Google Alerts ( http://www.google.com/alerts ) are a tool that is underutilized by most small business owners. Here are some ways to use them to monitor and grow your online presence:

1. Create a Google Alert for your name, your business name, etc.
Use this to find out what is being said about you and your company. Of course, if like me there are a few others with your name (or business name), you’ll get info about those folks too- but even that can be worth knowing about.

2. Are you trying to develop credibility in your field and want the opportunity to post relevant comments on other bloggers’ sites? Then create an alert with keywords that you might comment upon (use the BLOG setting on the alert configuration so you only get the blog posts that includes those words).

3. Do you need ideas for your own blog or social media content? Create alerts to keep you up-to-date so you can keep your readership and followers and clients informed of the latest and greatest in your field.

4. Do you want to know what your competition is doing? Create an alert with their company name.

I’m sure there are even more great ideas for using Google Alerts.

Here are some things that I’ve learned: Did you know that there’s another Lisa Cain with a Phd? And a folk-artist Lisa Cain, and a woman who is writing up food named Lisa Cain? And that there is a company in India called PagePoint that runs call centers (and used to be owned by Motorola).

What will YOU learn?

So, go do it now: http://www.google.com/alerts and set up at least one alert!