Is Google Alerts reliable?

As a PR company, we have a lot of stories for our clients going out daily to local and national news sites. After we send out press releases, we’re constantly on the lookout for clients getting coverage in a huge variety of publications.

Journalists have busy enough lives and often don’t have time to let us know when our coverage will be going up; naturally, it’s up to us to find the coverage and let our clients know when it has come up online.

Previously, we’ve used Google Alerts to help us out. However, we haven’t found it to be particularly reliable. Since it came into being in 2003, there’s been a lot of commentary about how Google Alerts is unreliable; culminating around 2012 when the general consensus seemed to be that Google Alerts was broken.

There was even a website started in May 2012 called to highlight the problem. Eventually, on 17th February 2015, there were celebratory messages on the site saying that Google had finally released an update and Google Alerts was fixed.

However, it doesn’t seem to be time to celebrate just yet. We still find we have some trouble with it, and the function seems far from completely fixed. Sometimes, updates just don’t come through. My colleagues and I have had the same alert that was sent 12 hours apart, despite us having the same settings and search terms on our alert systems.

Currently, the best way we have found of finding coverage is the old fashioned way. Good old manual searching, but obviously this isn’t ideal. As our client base grows, so does the amount of stories we send out – and it’s difficult to make sure we catch every single piece of coverage.

In my search for an alternative, and hopefully more reliable product, I came across the following options:

Talkwalker Alerts is a free service that works in much the same way as Google Alerts. You receive real time alerts to your email, and it’s simple to use.

Mention is a higher end version of the alerts system, and it also lets you have the addition of select social sources. It has a free version, which is restrictive and an unlimited version – starting at $19.99 month.

Meltwater is an alerts system aimed specifically at PR and marketing companies. It delivers alerts for online media monitoring from range of 190,000 news publications and social media sites. While clearly the superior system, a subscription starts at $6,000 per year, making it a pricey alternative to the free versions available.

Sophie Carter is an account executive at Cardiff-based Compass Media Relations

Image credit: Johan Larsson/Flickr