Competitive intelligence can be a critical element in the search marketer’s toolkit, according to one analyst.

Writing in Search Engine Land’s PPC Academy column, Josh Dreller said that there are two basic types of platforms that can provide essential insights for pay per click marketing.

The first tracks the use of millions of keywords by different websites. Many of these applications will allow marketers to search for a particular site and display the phrases it uses, as well as letting them type in a keyword and showing the pages that are competing for it.

Alternatively, there are intelligence tools that gather information, with permission, on the habits of actual web users in a similar way to agencies that compile TV audience ratings.

These services examine the sites visited by participants, their online shopping habits and the phrases they use in search engines.

Mr Dreller said that this creates a more detailed picture of how a target audience engages with a brand on the internet.

"Competitive intelligence tools are crucial to have in your search engine marketing toolbox," he added.

According to research by Econsultancy and ExactTarget, 66 per cent of marketing professionals plan to increase their spending on social media, mobile ads and search engine marketing this year.

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