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Google Reader boosts online research efficiency for businesses

Challenge: The Internet is growing exponentially, but your waking hours are not. How do you keep up to date on all the latest online information?

Solution: Google Reader at www.google.com/reader is one of your best bets. Sign up for a free Google account at www.google.com/accounts and look for the "reader" link in the "my products" section. Click through and let your online discovery adventure begin. The application allows you to track websites using RSS (real simple syndication) – a web feed that automatically alerts you when an online property is updated.

How Google Reader can help your business: The tool will save you countless hours of searching. Instead of visiting all your favourite websites individually, you can now sit back and use the tool to deliver all the information to you. Google Reader aggregates all the updates from websites you choose into a single-page web dashboard. The app shows the latest stream of updates for each website you're tracking. Reader displays the first paragraph of the update and you click the text to read more. You can "star" the item – clicking a star icon next to the update – to remind yourself to read the update later. If you want to share the information, you can instantly forward a copy of the update by email. You also have the option of posting a copy of the update on your Google profile page at www.google.com/profiles (everyone with a Google account gets his or her own free Google profile page) and include your comments. Sharing and posting online information has never been easier.

Usage tips: Look for the RSS logo – an orange icon with the white dot and quarter circles – whenever you discover an informative blog or website you want to track. Click the logo, follow the prompts and reader will instantly connect to that RSS feed. For those who want to track Facebook and Twitter postings, Google Reader is probably the most underrated social media aggregation tool on the web today. Use the app to monitor all your favourite Twitter accounts, Facebook fan pages, LinkedIn answers, YouTube channels, Craigslist sections and Flickr tags in one place. To keep tabs on webpages with no RSS feed, use Page2RSS at www.page2rss.com. The free service checks any website for updates and delivers them to Reader.

Bottom line: While you need to be selective in how many and what feeds you subscribe to – otherwise you'll be overwhelmed with updates – Google Reader offers you huge time savings. The tool will make you exponentially more efficient in your online discovery, allow you to aggregate online information in one place and research the Internet without the hassle of web surfing or the clutter of email.

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