Nikil Ramanathan


Email alerts are an incredibly valuable tool for highly active internet users like yourselves. The tool is a great way for you to stay up to date with all the latest happenings in the news. Whether it’s a specific topic you are interested in, or you just want to get the rundown of some of the latest happenings in the world, email alerts are a great tool for you.

In the broadest sense, email alerts are a method to stay informed on a topic of your choice. There are really two key kinds of email alerts as described by Professor Scott Moore. There are topical or organizational email alerts and there are search-based email alerts. Email alerts are best used in conjunction with other news resources.

For many people, reading the news is already a daily habit. Exploring the web for information is already something you have experience with and something you already do on a daily basis. But, like anything in life, sometimes you need some added structure to give you the best user experience. This is where email alerts can help provide you with the information you desire at a timeframe you want and can control. The structure is something many need in order to stay on top of the news. Additionally, there are so many different websites nowadays with so many different articles and so much different information that it’s hard to keep track of everything in an orderly manner. Email alerts give the structure for this, but without losing the flexibility of collecting information from a wealth of sites.

While relatively self-explanatory, email alerts are best accessed through your email. Since they work on various platforms, you can set up email alerts for pretty much any major email site. The most common ones are Gmail and Yahoo, but hotmail and comcast among others have their own alerts capabilities as well. This makes it very easy to setup no matter what pre-existing email address you have.

If for some reason you don’t have an email address yet, you should definitely make one before creating email alerts. Based on user experience with email alerts and the capabilities offered by various emails, a GMail account would be the recommended choice. You can do so by clicking here.

If you already have an email account, the best place to get started with email alerts is through Google. There are two ways to access them, depending on whether you are interested in a topical or organizational email alert or a search-based email alert.

The great thing about email is that it can be accessed on the go. While many check their email on their desktops or laptops at home, the increasing number of tablets and smartphone devices means greater access to email at a quicker pace. Furthermore, this means email alerts can be used for spontaneous and up-to-the-second updates. For those with smartphones, email alerts are an even more critical tool.

As the internet age continues and the age of information gives us more and more accessibility to information at the touch of a button, you have a responsibility to get that information the quickest and fastest way possible. Email alerts are certainly just one way to make this feasible.

Specialized search strategies

Email alerts are a basic search tool, but there are some key strategies to highlight that can help you maximize your use of them. One of the key types of email alerts are those that are broadly called “topical or organizational” email alerts. These types of email alerts can also be set up using a search-based query, but there are also a few specialized ways to do this.

Let’s say you are a big follower of the technology industry. You read sites like Techcrunch, CNet, Mashable among others, but you are still finding it hard to stay on top of all the latest happenings in the technology world, as they are happening minute by minute. You want a way to stay in touch with all this information, but in one place. In comes email alerts. You’ve heard about the concept, but you don’t know how to use it for what you want. You enjoy reading a lot of the articles on these sites, but you feel like some of these sites give you too much information and you want to specialize the types of articles you are reading.

The specialized search strategy is best used here. Let’s say you want to follow specific topics in technology industry such as “tech stocks”, “mobile computing” and “mobile apps.” Instead of doing a basic google search for these topics, you can search these under many of Google’s various tabs. For technology-related topics, it might be common to use “News”, “Discussions” and “Blogs”. “News” is a popular topic of choice for most people naturally, but often people overlook “discussions” and “blogs” which can give you opinions on various technological advancements and hardware that you may be interested in. To search under these categories, you will want to use the “more” pull-down menu on the google search screen.

This is a basic web search showing the various options. If you were to choose one of the aformentioned options as your method for the Google search, you then not only get access to Google’s related searches at that moment in time, but you then have an option of creating an email alert for that specific topic. Google’s search engine realizes that often people searching under news or blogs are often looking for constant information about a topic, and thus provides an option for adding an email alert at the bottom of the screen along with options regarding RSS Feeds. In Professor Scott Moore’s video, “Email Alerts“, this is evident in one of his searches, but for easy accessibility, you can see this option below when you search for “mobile computing” under the blogs pulldown filter.

Clicking on the “create an email alert for mobile computing” will take you to a new screen where you can set up an email alert. You can also make different choices about the timeliness and frequency of these alerts.

This is a specific specialized feature associated with Google email alerts. You will notice if you use Bing, that it also allows a place for you to sign up for an email alert when searching under News or Blogs. However, Yahoo’s search engine does not have this capability. This is something to keep in mind if you do choose to sign up for email alerts.

The other search strategy you can employ when using email alerts is something that a lot of other chapters focus on and a lot of other articles as well and that is search engine queries. Certainly if you are doing a topical or organizational email alert, you will be searching for a specific organization or topic. But for various topics, choosing your words carefully can make a huge difference between the type of results you get in terms of your email alerts, especially if you elect to only get alerts on the best searches.

While someone may be interested in “mobile computing”, another person may search for “mobile devices”, “tablet market” or “smartphone industry” and get more limited results. Choosing your words is always important, but even for topic email alerts, the difference between one or two words can make a huge difference, even for people looking for similar articles. Not only are the initial news results typically different for “mobile computing” and “mobile devices“, but thus the email results you receive in your inbox will be different as well. As Professor Scott Moore recommends, you should try out various search queries and various topics and set up email alerts for all of them. After exploring and experimenting, you’ll be able to figure out which ones make sense and which ones you aren’t reading or aren’t finding the information you want. You can always remove and delete these alerts afterwards.


How to use

Email alerts can be used on various platforms in two central ways. There are various sites that allow for email alerts. The main one that has gained a brand name across the web is none other than Google. As illustrated earlier in this chapter, Google has a knack for coming up with the best interface and best search queries available on the web, and with email alerts, this holds true as well. Other places that can be used for email alerts are Yahoo!, Bing, Hotmail, but none seem to have the ethos and credibility attached to them that Google has.

As mentioned earlier, there are two main types of email alerts – topical or organizational email alerts, and search-based email alerts. Topical and organizational email alerts are very easy to use. They are best used as a way to stay up-to-date on a specific topic or organization. You can follow an organization on the web and get all the latest resources and information about the company or organization in real time.  This way anytime an organization posts new information, you can find out instantly with a notification in your inbox. If following an organization isn’t your thing, you can follow a specific topic that interests you. It’s a great idea to try out various different topics and see what you enjoy the most. Then you can simply cancel certain email alerts and continue the ones you are getting benefit from.

If you are looking to use an email alert, setting this up is very easy. First, you want to go here and type in the search query you are looking for. This could be anything, but you want to try and be broad enough that you are getting strong results, but narrow enough that you don’t get extraneous results. This definitely takes some guessing and checking and some experimenting, but over time you should be able to get a query that works well for you.

Next, there is a pulldown menu for result type. You can sort just by news, or blogs or videos or you can do everything. For some, they’ll like the structure of only news, or only videos, but others will want to see all results, and that choice is really up to you.

The next pulldown menu is for how often you want to get these email alerts. The email alerts get sent straight into your email inbox, so depending on how you use email, you will want to set this accordingly. On Google, you can do it once a day, once a week, or as-it-happens. If you are an active email user and like to know breaking news and have access to email on your phone, as-it-happens might be right for you. A good compromise for people is usually once a day as it doesn’t clog up your inbox with notifications, but it also allows you to keep up with the news for that topic accordingly. If you want to avoid getting your inbox cluttered everyday, then the email alerts weekly might be the best bet for you.

The next pulldown menu is for how many results you want to get. You can either get all results related to your query or only the best results. Again, this is an experiment. With some broad search queries and all results, you may get hundreds of links that may not all be relevant. However, with a specific search query and just the best results, you may only get a few daily. As Professor Scott Moore recommends in his lecture “Email Alerts“, keeping this setting at all results at first and then narrowing it down once you see you are only reading the top results might be an appropriate measure to partake in.

The last part is where to deliver the email alerts. While it’s been mentioned you get them directly to your inbox, if you are a more active user and want them delivered to your Google feed, you can do this. However, when you make it your feed, you are automatically implying that you want notifications “as-it-happens” so you’ll want to make sure this is what you want.

While this covers the basic uses of search-based email alerts on Google, Bing, Yahoo! and others all have very similar and comparable formats. Google’s alerts arguably do an even better job than others, and it is why theirs is highlighted in particular. The crux is the same however for all formats. You can set up alerts or notifications about different searches and topics and have them sent directly to one place – your email inbox. It is both valuable and feasible. This site is a great place to explore for setting up alerts for Bing. Yahoo is unique in that it actually gives you suggestions for popular topics such as fantasy football to get email alerts about.

One last part to mention is that you can always manage your alerts. This allows you to add email alerts whenever you want and at the same time remove any that you have found that have been unsuccessful. To manage your alerts is very easy. Simply go to your alerts page and click “manage alerts” here. Easy enough right?

Comparison with Google Web search

When looking at Google’s Web search and comparing it to your standard email alerts, there are a few differences. In terms of the process, there are obvious differences. Email alerts are set up in advance one time and then the information comes to you when you want it; you do not need to constantly search. With Google’s web search, when you are interested in finding out information about a topic, you must complete a search query every time you want information. Thus, email alerts are stronger in the sense that the information comes to you; you do not have to go out and seek it. Google searches are more valuable if you are looking for a specific query every time as sometimes the alert notifications can be more broad than you are looking for.

In terms of results, both a Google web search and email alerts are very comparable. Google web searches allow you to be more specific in terms of search queries since you are doing them at various points in time. Email alerts are typically a bit broader because you are trying to find more general information on a topic. Web search results are typically better for answers to specific questions or specific information about a certain topic. But if you are looking for general information about a given topic or organization, email alerts are comparable to a Google web search and provide the added convenience of having the information delivered to your inbox without having to constantly go seek it out.

Arguably, where Google web search really separates itself is with its diversity. While you can set up email alerts for “everything”, typically people only use it for news alerts. Thus, with email alerts, you lose out on great videos, images, blogs and discussions that you can easily find through a basic Google web search. These could be critical components to a search depending on what you are researching or what kind of information you are trying to find. For example, let’s say you had to do research for a collection project, which encompassed not only information sufficient for a research paper, but also audio, video, pictures and opinions on a class topic. In this case, setting email alerts might be minimally valuable, but certainly numerous Google web searches would provide you with the necessary information you are looking for.

How to get the most out of it

To get the most of email alerts is very simple. You simply need to take advantage of the settings it provides. Sign up for multiple email alerts; don’t limit yourself. When you actually set up the alerts, be cognizant of the search queries you are entering, and evaluate it over time. See if the queries you are entering are giving you alerts and notifications and results that are strong and valuable or whether they are useless. If they are valuable, keep them. If they are not, remove them or try tailoring them more to what you want. Staying up on your alerts and managing them frequently at least initially is very important.

Experimentation is a critical component to get the most out of it. Seeing which searches work and which don’t takes time and observation. Furthermore, seeing if alerts are the best way to get the information you are looking for is another thing you will have to determine over time.

Knowing when to use email alerts versus other techniques is vitally important as well. As mentioned before, the collection project would be a great example of a place where you probably AREN’T getting the most value out of email alerts. However, if you are maintaining a weekly blog with summaries and analysis of all the latest happenings in the 2012 NFL season, having a weekly email alert for the “2012 NFL season” might be exactly the way you can keep up with all the information and have one central place to access all of it.


One of the best ways to take advantage of email alerts is in the professional world. All of us at some point in our lives have interviewed or will interview with a school, company, or organization of some kind for a job or leadership position. One of the central and critical aspects of most of these types of interviews is knowing information about the place you are applying for. Whether it’s a school or university, an organization or a company, knowing information about it could make or break your chance of landing the job.

Email alerts are an incredibly useful way to keep tabs on an organization. Say you have an interview with a company coming up in 2 weeks. You can set up a daily email alert for that organization so that you can get news and information about the company every day leading up to the interview. This way you have something to talk about during the interview and you are well-informed about the company and you have not had to seek out all this information the night before. Instead it is all collected and stored in your inbox in daily messages that keep you up-to-date with what the company has done recently and news about it. This might be the best way to get the most out of organizational email alerts. It could also be incredibly useful depending on your job. For equity research positions, where your team is in charge of 20 or 30 other companies, email alerts could be a great way to stay informed of what these companies are doing so you have all this information in one place for quick and easy access. Email alerts are critical for positions like these.

For the average internet user, email alerts might be best used to keep tabs on an industry that they are interested in, but otherwise wouldn’t seek out. Perhaps you don’t have time to read too much into the tech industry after school/work, and only have time to keep up to date with the latest happenings in the US and in the political world. Having email alerts coming to your inbox allow you to quickly peruse these links during a lunch break, right before or after work or class, or right before you head to sleep.

There are definitely places where email alerts may be lacking to a typical Google web search. For specific information and answers to questions, email alerts are not the best method of choice. Additionally, if you are trying to do a major research project that incorporates various topics and various sources, email alerts probably aren’t going to be your best bet. While email alerts give you great access to certain topics, they are best used on a broad scale for personal and professional use. Email alerts are likely more useful in the professional workplace than perhaps in the classroom. Email alerts also can be hit or miss. Some search queries will bomb and return weak email alerts to your inbox and you will have to use time to manage these alerts and refine them constantly, whereas you may be able to solve this problem with a web search query on Google in a matter of minutes.

Email alerts are a great way to have information come to you. They are convenient because they only require an initial setup and not constant searching. They work best for organizations and companies you are interested in or specific industries. They are a critical component of the age of information and as we move more towards tablets and smartphones, having access to information through email makes browsing and finding information that much easier. With this evolution and progression towards quick access to information in a portable way, email alerts can only become more useful. Furthermore, email alerts are a huge part of the business world and as more new generation tech-savvy people start to infiltrate the business world, email alerts will start to have an even greater presence. Soon, they will become almost expected and required of analysts and associates at major financial institutions among other companies and organizations. There are pros and cons to everything and everyone has their own method of searching, finding and collecting information. Email alerts are just one way, but they can be quite valuable if they are used appropriately.


Bing Alerts, http://binged.it/YkvVND: Where to go and how to go about setting up Bing Alerts.

CNET, http://cnet.co/GJpsPn: Used for my analysis on receiving text alerts.

Google Alert, http://bit.ly/Xd03ZU: Image of the option Google provides to add an email alert.

Email Alert, http://bit.ly/Tu4cma: An image of an email alert for “Mobile Computing” on the Android.

“Email Alerts,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tGJ8fcQZn-A: A brief lecture from Professor Scott Moore on the basics of email alerts.

GMail sign up, http://bit.ly/I5hu7E: How to sign up for a GMail account.

Google Alert, http://bit.ly/Ykqz50: This is an image of a Google Alert for “Mobile Computing.”

Google Alert, http://bit.ly/Tz99xm: Image of a possible email alert for the “2012 NFL season.”

Google Alerts, http://www.google.com/alerts: How to get started with an email alert. Some type of email is necessary.

Google Alerts Logo, http://bit.ly/WBjzu5: The official logo for Google alerts.

Google Search-based Alert, http://bit.ly/YktxXc: Google Alert search query results for today using “Mobile Computing” as an example.

Google Search-based Alert, http://www.google.com/alerts?t=4&q=mobile+computing&hl=en: Google Alert search query for Blogs using “Mobile Computing” as the example.

Google News Search, http://bit.ly/TAxbXX: “Mobile Computing” results when searching under the “News” tab.

Google News Search, http://bit.ly/11yhuU4: “Mobile Devices” results when searching under the “News” tab.

Google Support, http://bit.ly/Uxv5ZJ: How to use Google support to find the type of alert right for you.

Manage Google Alerts, http://www.google.com/alerts/manage: An image of where to go to manage your Google alerts.

Yahoo! Alerts, http://bit.ly/RsqSaG: Where to go to create a Yahoo! Alert.

About the Author

Nikil Ramanathan is a student at the University of Michigan. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Economics. He is currently enrolled in BIT 330 at the Ross School of Business. He has a passion for business, technology and education and in his free time, he enjoys watching sports and film, writing, and blogging.


To Google or not to Google? Copyright © 2013 by Nikil Ramanathan. All Rights Reserved.