In the article on
RSS and Google Reader you said: “For example I regularly use RSS
feeds to keep abreast of new mentions of my name, or my wife’s business
on the internet.” How do you do that?
Well, it’s more than just using RSS and an RSS reader, but it’s very
easy, actually. In fact, I’m frequently surprised by what my own
notifications turn up, and surprised at how many other folks that
should be watching things aren’t.
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The ‘trick’, if you want to call it that, is to use a site or
service that returns it’s results in RSS format, and then subscribe to
that RSS feed in your RSS reader.
Let’s use the phrase “ask leo” as an example.
I’ll start with Google’s Blog Search, and search for the words ask
leo. The results will likely begin something like this:
As you can see, it’s returned recent results for the phrase “ask leo”
in the blogosphere.
The key here are those two links near the bottom left of the page
labeled Atom and RSS. Click on the
RSS button (or right click and copy the link) and subscribe to the feed
in your favorite RSS feed reader.
What happens next is the semi-magical part: when you fire up your
feed reader, it will fetch that feed and display any new items. In this
case, the feed is actually the most recent Google blog search results
for the phrase “ask leo”. So, each time a new instance of “ask leo”
appears on Google’s blog radar, I’ll see it the very next time I view
services that offer their results in RSS format.”
In this specific case – Google blog search – you can set up feeds
for all sorts of terms and phrases with exact or broad matches and
If you have a web site, another good phrase to search for is your
base domain. Searching for “ask-leo.com” in this manner tells me when
someone links to my site from their blog. (Sometimes they’re then quite
surprised when I pop by and leave a comment thanking them. ).
So far this has all been blog related, and specifically using
Google’s blog search. (Technorati is another blog search engine that
will also return results in RSS format.)
What about “plain old search”?
Unfortunately, Google does not make its search results available in
an RSS feed, so using Google for this is out. However, other search
engines do. Specifically, Microsoft’s Live Search will, although it’s not immediately
Here’s a search on “ask leo” using Microsoft Live Search:
I’ve highlighted the RSS icon () in Internet Explorer’s toolbar. (Firefox
users will find this icon in the address bar.) When a page is displayed
that makes an RSS feed available, this icon then allows you to
subscribe to it. In this case, the feed provided is for search results
on the phrase “ask leo”. If I subscribe to it in my RSS reader, then
I’m alerted each time Microsoft’s Live Search returns new results for
And as one other example using RSS, Google News also provides RSS
feeds of its search results. Once again, do your search, click on the
RSS link or icon, and you’ll stay abreast of new news items relating to
the terms you search for.
The key here is to find search or notification services that offer
their results in RSS format. Once you do, then you can subscribe to
those results and stay on top of interesting and ever changing
I do have to throw out one additional service that is not
related to RSS, but will give you what many people want as well: new
instances of your phrase as found by Google’s Web search engine. This
additional service would be Google
From their page: “Google Alerts are email updates of the latest
relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query
This differs from Google blog search and Google news search in that
it’s presumably using the regular Google web search to generate its
information. Exactly how much overlap there is between all these
services is somewhat of a mystery.
And Google Alerts are available only via email.
But since Google’s the big player when it comes to search these
days, I use this as well.