Google Alerts is another tool from Google that can send you e-mails for any particular search query. Its usefulness is all going to depend on how well of a search query you can craft, but out of the box it has ton of potential. This might be very useful to the webmaster running their own site or the consumer looking to keep up to date on an awesome upcoming product (like the Palm Pre release date). The part I’m particularly going to cover is the usefulness of Google Alerts for a webmaster in spam defense, but this can be expanded to everyday usefulness for everyday people.
Nothing can ruin your online reputation faster than your website being part of the spam machine. Ok, if you sound like a prepubescent boy in online games and act like one, I guess that will probably be more detrimental… but back on topic.
Google Alerts is basically just a static search query that you want repeated regularly. Google will perform the search on your behalf and then send you the results. You can set up the Alerts to be sent to you once per-day or per-week in a digest format as an e-mail or an RSS feed. You can also configure it to send you these results as it crawls the web, for faster reactions.
Since I’m running my own website, I don’t want it to be hosting any links or comments from spam bots. If the site is large or there are multiple authors, it’s even harder to keep track of everything that gets posted to the web server. In this case, I just want to do a search of my site and see if there are any of the typical spam keywords that would most likely be on the site if it were ever compromised.
Here’s a good starting point, but you can always tailor the query if you end up getting too many false positives:
site:404techsupport.com -pdf -ppt -doc phentermine OR viagra OR cialis OR vioxx OR oxycontin OR levitra OR ambien OR xanax OR paxil OR “slot-machine” OR “texas-holdem”
After you create your alert, you’ll need to verify it with an e-mail they’ll send you immediately following the alert creation. You can also log in and edit any alerts that you’ve created if they’re no longer relevant or you need to tweak the query.
All in all, this should help keep your site more secure and out of the hands of the spam machine and bot nets while maintaining your reputation.
As I mentioned in the intro, you can extrapolate this to perform any search query, although tailoring the query just right might be more difficult. For example, you could create a query for all Palm Pre release dates and get a weekly digest reporting around the web.
Check out Google Alerts to start monitoring.