Keeping up to date on alerts and RSS…

Today I’ve been looking at alerts and feeds.


The first thing I wanted to share (something I only learned a couple of days ago) is that in addition to Google Alerts, it is also possible to set yourself up with Yahoo Alerts – both general, and for news.


There’s no link to Alerts from the Yahoo home page (that I can see), you need to go here to create general web alerts (albeit from a very restrictive set menu of areas), and here for Yahoo news alerts (US-domain only, I’m afraid).


I’d say the news alerts (despite their US-tendency) are definitely worthy of consideration for anyone trying to keep up with events – if only because Yahoo’s index and news sources do differ from Google’s – as I found out a couple of months ago.


It never hurts to keep your options open, and take as broad a sweep of the net as possible.


The second (and possibly more important) thing I’ve been looking into today was inspired by this piece in Read Write Web from last week.  Here’s how it starts:


A rumor that’s been floating around the web lately is that Google will offer RSS feeds for new results in basic web search. Today Search Engine Land confirmed that Google will “soon” offer this functionality. Why is this big news? Because there’s no better way to keep track of new mentions of a company, person or concept online than through RSS.


Now while I wouldn’t normally blog about a rumour, I spotted something further down this story which definitely tipped the scales…


We hope that Google web search feeds will include “site:” searches for new mentions of keywords inside particular domains (Live and Yahoo do), and that they will deliver nice clean direct URLs – which feeds do but Yahoo search feeds do not.


<tea-hits-keyboard>  What’s this now?  Live and Yahoo do general web search RSS feeds?


Well, having had a little nose around, I’ve found out how you can take advantage of both – albeit they require a little faff.


A point worth underlining here – although it is possible to turn a search in Google Blogs or Google News into an RSS feed, both miss out a lot of sources that a general web-results-to-RSS service would provide. 


This approach also provides a means for searchers to keep up-to-date on sources which don’t even provide RSS (albeit there are ways of getting around this site by site).


So, here’s the directions for setting up Live search results as an RSS feed:


– run your web or news search on the MSN Search

– add the text ‘&format=rss’ to the url

– copy the full url into your RSS Reader.


…and here’s the directions (right down the bottom – see Yahoo! Search in the left-hand column) for setting up Yahoo search results as an RSS feed:


Yahoo! Search results from Web, Image and Video search can be saved as RSS feeds, but there are no My Yahoo or XML buttons with which to do so. You can subscribe to a search result feed by URL using the following patterns for web, image, and video search, respectively replacing keyword below with the keyword you want to search for: WebSearchService/rss/webSearch.xml? appid=yahoosearchwebrss& query=keyword ImageSearchService/rss/imageSearch.xml? appid=yahoosearchimagerss& query=keyword VideoSearchService/rss/videoSearch.xml? appid=ysearchblog&format=mpeg& query=keyword


Now to go about setting some up…


UPDATE: Google search results are now officially RSS-able, and Read Write Web have got the lowdown on how to do it.


There is, however, an important caveat with the new service, namely:

The feed will deliver any new links that show up in the top 20 search results for your query. That’s pretty limited, but most people don’t look beyond the first 20 results anyway. That means that this is good for high-level reputation tracking but not very good for discovery of new, more obscure pages of interest.

So it’ll be great for PR-type (trend-based) search queries, but not so good for exhaustive, investigative journalistic-type research. Shame, but still something worth persevering with…

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