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Sep. 18 2009 - 11:26 am | 194 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

Please, I beg you, put a Google alert on your name.

Image representing Google Alerts as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

Buried in a post last month on Five Easy Ways to Protect Your Identity Online was this nugget:

Free free to be vain! …  Set up a Google Alert for your name.

I have a Google Alert on “Kashmir Hill” mainly to tell me when other journalists mention my work. (Both Gawker’s Jezebel and the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog name-checked me this week — Woot woot.)

But it’s a good idea for everybody — non-journalists included — so you’ll be notified if someone starts a blog dedicated to calling you a skank (as happened to model Liskula Cohen), or if a company makes a spreadsheet available online that has your social security number (as happened to a family member of mine), or if someone puts you in the Urban Dictionary (as happened to me).

There’s no excuse not to have a Google alert set up. It’s easy. It’s free. It’s a simple way to protect your online identity. Please do it. (You don’t need to have a gmail account, but it makes this a little easier.)

***

1. Go here.
2. Enter your name in quotation marks (e.g., “Kashmir Hill”) as the search term.
3. Decide how often you want alerts. Mine are daily, but you can also get them weekly or as soon as your name appears somewhere.
4. Click “Create an Alert”.

***
And you’re done! So what happens now?

In case you’re too lazy to visit Google Alert’s FAQ page. Here are the answers to the questions I (and Google) imagine you might have:

1. What are Google Alerts?

Google Alerts are emails automatically sent to you when there are new Google results for your search terms. You can also choose to have your alerts delivered via feed to the feedreader of your choice (e.g., Google Reader or add the feed to your iGoogle page). We currently offer alerts with results from News, Web, Blogs, Video and Groups.

2. What are the different types of alerts I can sign up for?

Google Alerts currently offers 6 variations of alerts – ‘News’, ‘Web’, ‘Blogs’, ‘Comprehensive’, ‘Video’ and ‘Groups’.

A ‘News’ alert is an email aggregate of the latest news articles that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top ten results of your Google News search.

A ‘Web’ alert is an email aggregate of the latest web pages that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top twenty results of your Google Web search.

A ‘Blogs’ alert is an email aggregate of the latest blog posts that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top ten results of your Google Blog search.

A ‘Comprehensive’ alert is an aggregate of the latest results from multiple sources (News, Web and Blogs) into a single email to provide maximum coverage on the topic of your choice.

A ‘Video’ alert is an email aggregate of the latest videos that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top ten results of your Google Video search.

A ‘Groups’ alert is an email aggregate of new posts that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top fifty results of your Google Groups search.

via Alerts Help.

You may get stray results if you have a common name. That’s not a big problem for me. Thanks for naming me after a Led Zeppelin song, and optimizing my Google search results, Mom and Dad.


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  1. collapse expand

    Ah- sadly my real name is too common for this to work well for me, but my online alias is more useful. I may have to legally change my name to exploit Google more effectively.

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    I am a writer, reporter, editor and blogger. I'm an editor at Above The Law, where I blog about lawyers, judges, law firms and the legal industry. Here at True/Slant, I write about our changing notions of privacy.

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