Market Research on the Web – Top 10 Tips

Information professionals from the commercial sector, universities and government agencies attended the workshop Market Research on the Web, held at Manchester Business School on September 6th. A regular feature of the courses that I run is the Top 10 tips, sites and tricks that I ask the participants to compile at the end of the day. This time, they came up with an interesting mix of sites and search techniques.

  1. Use search tools’ Advanced Search screens and commands to help refine your search.For example restrict your search to PDFs for large reports, XLS for spreadsheets containing data. Use the site: option to limit your search to types of organisations or an individual site, for example for UK government sites or to search just the UK national statistics web site.

    Use the link commands to find pages that link to a document that you already have and which is highly relevant (pages that link to one another tend to have similar content). Use the Yahoo link command to find pages that link to a specific page (syntax – link: or the linkdomain command to find pages that link to any page on a site (syntax –

  2. Use the Google define: command to locate definitions of acronyms, abbreviations and jargon terms, for example define:cpm. Alternatively, in any search tool use the search ‘what is….’, for example what is cpm.
  3. – for quick overviews on topics. [Note: this site was not covered in the course but several of the participants mentioned it as one of their starting points on subjects that are new to them]
  4. – a guide to business information companies, publishers and databases. The Alacra Industry Spotlights in particular are extremely useful in providing reviews and commentary on industry specific web sites that have statistics, market research and news. Invaluable if you need to get up to speed on key resources in a sector or industry.
  5. Make sure that you are using the right keywords and jargon related to the industry that you are researching. These can also vary from country to country, for example clothes washers versus washing machines. Also be aware that different directories use different coding systems and categorisations, and that there are different national official coding systems.
  6. Fita: Import Export Business & International Trade Good starting point for country and industry specific directories, market research sites, general information on trading in other countries and cultural differences in doing business.
  7. Bureau van Dijk Free – click on the Free Directory link. This can be a useful way of identifying companies active in a sector in a country or region. You can also limit your search to size of company (for example large, medium, small, very small). Free Information includes name of the company, town, country and official registration number. Results can be exported in a variety of formats.
  8. Use the free executive summaries and tables of contents provided by market research publishers for keywords and to identify major players in a market.
  9. For smaller companies export directories often provide more free information than the official company registries. Information may include names of sales, marketing, export directors; key export markets and the products involved; turnover band; employees band. Search on the phrase export directory combined with a country and/or industry sector. Also try for directories or for searchable mailing lists including exporters/importers.
  10. Try social bookmarking services, for example , to see what other people have identified as relevant in a particular area and to set up your own list of useful resources. The service is hosted on an external web site so you do not have to be at your own computer or at work to access your lists. Lists can be kept private, shared between colleagues or made completely public. [A participant on this course explained how her organisation uses FURL to share resources on topics between different groups and departments.]