see it’s pretty simple.  Simply enter your search query for a topic that you want to stay up to date on, say pet photography.  If you want to avoid every news story that mentions the word “pet” and the word “photography” you will get a decent amount of articles that will be about a random pet, with photography by Joe Smith.  Just like in Google search, you want to be as precise as possible.  Placing quotes around your full phrase will only share articles with that same phrase.

What else should you search for?  I highly recommend creating a Google alert for your business name.  This is a great way to see who is talking about you.  Maybe someone is talking about you on their blog, or perhaps your business was mentioned in an article.  This was recently a nice surprise when I received some press coverage of an event I was hosting that I didn’t expect.  I would have never known had I not had Google alerts set to Nicole Begley Photography.

This is also a great way to stay up to date on a competitor or an industry leader, but not in a creepy I’m going to copy everything you do way.  Please, I beg of you don’t do that.  Copying is just plain wrong, and you can never be a leader in your market if you are always just playing catch up.  This is simply a way to keep up to date on industry trends and local trends.  Before we go any further into a paragraph about competitors, may I please suggest you take five minutes and read the wonderful post from Jamie of Cowbelly Pet Photography about the very topic.  I am happy to say that I am always growing my network of local photographers by just getting together for happy hour and also by attending a local monthly photographer group.  It’s wonderful to connect with “my competition”, they are wonderful people.  I firmly believe that it’s just not healthy to be obsessing over what your competitors are doing.  If you are a person that will blog stalk and constantly compare yourself to other people and start to feel down on yourself.  STOP.  Not only will blog stalking make you feel all yucky, it will be a giant unscalable wall standing in the way of your originality and artistic expression.  It’s one thing to try to recreate an image you love in order to PRACTICE THE TECHNIQUE.  It is another, and not ok, to try to recreate an image that you love to be in your portfolio and call your own.  Please take the time to experiment and find out what styles you love and follow your heart, that is the only way for your business to really by you and attract clients who love your work.  Ok, sorry on that little tangent, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Google alerts are also a great way to monitor any new backlinks pointing to your site.  Incoming links are terrific for SEO (hint, hint: session spotlights and guest posting are terrific for SEO…) Enter your search query as link:www.yourdomain.com for this particular type of alert.  Please note that Google alerts aren’t 100% accurate, but they certainly give you much more information then you had previously.

Do you have any great industry keywords in your Google alerts that you care to share?