1) You select whether you want Google to search News articles, blogs, the web, video, Google Groups, or a "comprehensive" search.
2) Then you select how often you want an email sent to your email address.
3) Then you indicate the email address in the field: "Deliver to." If you are signed in to a Google account, it will default to that gmail account. But a gmail account isn't required.
It's tempting to think your work is done for you, and Google Alerts will now prevent you from missing anything important. But if you stop doing the manual searches, you may very easily miss important items.
According to the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) this is what Google Alerts does for each setting (emphasis mine):
- A 'News' alert is an email aggregate of the latest news articles that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top ten results of your Google News search.
- A 'Web' alert is an email aggregate of the latest web pages that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top twenty results of your Google Web search.
- A 'Blogs' alert is an email aggregate of the latest blog posts that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top ten results of your Google Blog search.
- A 'Comprehensive' alert is an aggregate of the latest results from multiple sources (News, Web and Blogs) into a single email to provide maximum coverage on the topic of your choice.
- A 'Video' alert is an email aggregate of the latest videos that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top ten results of your Google Video search.
- A 'Groups' alert is an email aggregate of new posts that contain the search terms of your choice and appear in the top fifty results of your Google Groups search.
1) How often when conducting your Google Search do you find the treasure on the second, third, or a later page?
It probably depends upon how specific your search terms are. If, for example, you have provided the specific name of a particular ancestor, you might not miss much, unless the full name is common. If you entered a surname, you're likely going to be missing some results, especially if you maintain a family website, or blog, since hits on your own site might legitimately monopolize the top results.
2) Comprehensive is 'comprehensive' for News, Web, and Blog alerts. It won't capture the results from Google Video or Google Groups alerts.
3) Google Books results are now appearing in Google web searches. However, only for "full view" and "limited preview." Searching Google Books directly will yield results in the categories of "Snippet View" and "No Preview Available". The publishers of these books haven't given Google permission to show you a preview, but have allowed the books to be scanned in. You often have to track down these books in a library to see what the text says, but Google Books does provide the source information, including the page number where your search terms appeared.
Google Alerts is useful if your search is very specific (of course, the more specific you get, the more likely that you might be missing something because you are too specific.) Google Alerts is also useful if you are only interested in the "top results" for a broader search. But you need to be aware that Google Alerts isn't a catch-all system.