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Information is power but today where you have access to all of human knowledge within a click, information can be paralyzing. How many times have you searched for something only to get back thousands of results that are not exactly what you are looking for.
Enter Google Advanced Search - The most powerful startup tool that most people don't even know exists. Not only can you return results that are razor sharp on what you are looking for you can also turn this tool into a powerful competitive intelligence tool. Some of the best features to use are setting the last updated date for the most recent information, or excluding certain words that might give non-relevant results.
PRO-TIP: For competitive research try searching a specific URL and return only results that are the file type: pdf, xls, doc, etc...
You might be surprised what information you can collect about your competitors. Take it to the next level and add a keyword like confidential to the search in combination with pdf. Lots of sales collateral is stored on company websites, especially older materials.
Remember, you are simply doing a google search, there is nothing illegal about this technique. Many companies use this tool and others like it to collect information about competitor activities.