Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tools To Do Intel Analysis (Original Research)

In my Advanced Analytic Techniques class this term, we have been taking a quick look at a number of different intel analysis methods (with the results posted on our ADVAT blog) but we have also been examining some methods in a bit more detail.

One of the more interesting experiments was Jeff Welgan's attempt to do competitive intelligence analysis using free, online search engine optimization tools. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), for those of you new to the term, is basically about trying to make your website, blog, etc. easier to find.

Jeff noticed that there are many, many tools to help people do this on the cheap. His thought was that you could use these tools not to aid your own efforts but rather to gather data about a competitor company, organization or even a terrorist group through their web presence. This, in turn, might allow an analyst to gain insight into their strategies and, possibly, their next moves.

For his purposes, he focused on two competitors, Starbucks and Caribou Coffee for his case study. His site, however contains a good bit more data, however. He has included basic background material on SEO, a list of operational definitions, a fairly comprehensive list of online tools, and a concise section on how-to use these tools as an intelligence method.

I think Jeff would be the first to admit that relying on SEO analysis exclusively is kind of like relying on HUMINT exclusively when you have SIGINT and IMINT as well. That said, this approach certainly has the potential to add a rich, structured source of data to bounce off the anecdotal and unstructured stuff that makes up most of what is available to the intel analyst.
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