NOTE: This post is not about Google’s “Dashboard” account management feature.
The Web is awash in information—too much, maybe, and you won’t be interested in most of it. But you can leverage that information to track useful topics, blogs, newsfeeds, social media discussions—even information about your book sales and people visiting your website. Wouldn’t it be nice to have all that information in one place, where you could easily monitor it and scan for critical information? I’m going to show you how to do that, for free, using iGoogle.
iGoogle is a free web “home page” provided by Google. iGoogle uses “gadgets” to display useful information on your iGoogle page, like weather, news, quotations, and hundreds of other subjects. But the real power of iGoogle is in creating your own gadgets, and it’s easy to do. That’s what we’re going to do here—create a basic “dashboard” of these gadgets to track and collect useful information.
I’m going to show you a recommended setup that includes basic information—but there are hundreds of other options and configurations. Afterward, you can choose a visual theme, add different gadgets and custom pages, and more. After you’ve tried it out, visit the iGoogle help page here to learn how to do even more.
1: Get a Google account (if you don’t have one)
If you’ve already got a Google account you’d like to use for your dashboard, you can skip this step.
2: Log in (if necessary)
Visit http://www.igoogle.com and log in.
3. Delete any default gadgets you don’t want on your start page
If you want the weather and news, fine; otherwise, delete them. You can re-add these (and other) gadgets at any time.
4: Add Alerts
Google Alerts are a simple, powerful way to track who’s looking for information about you and your writing. At a minimum, I recommend you create alerts for your author name, book titles, and website.
- Visit http://www.google.com/alerts, and log in (if you aren’t already).
- Enter a keyword or phrase in the Search Query box. As you type, Google displays sample results on the right side of the screen.
- Leave the Result type, How often, and How many fields unchanged.
- Click the drop-down list arrow next to Deliver to, and select Feed.
- Click Create Alert.
- You’ll now see a list of alerts you’ve created (only one if this is your first use). Right-click the feed icon in the Deliver to column, and copy the link.
- Return to you iGoogle page, and click the Add Gadgets button at the upper left.
- Click the Add Feed or Gadget link at the lower left, replace what’s in the box with the link you just copied, then click Add.
Your new alert is now displayed on your iGoogle start page as a gadget. You can repeat this process for any other alerts you want to add; each alert will appear as a separate gadget on your start page.
5: Add Gmail
To add your Gmail inbox alerts to iGoogle, visit this link and click the Add Gmail to iGoogle button.
6: Add your RSS feeds
- If you manage your RSS feeds via Google Reader, visit this link and then click Add it Now button below the gadget description.
- To add any RSS feed to your iGoogle start page: visit your iGoogle page, click Add Gadgets in the upper right, then click Add Feed or Gadget in the lower left, then enter a feed URL (for example, http://www.techsavvywriter.com/feed), then click Add.
7: Add your Twitter feed
You’ll find several popular, ready to use gadgets for Twitter. I like TwitterGadget, because of its customizability. To add it, just click Add Gadget, search for TwitterGadget, then click Add. Be sure to customize the gadget on the start page to suit your preferences.
8: Add Google Analytics
To add Google Analytics, visit this link and click Add. If you want to create a new Google Analytics account, visit this link. If you don’t know what Google Analytics is, visit this link. If you have an author website, I strongly recommend learning to use this tool.
I’ve just shown you the tip of the iGoogle iceberg. Here are a few next steps you might want to try:
- Create tabs: create additional “tabs” to organize things by topic or task. Each tab is really a separate, customizable page. To create a new one, click the drop-down arrow next to the Home tab on the left, and select Add a Tab. Your new tab will appear in the list below Home, and you can drag and drop gadgets to the new tab (just click and hold the title bar of a gadget, then drag it to the tab name).
- Organize your gadgets: To move gadgets around on the page is easy: just click and hold the title bar of a gadget, and drag it to a new location.
- Try a different layout: I use a three-column layout, but you might prefer something different. To try other layouts, click the setting icon in the far upper right (next to your user name) and select iGoogle Settings. Scroll down a bit and look at the Layout options—you can choose from zero to 4 columns. Try at least one or two new ones to see how they work for you.
- Try a different theme: Click the Change Theme button in the upper right of the iGoogle page. There are hundreds of visual themes to choose from, or you can create your own.
- BONUS: Make a custom Twitter search an RSS feed: Want to see only tweets that contain certain key words? Following Step 6 above, just enter the following feed URL, replacing the “self+publishing” part with whatever you want to monitor on Twitter: http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=self+publishing. Be sure to put a plus sign (+) between multiple words.
Was this post useful? It’s an excerpt from my new little book titled The Tech-Savvy Writer: 10 Strategies to Start Making Technology Work for You, available on Amazon for all of $2.99.