Google Alerts Alleged to Be Broken

March 21, 2013

“An Open Letter to Google: Google Alerts Broken, Now Useless to Financial Marketers” is one of those “you can’t do this to us” complaints about the new Google’s policies. An alert is a variant of the SDI or “selective dissemination of information.”

In the good old days of search when command lines were like female mixed martial arts fighters, a user would specify a string. The Dialog or Lexis system would spit out citations each time a new tape was loaded into the system. To get SDIs was a real help to a researcher who tracked a particular topic like “nuclear fuel pool” or “ESOP or employee stock ownership plan”. The trick was that SDIs for the most part were something for which one paid.

Well, well, well. Now Google, according to the write up, is making some changes in “one of the simplest, most powerful tools on the Internet, Google Alerts.” A marketer makes the point that a company has been using Google Alerts for its own purposes; for instance, I learned:

The site maintains 50 Alerts for everything from “bank marketing” to “credit union Facebook promotion.” Hundreds upon hundreds of articles published on the site have been the direct result of leads that originated through Google Alerts. As much as 35% to 45% of the content shared on The Financial Brand’s website and social channels once stemmed from this service.

The write up concludes:

Google has lost touch with its core business model: search. Searching the internet is what Google is was known for, it is was what Google (once) did better than everyone else. But Google has become distracted with “Shiny New Syndrome,” wasting tremendous amounts of time and energy (yours and ours) on ideas that fall way outside the search model. And yes, that does mean Google+. So get back to your roots, focus on search, and please: get Google Alerts back up and running. Because if Google isn’t good for search, what’s it good for at all?

The author has forgotten that today’s Google is a far different beastie from the happy go luck outfit which evolved from Backrub about 13, maybe 14 years ago. Today’s Google is focused on controlling costs, which are rising at Amazon like rates. Furthermore, the Google has to figure out how to make mobile ads pay like the salad days of Adwords on the desktop. Google has a different management approach which has less to do with controlled chaos and more about making money.

Are these options when it comes to surfing on Google’s various services which can, in case you haven’t noticed, can disappear without much warning? Sure. Are these options free like the good old days of 2002? Nope.

The big question for me is, “Does Google read open letters?” Better yet, “Does Google heed open letters from surfing marketers?” My hunch is, “Not too much.” Some Googlers love the NCAA basketball tournament. Perhaps between games and horse play someone at Google will act on the open letter. Odds on that happening are about what Louisville and its first opponent are encountering.

Stephen E Arnold, March 21, 2013


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