If you’re like me you probably spend a good deal of time on the web searching for information. It might be industry news, mentions of yourself or business in the press, news stories for your blog or newsletter, or how to get ink stains out of your rug. Let’s face it the web, for most people, has become the first place we go to look for news and information.

What if I told you that you could have the equivalent of a team of researchers keeping their eye on the web for you and finding all of the latest information on all of the searches you need to do – and they would email this valuable data to you either weekly or daily right to your inbox – all for free? Interested?

Well I’m going to let you in on one of the most useful automation tools I’ve discovered – Google Alerts. Google has expanded way beyond their normal basic search function. They offer a staggering array of software, services, and online tools. One often overlooked gem is Google Alerts – which is a service they offer that notifies you by email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.

Here’s how it works:

Google currently offers six types of alert searches: “News”, “Web”, “Blogs”, “Comprehensive”, “Video” and “Groups”. For example a Google Web Alert sends you an email each time a new page for your chosen term makes it in the top twenty results on Google’s web search. You can also have the alert check Google News and/or Google Groups.

To sign up for a Google Alert, all that you need to do is visit the Google Alerts homepage (http://www.google.com/alerts), enter the search term or topic you are interested in, choose the type of alert, frequency of emails (daily, as it happens, or weekly), and your email address.

You can set up alerts for as many terms as you like using a Google Account (which is also free). In October 2008 Google also made alerts available as RSS feeds.

I have several Google Alerts setup to send me daily updates. I use it to find mentions of myself, our websites, and business (searching for “Phil Montero”, “YouCanWorkFromAnywhere.com”, and “The Anywhere Office”). I also have alerts setup for phrases like “virtual office”, “virtual team”, and other similar queries which help me keep tabs on what’s happening and find interesting topics to write about in this blog.

Of course your use of Google Alerts doesn’t have to be limited to business – you can use it to search for getting the latest on bands you like, an upcoming event, or keeping up with your favorite sports teams.

To get the most targeted information you want – I suggest reviewing Google’s Advanced Search Tips (http://www.google.com/support/bin/static.py?page=searchguides.html&ctx=a...) – these tips can make you an expert Google Searcher and help you create more effective alerts.

One of our core philosophies for working effectively in The Anywhere Office is finding small adjustments that lead to big results. Google Alerts are the type of tool that achieve this and help you work smarter not harder.

Author's Bio: 

An advocate of working virtually? It would be more precise to say that Phil Montero is an evangelist for distributed work. He’s been the spearhead of the remote work movement for more than a decade: teaching how to work effectively from a home office, the road, or practically anywhere.

The consultant, writer, speaker, and coach is the founder of YouCanWorkFromAnywhere.com – a site that assists organizations to leverage mobile work technology and create effective virtual teams.

His blog, TheAnywhereOffice.com, takes a big picture approach to the philosophies and strategies of navigating today's digital lifestyle while covering topics such as work life balance, virtual teams, mobile work technology, and internet marketing.