Google Alerts back in the day was a great service and while it is still available today, I have the feeling that it does not work that well anymore.
So what does it do? You can create alerts for any phrase, think Windows Blue, Ghacks or your full name, to receive alerts whenever a new item is discovered by Google's search engine. Alerts can be delivered to an email account or to an RSS reader as RSS feeds.
I have been using Google Alerts for a long time and the main impression that I have about the feature is that it is finding less information than before, and that it may share the fate of Google Reader eventually.
Ken Saunders informed me about a new service called Talkwalker Alerts that mimics Google's service in any way imaginable. If you ever created a Google Alert you will find the create form on the Talkwalker Alerts website look familiar to you as it resembles Google's form.
You do need to enter a search query, that is the phrase you are interested in receiving updates for, and an email address. The remaining fields are optional but let you narrow down the results to a certain language, type of platform they have been published on, and also define how often and when you will be able to retrieve the information.
You need to confirm your email address on first use but can use the service freely from that moment on. The manage interface displays all search queries that you have created in a similar manner as Google Alerts.
Here you can turn email deliver on or off, and access the RSS feeds the system creates for you. To subscribe to the feeds hover over an RSS icon at the left side of a query, right-click it and select to copy the link. If your feed reader is linked to the browser, left-clicking will do as well.
You can create new alerts here or delete existing ones. The import option at the top can be used to import a CSV file with alerts which you can do on the Google Alerts website for the feeds you are interested in. That's excellent to run both services side by side for a while to see which is better suited in keeping you in the loop.
Talkwalker Alerts supports several kinds of search queries which may come in handy to customize the results further. While you can simply enter a keyword or phrase and be done with it, you can combine it with advanced search parameters that Google Search supports. From using Boolean operators such as AND or OR, over the use of quotes and wildcard searches to a proximity search option.
No service is perfect on the other hand and it is likely that you will still miss out on new items. The advantage that the new service has over Google Alerts, besides being more active to begin with, is that it is also more likely that its developers will update it regularly to improve it further, something that Google does not seem to have done for years.