As a Virtual Assistant  it’s important to stay on top of relevant industry news, both for your own business as well as your clients’ businesses.

The simplest way I’ve found to do this is by setting up Google Alerts.

Whilst it’s not perfect, it is pretty effective and is a major time saver (which let’s face it, we could all do with some of!).

In a nutshell Google Alerts allow you to set up email alerts, for free, on anything relevant to you, your business or your clients businesses, without having to trawl the internet for days. It’s quick, efficient and hugely beneficial.

Simply sign up to Google Alerts and enter the phrases or words that you wish receive information about.

You can choose what type of result you wish to see, how often you wish to receive them, whether you want to see all results or just the best ones, and finally where you want them to be displayed. Since I’ve got so many alerts set up, I tend to opt to receive them once a day and display them in the Google Reader ‘Feed’ otherwise it just clutters up my email account.  It’s up to you how you’d want to do it, and anyway you can always change it later down the line if necesary.

Google Alerts are great for:

1. Finding out when your business (or clients business) is mentioned online.
Set up alerts on your business name or your client’s business name and any time it’s mentioned an alert will be sent to you. This is a great way to find out what people are saying in real-time.  Depending on what’s been said it gives you the opportunity to respond where you may not have known about it at all before. This is particularly important for clients who perhaps are selling products which they receive a negative comment/review on, as it can help fire fight what could become an even more damaging situation by alerting you to it in the first place.

2. Finding out what competitors are doing.
Set up alerts for your main competitors and your clients’ main competitors. For your VA business this could be setting up alerts of other VA businesses that you look to for advice and guidance to help you grow your own business. For your clients, by keeping them abreast of all latest competitor developments they can review their business strategy and adjust if needed.

3. Keeping up to date with latest industry news .
Want to know what’s going on in the VA world? Got a client who sells something i.e. fitness products? Set up alerts relevant to yours / your clients businesses to read that latest article, statistic, product launch as it happens.

4. Keeping up to date with latest technology trends.
Set up alerts for software and technology news and get information relating to new apps, cloud solutions, or (free) tools as soon as they’re out there. One of which might help you work more efficiently, or provide a better solution for your clients needs.

5. Finding content for your next blog article.
Writing a new blog article? Google Alerts is a great tool for ensuring the content you’re writing is current, informative and adding value to your readers.

6. Sparking ideas for content or marketing materials.
Want to refresh your website content? Looking for a new topic to write about? Not sure what type of marketing materials to create? Set up alerts that perhaps aren’t related to your business or your clients business exactly, but instead are from a complimentary industry or field that could spark some new creative ideas.

7. Finding new clients.
Lastly I think Google Alerts is a great way to find out what potential clients want. Set up an alert to forums, business websites, VA associations and hear what people are struggling with, what their needs are, and act on it (if it’s a need you can assist with). This is a fantastic way to win new clients and grow your business.

If you want to save time, add value to yours and your clients businesses, and help grow your own business, sign up to Google Alerts to take advantage of this powerful and free tool.