We like to stay current on various topics of our interest by keeping a tab on web sources. Google Alerts is a free tool that could help us with it. Google Alerts, in its own words, “monitors the web for interesting new content”. Don’t worry if someone tells you that Google Alerts is meant only for marketers.

Let’s say, I want to know about Machine Learning content, as soon as someone publishes it. I would configure an alert for Machine Learning. Google will then start sending me emails regularly with links to Machine learning, from the latest content from news, blogs, websites, Google books, etc.

It is very easy to configure. You need to provide the search words with the usual Google search syntax.  You could additionally provide, language, region, quantity (How many), and frequency (How often) options, although the best strategy is to leave the default settings. As you make these settings Google Alerts generates a preview dynamically. If you think the results are too few, you may like to set “how many” to “All Results”. You could create as many alerts as you want. Read more about creating alerts here.

A life hack to process a long-winding email with alerts is to do it in two steps. The first step will be to simply skim through all the links and identify the content which might be worth “reading later” and “save” them to Instapaper. The second step will be to read them in Instapaper when you have the suitable time & energy level to do so. Of course, don’t forget to bookmark the good ones into your browser for future reference. A side benefit is to come to know about informative websites, related to our topics of interest to follow them up systematically.

There should be no dearth of creativity in creating your alerts. It is equivalent to doing your favorite search every day, automatically for you. You could create alerts for topics, companies, authors, thinkers, or even your own name.