Here, we'll discuss some of the most common problems with finding sweepstakes wins with Google Alerts, and how to create great searches that help you find exactly what you want, without being overwhelmed by false results.
Other People With My First or Last Name Keep Showing Up in My Results
The Solution: If you enclose a search term in quotation marks, you will receive results ONLY from pages where that exact phrase is found. So if you're having that problem with your Google Alerts results, simply enter your name as "john gold."
My Name is Too Common
The Solution: Use the plus sign in your search to add words that will add context to your search. For example, you could set up the following searches:
- "john smith" +sweepstakes
- "john smith" +win
- "john smith" +prize
A Celebrity Shares My Name
The Solution: Use the minus symbol to tell Google that you don't want to see pages including that term. So if you are getting results from a popular person with your name exclude terms that usually refer to them. For example, try these searches:
- "wentworth miller" -"prison break"
- "wentworth miller" -"michael scoffield"
The Sweepstakes Sponsor Doesn't List Full Names on the Winners Page
The Solution: Create some searches for other common ways that sponsors use to identify you. This could include your first and last name, your sweepstakes email address, and the first part of your sweepstakes email address (before the @ symbol). For example, these are a few searches that I could add:
- "sandra g."
My Name is Still Too Common
The Solution: Instead of searching for your name, try using another piece of information like your street address (or email address, as shown above). While there could be many people in the world with your name, not many will have the exact same address as you do. Just be sure to spell your address in the Google Alert the same way as you do for your sweepstakes forms (i.e., don't search for 123 Main Street if you use 123 Main St. to enter sweeps).
I Can't Keep Up with My Google Alerts!
The Solution: Change the frequency of your Google Alerts. You can choose between "As It Happens" (which will send the most emails), "Once a Day," and "Once a Week." It's much easier to skim over a single email with a lot of results to see if any are relevant than to open a whole lot of emails, each with a single result. You can set a different frequency for each of your Google Alerts. I use the "Once a Day" option with my heavy-volume results, but if that's still too much to look through, pick the Once a Week option.