If you work in search, PR or content marketing, you may have experienced an alarming drop off in Google Alerts recently.

Search pioneers and industry specific verticals that rely heavily on tracking competitors via Google Alerts have recently noticed the feed slow to a trickle of what it used to be, but the show must go on!

So, here are some ingenious alternatives from the experts to keep you plugged in.

As content marketing executive for Econsultancy, I have dozens of news alerts set across different verticals we provide best practice on, and I’ve also noticed a drop in numbers across the board.

For background, or if you’d like to join the growing community of discontent online, check out these posts on The Financial Brand and Search Engine Land. Both have very healthy comment threads running on possible reasons for the shift, and direct to Google forums where users are asking directly about the problem.

Instead of joining the chorus, this post will focus on solutions and alternatives.

Competitor Newsrooms + Netvibes (Optional: Yahoo Pipes/Term Extractor module)

This example comes to us from a previous post by Graham Charlton on identifying search keywordsAndrew Girdwood (@AndrewGirdwood), Media Innovations director at LBi, initially breaks down the solution stating: 

“An oldie but a goodie is Yahoo Pipes and the Term Extractor module. This module will let you automate your text scanning, for example; an RSS feed of competitor press releases or new products and automate the process of picking out the most significant words. Combine this with IFTTT and Google Docs and you can build a custom keyword suggestion list.”

The term extractor fed via Yahoo Pipes is an additional elegant solution for content marketers who want to populate spreadsheets automatically with the keywords their competitors use in press releases.

A top-down blogging approach that factors in these keywords and subjects is part of what our Director of Product Chris Lake calls “gap analysis” strategy. For more check out his post on content marketing A-Z here

Google Reader + Google Takeout + Feedrinse

This one is from Richard Baxter (@richardbaxter) at SEOGadget. Hats off from me as I had not heard of Feedrinse before!

“I like to run RSS feeds through something like FeedRinse – for example you could set something up for your entire vertical that excludes certain brands (i.e. your own) and includes any mention of sensitive keywords, areas of opportunity or areas of concern”

I’ve gone ahead and built on Richard’s excellent tip in Feedrinse. Since Google has recently shut down Reader (one of its only useful consumer web products IMHO) don’t forget that your RSS feeds are saved automatically in Google Takeout.

Get your CSV here first so you can save time with your sources!

Muckrack/Lissted Search + Digest Email Alerts

Anyone who reads my musings here on Econsultancy related to content marketing already knows I’m a huge fan of the services Muckrack and Lissted – which act as filters on top of the Twitter firehose to let you access only tweets from journalists.

Sign up for either of these services, and you can set keyword search terms to be delivered to your inbox just like a Google Alert.

According to our Social Media Manager Matt Owen, Twitter is our third largest referral source and since news breaks on Twitter first, journalists have taken to it by storm.

Little Bird/Traackr + Newsle

Marshall Kirkpatrick (@marshallk), CEO of Little Bird, has been taking advantage of web mashups and APIs since his blogging days with ReadWriteWeb and Techcrunch, and this great tip came straight from him when he first walked me through Little Bird, an influencer discovery tool he founded.

After identifying experts, influencers, and high quality content for a topic of your choice (I recommend both Little Bird and Traackr for this purpose due to the number of features and access to Twitter data they provide) be sure to connect with them on LinkedIn, and Facebook if appropriate.

There is a Gmail plugin called Rapportive that makes connecting with the folks you are in discussion with easy. You can grab that here.

Once you’ve connected with them, head over to the free news/content aggregator Newsle where you can again plug in your Facebook/LinkedIn identity for a custom feed of your connections (and friends of connections) who are mentioned in publicly available news stories.

For some tracking competitors may be a bit difficult through this method, but most of us in business subscribe to the adage, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

Looking forward to hearing about any other creative solutions or insights from people in comments!