5421517469_d0d2997eec_mAbout a month ago, Google shocked the blogging world by announcing it was going to be killing its popular Google Reader in July. Google Reader was like a web-based RSS feed. In the “old days” (about 7 years ago) you could use Reader not only to keep up with your favorite sites but also to share important articles with other people. Now that social media has become such a force, including Google’s own Google Plus, the ability to share was not as much of a differentiator. Even though Google cited declining usage as one of its reasons for killing the popular site, there was a big outcry about the decision in the online world. However, another story has been flitting away in the background of the Google Reader story, and this one may be even more shocking. There is a rumor that Google Alerts may also be on the chopping block.

If you are not familiar with Google Alerts, they are essentially ways for you to monitor keyword usage. Whenever a keyword is spidered by Google, you get a notification via email of the context in which that word appeared. Google Alerts is a great way to monitor industry news, and one could also call it “Social Media Listening 101.” Some companies have been relying on the information Google Alerts provided for close to ten years.

What really started making ripples was an open letter that The Financial Brand, an online publication dedicated to the finance industry, published about the decreasing quality of Google Alerts. Namely, the number of alerts sent together with the poor quality of the alerts has rendered the tool virtually useless to a lot of companies. Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineLand.com offered similar complaints, which The Financial Brand cites.

As Mashable reported in mid-March, Google Reader experienced similar lapses in quality shortly before Google announced it was killing the service. Maybe Google Alerts is headed to the same fate.

If Google Alerts Go, What Are Your Options?

The most commonly praised alternative we’ve heard buzz about has been Talkwalker. If you use Google Alerts now, you will find the interface looks very familiar:

Screen Shot 2013-05-10 at 12.39.53 PM

We will be experimenting with Talkwalker in the coming weeks and will let you know what we think about it.

Of course, the elephant in the room is that if Google decides to put an end to “Social Media Listening 101,” some companies may be forced further into the world of social media simply to monitor mentions of important keywords. Google has used this tactic in regards to their long-standing Google Maps. The site, which use to help companies show up by location near the top of search results, has been integrated into Google Plus as “Google Places.”

If Google kills Google Alerts, it may cite lower usage as it did for Google Reader. Many companies have shifted to any number of robust social media listening tools, some of which can be used for free (like socialmention.com) and some of which can represent a heavy investment like Radian6. For the companies that have not yet jumped into social media, however, this could be a tough blow.

Do you use Google Alerts for your business? Have you noticed lagging results? We’d love to hear from you!

Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kalexanderson/5421517469/ via Creative Commons