Mining the Internet for All It's Worth

Companies used to pay a considerable amount of cash to research services to find and aggregate information of various sorts. While much of this information is available on the Internet, it takes some effort and specialized skills to be able to locate it.

Search Strategy

The author compares search engines with directories, indicating the value of each, search sites that aggregate the data from several different search engines, and other online resources.

He also offers tips about conducting online searches - choosing keywords carefully, suing quotes and Boolean operators, and searching within search results to focus results - all of this is common knowledge anymore.

Filtering Agents

There are also a number of online services that can fetch news on a regular basis and bring it to your attention. He mentions some sites that are now defunct, and doesn't go into much depth.

Sweet Spots for Information

There are a number of databases online whose content isn't accessible to search engines - some of them are freely available, some charge a fee for access. You may need to do some digging to find ones specific to your industry and interests, but it's generally worthwhile.

In addition to databases, there are special-interest sites for various industries and disciplines that provide a wealth of information of highly focused topics.

Soliciting Customer Input on the Net

In addition to searching for secondary information, you can also use the Internet to gather customer intelligence.

You can data-mine various public forums where people are discussing your company with others. This often produces valuable results that are more accurate than "laboratory" tests.

It's also possible to conduct online services, by yourself or through a third-party service, using detailed questionnaires or single "poll" questions to gather data.