I’m an unabashed Google Reader fan. Reader is considered to be a best in class web-based feed reader. But it can be so much more than that. Here are a few ways that I use Reader other than tracking my favorite feeds.
Using the “Note in Reader” bookmarklet, I’m able to save any web page and organize it in Reader. Tags keep things tidy and I’m also able to add my own personal notes to remind myself why I saved it in the first place.
Because I’ve gathered all of my favorite authors and other sources of content in Reader, the search feature can be really useful. I have a lot of feeds and don’t get around to reading all of the posts. In fact I usually skim the headlines for interesting items and use the “mark all as read” button generously to keep things clean.
Using search, I can focus a query on my favorite sources of info rather than the whole web. For instance, I read a lot of tech blogs that post dozens of times a day. If I’m looking for a review on a new product or a commentary on a new website, I’ll use Reader’s search to get the info from sources I trust, and quickly.
Brand Monitoring and Sharing
After using a variety of tools to create persistent search feeds, I use Reader to collect and share interesting items. Irrelevant results are a part of persistent searches. Rather than trying to fine tune my queries too far, I add my own human filter to the rough results to make sure I’m keeping only the quality items.
Using Reader, I scan the headlines of the items that come through and open the ones that look interesting. If the item passes the my quality check I add a label, which puts it in the ‘keep’ pile. The rest go unlabeled and stay out of the way.
The result is an ultra-clean set of persistent search results. And because I’ve labeled them, I can share them with co-workers on a web page (manage subscriptions -> Folders and tags -> view public page), in a ten-foot display format (subscription menu -> View in Reader Play), or as a new RSS feed. For stubborn email users, I can use Feedburner to deliver those items by email too.
The team behind Google Reader has made great strides in this area lately. Because Google knows so much about you (which scares some people but doesn’t bother me much) it can make pretty good suggestions about what you’d like to see. Reader’s Explore bar gives you suggested posts and suggested sources of popular stuff related to your interests.
If you find that you’re sorting through too much clutter, you can try PostRank for Reader, which further filters suggestions by giving them a popularity score based on other users’ behavior. If you have a lot of feeds or if your feeds post frequently, it can be especially useful.
You can also try typing a topic into the ‘Add Subscription” box and find new feeds that way.
More Reader Ideas
Besides reading blogs, I also use Reader to:
-Watch for new Craigslist and eBay listings for things I’m interested in
-Find interesting things to share on Twitter
-Get notified when there are questions on Yahoo Answers that I could comment on
-Refresh my desktop wallpaper with the best photos on the web
-Monitor the occasional Woot Off (although Reader is usually too slow to catch the elusive BOC.)
Add to all this the fact that the regular feed browsing features are amazing too and it’s no wonder I’m in Reader most of my work day.
Staying on top of trends is a key to serving consumer markets. Companies that can identify trends and react are at a natural advantage.
With so many potential sources for information, it can be daunting to keep an eye on the things that matter. Use a combination of Google and Firefox to make it easier.
To start, get Firefox. Then get the excellent SEO for Firefox addon installed and set up the way you like it. The plugin adds useful information and links to search engine results pages like Google’s.
Once that is ready to go, head to http://www.google.com/insights/search. There, you can get information on the topics you’re interested in. If you’re looking to sell products in the U.S., you can filter the query to only apply to product searches in your geographic area. Submit your query and you’ll get a bunch of useful tidbits. The information we’re interested in is “rising searches,” located in toward the end of the right hand column.
The rising searches section shows the queries that have recently become more popular. They aren’t the most popular over all, they’ve just been moving up lately. If the results look like the kind of thing you’re interested in, click on the icon below to add it to your iGoogle homepage.
Adding the Insights for Search gadget effectively creates a persistent search query for any term that rising up the charts. You can fill one of your tabs with a bunch of variations on your search and create a trends dashboard. Google also makes it easy to jump off of the gadget to learn more about the emerging trend. Mouse over a term, then click the g icon to go to a SERP. From there, SEO for Firefox takes over.
Instead of the regular results page, you’ll get a truck load of enhanced features that are great for research. You can see the sites that are already ranking for that term, along with their estimated traffic and number of backlinks. If the sites look weak, you could consider creating content to compete with the sites and capitalize on the emerging topic at hand.
Underneath the query box, you’ll also see other research tools. You can quickly see how much it would cost to compete with PPC ads for the term and about how often the term is searched each month.
All of these tools are already available, but the Google/Firefox combo makes the task easy enough to keep an eye on things each day.
While there are several sources for content when setting up persistent search queries, nothing is as comprehensive as google. They don’t offer RSS feeds out of the box but getting a feed from those results is still possible.
Feed43 is a nice application that turns static pages into feeds. The tools they offer to define what content that you want set it apart from other services like feedity and page2rss.
To subscribe to search results, start by creating your query at Google. Go to advanced search options and restrict the search to pages updated in the last 24 hours to get the most dynamic RSS results. You can also set the number of results to return to 80 (if you set it to 100, Feed43’s service tends to choke.)
Once you’ve got a query that you like, copy the URL of the results page. It should look something like this:
Now jump back over to feed43 and start a new feed. Paste the google URL into the address field and press ‘load.’
For Step 2, you’ll define what feed43 should consider an item.
My settings are:
Global Search Pattern:
Item Search Pattern:
That seems to do the trick for me. Press ‘extract.’
In Step 3, you can name your feed and decide how it should be displayed.
Item Title Template:
Item Link Template: blank
Item Content Template:
Try the preview button. If everything looks good, you’re done. You can now subscribe to your feed in your favorite RSS reader.
Because Google’s reach is so broad, the results of this feed tend to be very noisy. Save this option for very specific queries and use filtering tools to fine tune your feed.
By the way, you can also use this trick to subscribe to results from a Custom Search Engine. CSEs don’t offer advanced search options by default but you can simply manipulate the results URL to get the same effect. After you’ve set up your Custom Search Engine, add &num=80&as_qdr=d to the results URL to restrict them to the past 24 hours and to list up to 80 results.
Setting up a listening post is one of the best uses of RSS that I can think of. Here is a slide deck reviewing some of the tools available for creating persistent search queries.
Some helpful links for taking persistent search to the next level:
Google Custom Search
RSS from Google Custom Search
Create a feed that searches the top ten social networks
Create a feed that searches blogs, boards and twitter
Tool for creating RSS from static pages