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Competitive intelligence isn’t spying on your competition. Many forms of espionage are actually illegal. You can’t, for instance, steal trade secrets. But you can use market analysis tools and other (legal) tools to analyze and compare yourself to your competition in order to make yourself more competitive. But how do you do that online?

The first step to real competitive intelligence is keyword research. Don’t just look for the best keywords for your business. Spend a little time analyzing your competition and see what keywords they are using. In some ways, competitive intelligence on the Internet is easier than in the real world.

But don’t just stop at obtaining a list of competitive keywords. You should also analyze those keywords to see if they are good fits for you. Just because your competition uses certain keywords doesn’t mean that you should. Maybe you can find better keywords for your business.

Competitive analysis also involves a careful study of other ranking factors such as link analysis, PageRank, search engine saturation, social media optimization, and social proof. All of these factors can give you an idea about where your competition stands in the marketplace. They can also give you an idea of what you need to do to be more competitive.

Once you gather all the information about your competitors then you need to analyze it and that’s the hardest part. What does your data mean? Just because a competitor appears to be beating you at search engine marketing, SEO, or another aspect of Internet marketing doesn’t mean that they are beating you where it counts. If you can get sales information and other marketing data on your competition then that will help too.

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