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Sacramento Capitol
By Suvicce (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

What is Google Alerts?

Google Alerts is a tool that allows you to monitor the web for new content based on specific search terms, and it’s a good tool for catching news and gossip from media sites and niche blogs you don’t review on a regular basis. Some people use alerts to get updates on particular news or entertainment topics. For example, a Seahawks fan might have daily or weekly alerts for “Seattle Seahawks” and “Seahawks NFL” as well as as-it-happens notifications for “Russell Wilson injury.” Google finds content related to the individual alert topics and then emails you the links.

When it comes to the cannabis industry, I use Google Alerts as one of many tools to keep an eye on the political and industry organizations I am connected with as well as their individual leadership members, lobbyists and politicians. Cannabis is being talked about around the world like never before, so Google Alerts can sift through the countless blogs and articles to show you more of how the world is communicating about the people and organizations you’re involved with.

Why monitor them? Such organizations are supposed to represent you. That makes you one of the people who needs to keep them accountable. And if you see negative press or untrue statements being spread, alert that organization’s staff so you can go about your day while they handle the situation. Even if they already know about the incident, they will appreciate your concern.

How to Set Up Google Alerts

Go to alerts.google.com. If you have a Google account, you can set alerts up with it. You can also just create alerts without an account (just give them an email address to send to) but this means you can’t edit the frequency or the words used in the alerts. It doesn’t take very long and is easy to adjust later if you end up with too many emails.

Choosing Frequency

How often should you get alerts? Your level of involvement is a key factor. If you work for or are actively volunteering for a group, or if you’ve donated a lot of resources, then daily or as-it-happens are the most appropriate. Weekly updates are appropriate for most other needs.

What Alerts to Set Up

If you’re a cannabis entrepreneur or involved in cannabis politics at all, then this is a good baseline:

  • Your first and last name (in quotes)
  • Your pseudonym/online handle/nickname
  • Your business or brand name(s)
  • Full name of political organizations you’re affiliated with (in quotes)
  • Full name of industry organizations you’re affiliated with (in quotes)
  • Acronyms of those organizations
  • Your website URL(s) (i.e. theganjier.com)
  • First and last names of top leaders in those organizations (in quotes) — Don’t know who these people are? Look at their website or ask directly.
  • Brand and company names of your competitors
  • Bill numbers and names like AB266 or “Responsible Distribution of Medical Marijuana”
  • Important politicians in your district such as a county supervisor, city council member, state assembly member, state congress member, etc. Narrow down the results by adding a topic word like “marijuana” or “agriculture”
  • Names of business partners

Below is a screenshot of a few alerts I have set up, and below that are several tips on how to adjust the language of your own alerts to better filter news you want to see. The idea here is to get a better idea of what people are saying in the public sphere, but it doesn’t cover social media posts. Have any tips yourself on how to monitor the industry online? I’d love to hear them! Sound off in the comments or send me an email.

Google Alerts example
Google Alerts example

Bonus Google Alert Tips

  • Putting quotation marks around words in a regular Google search or in a Google Alert tells the search engine to only show you articles that have those exact words in that exact order.
  • If you’re having trouble finding articles for a specific person, adding “cannabis” or “marijuana” to the alert with their name can narrow it down.
  • Put a dash next to a word to tell Google that you want to see content without that word or term. Example: “Emerald Cup” -bodybuilding (There’s a bodybuilding competition called Emerald Cup aside from the cannabis competition we know and love).
  • When you do receive emails, they typically go into your “Updates” tab if you use Gmail.
  • There’s no limit on how many you can set up and if there’s no news on something, you won’t receive any emails.
  • Create alerts using simple language. You want Google to find all articles related to your interest, so be only as specific as necessary.
  • If you’re interested in alerts on someone who has a common name like “John Smith” or shares a name with a celebrity, you will need to add in some additional words so your email isn’t bogged down with news about every other John Smith.
  • Need alerts as soon as possible? Make sure the alerts are being sent to an email you can easily access and doesn’t require fetching from another email account, as this delays deliver.
  • Consider how other people talk about cannabis. It may be appropriate to use other words like marijuana, weed, pot, etc, depending on what kind of alerts are created.

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