Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Stupid Google Alerts

Admit it. You've Googled yourself, haven't you?

But you don't have to anymore. You may have heard of the nifty Google Alert tool, which searches for any phrase you tell it to once a day, and then Google e-mails you the results.

Kinda nifty.

For a writer, Google Alerts are really convenient. For example, you can set up an alert on your book title so you'll be notified of book reviews you might not have found otherwise on a blog or news site you didn't even know existed.

I have a friend with a relatively small blog who wrote about her experience with a particular book, and within a day, the author had commented on her post.

How do you think the author even found her blog? It had to be with a Google Alert.

Awesome and convenient, no?

Definitely. Especially if your book has a title like many of my friends' books. Say, When Hearts Conjoin, or The Mazerunner, or Farworld or All the Stars in Heaven or Abinadi.

For my friends and their books, if Google finds their titles somewhere, there's a pretty good chance that the post or article is going to be about their book.

And then . . . well, then there are my books.

Do you have any idea how useless Google Alerts are for my titles?

They are all common phrases.

Let's take a look: House on the Hill

For that one, my daily Google Alert e-mail used to consist of a good dozen or more links, most referring to tourist descriptions of places they'd visited.

"We visited this beautiful house on the hill . . ."

After months and months of daily e-mails with not a single link about the actual book, I finally deleted the stupid alert.

Oh, and what about, say, Tower of Strength?

Do you have any idea how often that phrase is used whenever someone describes a loved one who has been a support? I didn't, until I created an alert for the phrase.

I swear, I get links all the time about family tragedies and how the father or the mother or whoever was a "tower of strength" for the rest of the family. Or it's a romantic tribute from one spouse to another. ("You are my tower of strength . . .")

Any time a celebrity dies, I can guarantee I'll get a bunch of "tower of strength" links about whoever is supporting the family.

Great for them. Not what I'm looking for.

Let's look at my other titles, shall we?

At the Journey's End
Another phrase tourists use. Also, I've discovered, a common name for places like bed and breakfasts. Another deleted alert.

Spires of Stone
Not quite as common as the others, but still used a lot by people in describing architectural structures they see on travels, whether it's cathedrals or whatever. I haven't deleted this alert, because I don't get dozens and dozens of irrelevant links. Just several regular ones, and every so often, there will be a real one referring to the book. Still annoying, mostly useless.

Lost Without You
A common phrase peppered throughout blogs. Since the book is out of print, it's pretty rare anyone blogs about it anyway. Alert deleted.

At the Water's Edge
Common descriptor that pops up regularly in articles and blogs. Lots of irrelevant links. Another out of print book. Another deleted alert.

There, Their, They're
You'd be amazed at how often word nerd people like me post about these homonyms . . . in this order. That's the weirdest part. I get links all the time about their misuse, and they're listed just like this. It's eerie. In all but one case, it's never been about the book.

The most useful Google Alert is simply my name, and that usually does the job well enough, because usually, if someone's going to review a book, they'll include the author's name. I'm likely to find out about it even if I'm not alerted with the title.

But then there was the time a Google Alert on my name informed me that I'd died. It sent a link to an obituary of an Annette Lyon from New York. That was disconcerting in a Twilight Zone sort of way.

Fortunately, this Annette Lyon is alive and well. And my next book's title (sounds like they're keeping it as Band of Sisters) isn't a common household phrase.

Maybe I'll finally have a useful Google Alert on a title!


Kristina P. said...

I need to set this up!

Josi said...

This is one of those cases where having a first name like Josi (spelled with only an i at the end) and a last name of Kilpack (with one L, not two like most Killpacks) really comes in handy :-)

My book titles don't work either--Sheep's Clothing sent me dozens of religious and political blogs, articles, and vent sessions. Lemon Tart sent me more recipes than you would think possible for one dessert. So, I just go with my name, including spelling it wrong since a lot of people do. So Josi Kilpack, Josie Kilpack, Josie Killpack, Josi S. Kilpack and Josie S. Killpack will find their way to me. And it's fun to follow what people are saying about me--most of the time :-)

Rebecca Irvine said...

i tried setting this up with my name and it was too common--maybe one in 100 alerts was actually about me. I deleted it after a month or two.

Heatherlyn said...

I didn't know about google alerts. Although, I kind of hope that there is nothing out there on my name. I'm not aspiring to have anything I've done at this point be well-known. :)

Wonder Woman said...

I've never heard of google alerts. Pretty nifty.

Don said...

I feel some of your Google Alert pain.

I've learned a lot about former Cleveland Brown cornerback Don Carey, who injured his shoulder and recently got traded to the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I don't think I've gotten an alert that has actually included me.

The ones I set up for topics I'm researching have been quite helpful, though.

Melanie Jacobson said...

Oh, mannnnn...I'm screwed. Potentially. My working titles are "Click" and "The List." Maybe they'll get published as "LDS Blarglesnauf" and "Monkey Bum Milkshakes" just so I can be pretty sure the alerts for me.

Lara Neves said...

I never knew you could do that. Pretty cool feature, actually.

I guess I could do an alert for my name, and anything that comes up in English will actually be me. I think I'm the only Lara Neves who isn't Portuguese or Brazilian. :)

Stephanie Black said...

Melanie, no worries if your title is a common word or phrase--just do your name plus your title as your Google alert. Either my name or my titles alone would get me too many false alarms, but when I list both together, I don't get many alerts that aren't mine.

Jillybean said...

I just googled myself and had to get to page 5 of the results before I found me.
I'm really glad to hear that you're not dead.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, my name is a bit of a problem with google alerts. Using my initials, not so smart. I get lots of results for Lieutenant Elliots. Lots. Policemen, firemen, army men, and yes, spacemen (although fictional in that case).

I'm glad you're not dead. I like you too much for you to be dead!

Erin said...

Yep, I like Google Alerts in general. But one of mine is "if you give a mom a moment" and basically any blog that uses three or more of those words appears. So not worth it.

in time out said...

hmmmm. I hadn't heard of it. I will have to do some thinking on this one for you. Sounds pretty cool.

Stephanie said...

Google Alerts can definitely be handy, even if the information provided isn't always relevant. I've had one in place for my name and my blog title for a few years now and - overall - I think it's quite useful.


Amanda D said...

I google myself occassionally. However, I don't find much because I share a name with a newcaster/author and a famous slave. If I signed up for google alerts they would all be about the first!

Meggen said...

Glad to hear you are alive and well, writing away everyday! I'd hate to hear you had died . . . especially in New York! Fun post!

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

you're right, When Hearts Conjoin is fairly targeted, however, I do still get alerts for interesting connections occasionally. Most often when it's not the book, I get articles about other conjoined twins, some of whom share a heart. The most unusual set of Google alerts through talked about some politician being conjoined to President Obama. Hmm... That's an interesting image.

Jenna said...

I actually haven't ever Googled myself, but this sounds cool!


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