Google Alerts is a simple and free tool to get regular updates about something that interests you, such as your property and your tenants. Google Alerts will send you an email any time a new web page appears in the top 20 web results or top 10 news results for the terms you specify.
To see how this works, watch my screencast:
As a landlord, you’ll definitely want to be on top any news and happenings that relate to your property and you may want to be advised regarding your tenants as well.
Setting up Google Alerts is fairly simple. Go to http://google.com/alerts (note that you’ll need to have a Google login to use the service).
For each Alert, you’ll need to decide the following:
- Search Terms. This can be as simple as entering the property address in quotations. For example: “2201 Peach Drive.” You may also want to set up another alert if there are alternate ways your address may appear, for example including the abbreviation for “Drive” (making the alert active for: “2201 Peach Dr.”) or including the town (such as: “2201 Peach Drive, Addison”). Using quotations around the search terms will help filter the results.
- Type of information to search. This tells Google which information to include in its search (Everything, News, Blogs, Web, Video, Groups) Setting this to “everything” will include all types of search results.
- How often the alert should be sent (as-it-happens, once a day, once a week). Google will send notifications only when it actually finds new material in the top 20 (web) / 10 (news) results, so you won’t be getting messages unless there’s something to report.
- Volume. This setting determines how many results you see in each alert.
- How you would like to receive the alerts (email or via RSS feed). For each alert you create, a separate email will be sent depending on how often you’ve chosen to receive it. You can also subscribe to the alert via RSS feed in Google Reader instead of email.
Don’t get too overwhelmed with the different settings; after you play with them a bit you will easily find the one which works best for you and your specific needs.
Here are some suggestions for some Google Alerts to set up if you’re just getting started:
- Your property address. (If your tenant turns up in the news or web published arrest reports, you will be notified, among many other possible ways your address would be used on-line).
- Your tenant’s names “first name, last name” and “last name, first name” (set this up for each adult tenant).
- Your tenant’s telephone number. This could possibly tip you off if your tenant plans to move without providing notice. If they place a “MOVING SALE” advertisment on Craigslist with their telephone number it should turn up in a google alert notification.
Do you ever wonder what others are saying about your property management firm, your rental community, or you personally? Using Google Alerts in a savvy and intelligent way to keep you on the professional cutting edge.
- If you have a rental community, it is a good idea to set up Google Alerts for the name of the community and property manager’s name, etc. so you will be alerted if someone is discussing your property (such as on a review site).
- If you have a website for your property, you may want to set up an alert for all links to your site. Insert your URL at the highest level where you have content.
Caveat: Google Alerts is not guaranteed to be 100% foolproof or reliable. And since it only sends alerts when new pages enter into the top searches means it may not be an exhaustive result for every term. Yahoo has a similar service called Yahoo! Alerts.
To get more tips like this, get my Tenant Screening Toolkit, a Self-Defense Manual for Landlords.