The next time you plan on making a big purchase, setting up a few relevant Google Alerts can end up saving you a big chunk of change. Most people think Google Alerts are just for things like monitoring search queries, but there’s more to it than that.
As far as saving money, Google Alerts can be used to notify you of recent product listings, new product reviews, or big promotions and sales.
How to Set Up a Google Alert to Save Money
In order to use Google Alerts, you’ll need a Google account. This might be unfortunate news if you’re trying to quit Google completely, but the Alerts feature is so useful that you may want to make an exception here.
When you’re signed in, visit the Google Alerts page and you’ll see a text field where you can enter a query. This is where the magic happens.
Basically, whenever Google finds new content — e.g. web pages, news articles, blog posts — that contains a keyword or phrase that matches your query, you’ll receive an email notification.
Pro Tip: The rules for queries are similar to rules for Google search, so if you want an exact match for your search term, be sure to enclose it in quotation marks.
Once you type in a potential query, you’ll see an Alert Preview that brings up sample results that match your entry. Playing around and tweaking your queries is an effective way to get the exact kinds of results that you want.
Once you’re happy with your alert query, click on the Show Options link. You’ll see six extra settings that you can tweak to customize your alert:
- How Often: “As-It-Happens” is best for time-sensitive things (like flash deals) but “At Most Once A Week” is best for cases that are less urgent or if you can’t stand drowning in emails.
- Sources: Which content types do you want to consider? These correspond to Google’s own categories, including: News, Blogs, Web, Video, Books, Discussions, and Finance. You can select more than one if desired.
- Language: Filters sources based on language. Pretty self-explanatory.
- Region: Do you only want to consider sources in the U.S.? Canada? The U.K.? This is how you filter them.
- How Many: Either “Only the Best Results” (stricter criteria for matching) or “All Results” (more liberal, pretty much everything Google finds).
- Deliver To: Have the alerts sent either to your email or to an RSS feed.
It might seem complicated at first glance, but it really isn’t. You don’t even have to use the extra settings if you don’t want to — Google Alerts will default to global results as they’re found and will send them straight to your email.
Regarding the Sources option, here’s a breakdown of each content type:
- News: Only searches the latest articles in Google News.
- Blogs: Only searches newly published blog posts.
- Web: Searches all new pieces of content on the web.
- Video: Only searches video descriptions on Google.
- Books: Only searches new additions to Google Books.
- Discussions: Only searches new online forum threads.
- Finance: Only searches prices for stocks that match query.
- Automatic: Searches across all categories.
Now that you know how to set up a Google Alert, let’s look at a few Google Alert types that you can use and how they benefit you.
3 Money-Saving Google Alert Ideas
The first kind of Google Alert is the seasonal sale alert.
A lot of retailers throw big sales events at certain times of the year, but it can be frustrating because these sales aren’t always coordinated. Some retailers start early, others join in later — and it’s even harder to track when shopping online.
So why not set-and-forget a Google Alert instead? A query like “amazon sale” or “sale at amazon” is simple but effective way to know when a retailer sale has begun. All it takes is one or two blog posts to report on the sale and you’ll know right away.
Throw in terms like “Christmas” or “Memorial Day” for more specific sales events.
The second kind of Google Alert is the instant coupon notification.
The thing about online coupons is that they’ve usually expired by the time you find out they exist. People post coupon codes all over the place, including blogs, websites, and forum threads, but they’re no good unless you can get to them in time.
For example, an alert for newegg coupon wouldn’t return many useful results because it’s too general, but by tweaking it into newegg “coupon code” would show me any post that involves Newegg and the exact phrase of “coupon code”.
Pro Tip: This works because most people tend to precede actual coupon codes with the phrase “coupon code”, so any time Google finds an instance of that phrase, it’ll usually be followed with an active code that really works.
The third kind of Google Alert is the product listing notice.
Let’s say you’re looking to replace your broken bicycle but you don’t want to buy new, so you decide to scour Craigslist for local used bikes. You could run a manual search every morning, but that takes a lot of time. Why not automate with Google Alerts?
Set up an alert (or several alerts) for queries like “New York” AND “bicycle” site:craigslist.org. This will trigger any time Craigslist has a new post that includes both “New York” and “bicycle”. You can add specifics too, like “hybrid” or “mountain” or “Schwinn”.
Pro Tip: You can restrict Google Alerts to only look at a specific website by including site:domain.com as part of the query.
Save Money With Google Alerts Now
There are no limits to how many alerts you can have, so feel free to set up as many as you want — even hundreds! Experiment to see which ones work well and which ones don’t. It won’t take long to start leveraging Google Alerts to save you hundreds of dollars every year.
If you don’t like Google Alerts, you might be able to accomplish something similar by using Yahoo! Alerts instead.
Has Google Alerts ever saved you money? Which queries have proved most helpful to you? Share them with us in the comments below!