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[This article is originally published in bloggingwizard.com By David Hartshorne - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Joshua Simon]  - 

Are you looking for an all-in-one solution to manage your social media presence?

Perhaps you need a smarter way to manage multiple profiles and networks? Or maybe you need to improve team collaboration?

Whatever your situation, managing social media requires the right strategy and the right tools.

And while there are thousands of social media tools, not all of them can be classed as management tools. For instance, Buffer is great for scheduling, but it doesn’t manage network engagement.

This post focuses on social media management tools that include these three key elements:

  • Engagement – A single dashboard where you can monitor all your social network messages and engage with your audience
  • Scheduling – A system of scheduling and recycling your content to each social network
  • Reporting – A method of analyzing and reporting how your content performs on each network

These tools offer other features as well, like running social contests, but that’s not in our scope. However, we have included information on the pricing structure and the number of networks covered by each platform.

Let’s get started.

1. Sendible

sendible Social Media Management Tools BW

Sendible makes it easy to engage with your audience, monitor your brand and track results from one dashboard.

Note

This is the best all-round social media management tool we’ve tried – it’s currently what we use here at Blogging Wizard.

Engagement

The Priority Inbox brings all your social messages from multiple networks and profiles into a single stream. From there you can identify important messages and take action. Only the unanswered messages remain in the inbox.

Scheduling

Sendible lets you schedule your content either individually or in bulk. Everything is stored in the interactive calendar, so if anything needs adjusting you can drag-and-drop the content accordingly. Once you discover your best-performing content, you can recycle it with repeating schedules.

Sendible also takes care of content curation. The content recommendation engine analyzes posts already shared on social media and suggests the best content most likely to generate high follower engagement.

There’s also an RSS Auto Posting feature so you can publish relevant quality content to social networks at regular intervals throughout the day from your blog and other favorites.

Reporting

Sendible has a range of pre-designed templates to help you create in-depth social media reports for your clients and team members. The ready-to-go social media reports provide an instant snapshot of your social activity. Alternatively, you can create your own report by choosing from over 250 modules. Once your reports are looking good, you can arrange to send them via email on a regular basis.

Networks

With Sendible you can connect to most social networks including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube and more. On the advanced plan, you can even publish directly to WordPress, Blogger, and Tumblr.

Pricing

Sendible offers a range of subscription plans based on the number of users and services that you want. They also offer a fully-customizable, white-label solution for larger teams and agencies. If you’re not sure what you’ll need, you can start with a 30-day free trial and then upgrade or downgrade as required.

  • Prices start from $29/month or $288/year (basic plan offers scheduling with re-queue functionality and a complete social inbox)

Get a 30-day free trial of Sendible Read Review

2. AgoraPulse

Agorapulse Social Media Management Tools BW

AgoraPulse is an easy and affordable social media management tool for teams and agencies.

Engagement

The social inbox is set up just like your email inbox so you can see what’s been reviewed and what needs your attention. AgoraPulse combines all your content in one place for all your profiles so you can reply, review, assign or tag. Check them off one-by-one, and your inbox will be clear.

You can take things one step further by setting up automated moderation rules to capture spam and assign questions to the right colleague.

Scheduling

AgoraPulse lets you schedule your content in advance with a pre-selected the date and time. Or you can program your posts to run once every hour/day/week/month. You can also take advantage of the queue function to share your evergreen content again and again.

Reporting

The detailed performance reports in AgoraPulse can save you loads of time compared to checking each social media account.

You can measure reach, engagement, response rate, conversation rate, community growth, and customer service. Plus you have the option to select your reporting date range; for example, last 30 days, last week, etc.

You can view your reports on-screen or download them to PowerPoint. And if you have clients you can add custom branding with the white-label option.

Networks

AgoraPulse works with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Pricing

AgoraPulse has a range of subscription plans for individuals and teams. Each plan can be customized by adding additional users or profiles rather than forcing you to pay for users and features you don’t need.

  • Prices start from $49/month or $468/year

Get a 14-day free trial of AgoraPulse

3. eClincher

eClincher Homepage Banner Social Media Management Tools BW

eClincher lets you manage multiple social media accounts, pages, and groups with one intuitive tool. It’s perfect for social media managers, businesses, marketing professionals, teams, and agencies.

Engagement

The Unified Social Inbox from eClincher collects all your social media messages and notifications in one place, so you can respond, thank, follow, or engage with your audience.

As soon as you log into eClincher, you’ll see how many pending notifications you have. Once you’ve answered a message, it disappears from your list so you can focus on the remaining messages.

If you prefer to monitor your social media activities in real-time, then the Live Social Feeds is for you. Inside you can see each of your connected social media profiles, pages, and groups. And from there you can like, comment, and reply, in one place rather than visiting each native platform.

Scheduling

eClincher gives you the ability to plan and schedule your posts, tweets, and pins to multiple social media accounts, profiles, groups, and pages. You can view the schedule as a smart calendar or standard list format.

If your scheduled post includes a URL, then eClincher automatically shortens it using the Google (goo.gl) shortener. There’s also a built-in image editor and integration with Canva to ensure your social imagery is eye-catching.

The Auto Post feature from eClincher lets you recycle your content via three types of queue:

  • Recycle Queue – Recycle your evergreen content
  • One-time Queue – Publish your posts once
  • End-date Queue – Recycle your queue content until a specified end date (great for campaigns).

As Neal Schaefer says:

It’s a killer feature for companies who have lots of evergreen content and want to share it on a periodic basis across a wide variety of social networks.

Reporting

eClincher combines the power of Google Analytics with its Social Analytics module in one dashboard so you can see how your social media activities impact your website traffic.

You can view and analyze the real-time performance of posts on your Facebook pages, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. Plus you can analyze follower trends and brand mentions.

The customizable dashboard lets you drag-and-drop the reports and graphs so you can see the most important data. You also have the option to generate PDF reports from the dashboard. And agencies can take advantage of the white-label option to add company logos.

Networks

eClincher connects to Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, and Blogger.

Pricing

eClincher has a broad range of subscription plans for individuals, teams, and agencies. There’s a 20% discount if you choose to pay yearly, and you can start with a 14-day free trial.

  • Prices start from $49/month

Get a 14-day free trial of eClincher

4. Hootsuite

Hootsuite Social Media Management Tools

The Hootsuite platform offers you the tools to manage all your social profiles from a single dashboard and automatically find and schedule effective social content.

Engagement

Hootsuite uses multiple Streams rather than an ‘inbox’ to manage engagement. You can set up streams for each social network to monitor its content. And you can use tabs to organize your streams into groups. In effect, you create your own dashboard. If you’re working in teams, you can assign posts to the right person, department, or region.

Scheduling

With Hootsuite’s Auto Scheduling you can maintain a 24/7 presence on social media. Once you have a content schedule, it’s easy to add new posts to fill the gaps. For instance, you can use the Hootlet extension to schedule posts as you surf the net. Or you can upload your content in bulk via a CSV file.

However you choose to add your content, you can always see your schedule at a glance either in a list or a calendar with daily, weekly or monthly views.

Reporting

Hootsuite comes with a default report showing your key metrics on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can take this to the next level by building customized dashboards or using templates to check on engagement.

Hootsuite lets you export your reports in a variety of formats including Excel, PowerPoint, PDF, and CSV. And for those of you managing teams, you can track their response and resolution performance on Facebook and Twitter.

Networks

Hootsuite connects with over 35 popular social networks including Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.

Pricing

Hootsuite has a range of subscription plans designed around the number of users and social profiles you want to connect. They also have a Limited Free Plan that’s designed for one user and includes Message Scheduling for three social profiles.

  • Prices start from $29/month or $228/year

Get Hootsuite

5. Sprout Social

sprout social Social Media Management Tools

Sprout Social is a leading social media management platform that provides engagement, publishing, analytics, and collaboration tools for teams of all sizes.

Engagement

Sprout Social has a Single Stream Inbox where you can manage all your messages in one place. You can manually mark completed messages and hide them from the inbox so that you remain focused on the current workload.

For teams, there’s the option to add custom tags to categorize messages, filter the inbox and share the workload. You can also see live activity updates in the inbox when a teammate is viewing or replying to a message, so there’s no chance of duplicating tasks.

Scheduling

Sprout Social allows you to schedule, queue and publish messages to each social network from their web app, browser extension, and mobile apps. Sprout’s ViralPost tool determines the best times to post your messages so you can maximize engagement.

The user-based publishing permissions let you set up team members to draft and submit messages, and then have team leaders or managers approve them. Using the shared content calendar you can view and manage social posts across multiple profiles, networks, and campaigns.

Reporting

Sprout Social provides an in-depth suite of analytics and reporting tools.

Their integrated network analytics allow you to view network, profile and message-level insights for Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Sprout Social also tracks your team performance so you can measure overall and individual members’ responsiveness and engagement.

Distributing information to clients or management is straightforward with the presentation-ready reports that can be custom-branded and exported in CSV or PDF format.

Networks

Sprout Social integrates with Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Pricing

Sprout Social has four monthly subscription plans. Each plan rises in price according to the number of features. And on top of that, you pay for how many users you need. For example, if you required 4 users on the $99 Premium Plan it would cost $396 per month.

All plans include a 30-day free trial, and there’s a 10% discount if you prefer to pay annually.

  • Prices start from $59 per user/month or $637 per user/year

Get a 30-day free trial of Sprout Social

6. MavSocial

mavsocial Social Media Management Tools

MavSocial is a Social Media Management platform with a focus on visuals.

Engagement

MavSocial lets you engage with your audience across all your social networks from one convenient inbox. From its Social Inbox you can:

  • Track and monitor social conversations, messages, and notifications
  • Allocate team members to individual messages
  • View follower replies and comments by network or profile
  • Search, sort, and tag interactions
  • Post a reply, like, or retweet directly

Visuals are an important part of social media engagement. The MavSocial Digital Library lets you upload and manage your photos and videos, plus anything you purchase from their Stock Images Store.

There’s even a built-in photo editing tool where you can add filters and text overlays before posting your content.

Scheduling

With MavSocial you schedule your content through campaigns. You can create campaigns across one or many networks and view your schedule in the calendar. From there you can drag-and-drop content to change the publishing dates and times if needed.

You can reschedule your content by creating cyclical campaigns. For example, you could have campaigns for blog posts, quotes, promotions, and events. Either add your content once and let it repeat cyclically or create variations by modifying it.

MavSocial includes an RSS reader, so you can pull in your content as well as other favorite industry content, giving you ideas of what to schedule. And if you find something while browsing the net you can use the handy Chrome extension to add that into the calendar, too.

Reporting

MavSocial’s built-in social analytics lets you track the performance of your social content. The Reporting Dashboard displays visual data for engagement statistics, detailed follower insights, your top-performing posts, plus the best times for posting.

You have the option to export the graphical reports via PDF or download the data in CSV format. You can run the reports based on time, campaign, network, or individual post, so you know what’s working.

Networks

MavSocial supports Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, and Tumblr.

Pricing

MavSocial has several pricing plans starting with a free limited plan. The premium plan prices for professionals and agencies use features plus the number of social profiles and users, with the option to buy additional users if required.

  • Prices start from $19 per month

Get a 14-day free trial of MavSocial

7. TweetDeck

tweetdeck Social Media Management Tools

TweetDeck is a favorite Twitter management tool that was acquired by Twitter in 2011. It offers a more convenient Twitter experience by letting you view multiple accounts in one interface.

Engagement

Twitter describes TweetDeck as “the most powerful Twitter tool for real-time tracking, organizing, and engagement.”

It makes it easier to engage with your audience by using a series of customizable columns rather than a single Twitter timeline.

You can add columns that show all your mentions, direct messages, lists, trends, favorites, search results, or hashtags. Each column can be filtered to include or exclude words or tweets from users.

Scheduling

TweetDeck allows users to tweet messages immediately or schedule them for later delivery. If you manage multiple accounts through TweetDeck, you have the option to schedule Tweets for each of them.

You can make changes to a scheduled Tweet before it’s published, and you can also add images and GIFs to your message.

Reporting

TweetDeck doesn’t have any analytics and reporting, although Twitter is proposing to add that feature to a future premium version:

The premium tool set will provide valuable viewing, posting and signalling tools like alerts, trends and activity analysis, advanced analytics, and composing and posting tools all in one customizable dashboard.

Meanwhile, you can use the built-in Twitter analytics to track your performance.

The Home tab provides an overview of your activity featuring your Top Tweet, Top Mention, and your Top Follower.

On the Tweets tab, you can find metrics for every single one of your Tweets. You can see the number of Impressions, Engagements, and Engagement rate for each tweet.

The Audiences tab lets you track your follower growth over time and learn more about your their interests and demographics.

Networks

TweetDeck only supports Twitter.

Pricing

TweetDeck is a free tool and is available as a web app, Chrome extension or Mac app.

Get TweetDeck

8. Tailwind

tailwindapp Social Media Management Tools

Tailwind is a social media marketing toolkit for Pinterest and Instagram. It’s perfect for bloggers, small businesses, agencies, and large enterprises.

Engagement

Engagement on Pinterest is slightly different compared to Twitter and Facebook. People don’t comment as much, and Repins are more of an engagement signal.

To boost Pinterest engagement, Tailwind introduced its Tribes feature. (Note: It’s still in beta.)

Tribe lets you meet and grow with other marketers in your niche. You add your own content to a Tribe, and your tribe mates view, schedule, and share your content with their own audience. And as it’s a Tribe, you share the other content too. It’s a win-win.

Here’s what Social Media Manager, Andrea Jones, told me:

For Tailwind, I’ve found using tribes has slightly increased my repins. Overall, comments and replies are on a rapid decline on Pinterest. Community engagement on that platform mostly relies on repins.

Scheduling

Tailwind is packed with powerful features and shortcuts to help you schedule pins and posts each day.

Tailwind’s Smart Queue helps you pin and post at the best times, so your audience gets content when they’re looking for it. To start with, Tailwind recommends the best time when it knows people are active. But over time it evaluates the optimal time based on your history and audience engagement.

You can populate your schedule days or weeks in advance, by adding content in bulk from your desktop or mobile device. Tailwind also tracks your best performing content so you can reuse it again.

Reporting

Tailwind lets you track key performance indicators to evaluate if your marketing strategy is working. For Pinterest, you can measure followers, engagement trends, and virality by pin, board or category. (For Instagram, you can find influential followers and connect with them to broaden your reach.)

Tailwind also keeps you informed of progress with customizable reports and notifications via email.

Networks

Tailwind works for Pinterest and Instagram.

Pricing

Tailwind is priced per account, so if you want to use it for both Pinterest and Instagram, then you’d need two accounts. You can get a 33% discount plus unlimited scheduling if you purchase the annual plan. But there’s a free trial of 100 pins on Pinterest and 30 posts on Instagram to get you started.

  • Prices from $15/month per account or $119/year per account

Get Tailwind

Read our full review of Tailwind.

Conclusion

Each of the social media management tools reviewed here has its pros and cons. And there’s one thing for sure: what suits one person, won’t suit another.

Some people like the idea of an inbox to monitor and manage conversations, while others prefer multiple streams.

Some tools are better suited for teams and agencies, while others are ideal for solopreneurs and small businesses.

It’s important you choose the right tool for your situation and budget. And in some cases, that might mean not using any of these tools at all, even if it’s free. I’ve tried Hootsuite and TweetDeck previously and found myself overwhelmed by the amount of data on the screen.

A tool needs to help you, not hinder you.

Right now, I’m happy to use the native apps for Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, plus Tailwind for Pinterest.

Which social media management tool is the best fit for you?

To help narrow down your selection here are some different scenarios.

If you’re just getting started and want a free tool:

TweetDeck is a great option if you need a tool solely for use with Twitter, especially if you’re monitoring more than one account.

Alternatively, Hootsuite and MavSocial both have free plans with a decent amount of features.

If you have clients or need to manage a large number of social accounts:

SendibleeClincher, and MavSocial seem to work out the most cost-effective with large numbers of social accounts.

If you need robust team collaboration features that won’t break the bank:

Sendible and AgoraPulse both provide great team collaboration features. And they’re both cost-effective. Sendible feels more refined and easier to use in some areas, but AgoraPulse has the added benefit of Facebook apps for running social media contests.

Sprout Social has excellent team collaboration features, but costs can spiral out of control because their plans are priced per user. For example, on the $99/month plan, you’ll pay just under $400/month for 4 users.

If you’re a serious blogger/marketer and need a good all-around social media management tool that is cost-effective:

SendibleeClincher, and MavSocial all fit the bill.

Sendible has all the important features (even on their most basic plan) and feels very refined.

MavSocial is big on visuals and has plenty of features.

eClincher stands out when it comes to overall features and includes both the social media inbox, as well as streams. That said, it feels a little clunky.

If you need an effective tool to manage your Pinterest/Instagram accounts:

A lot of tools on this list support Instagram scheduling, but when it comes to Pinterest, the best tool is; Tailwind. Especially since they released their ‘Tribes’ feature which can help you get more visibility for your pins.

 Source: This article was published bloggingwizard.com By David Hartshorne - Contributed by Member: Carol R. Venuti

Mention the term Keyword Research Tools to any blogger, and they’ll most likely think of the Google Keyword Planner.

It has Google on the label, so it must be good, right?

Well, it’s worth checking and using for initial keyword research, but remember that the tool is, and always was, intended for Google Adwords campaigns.

So, while some of the data is useful, most is irrelevant.

And since Google made it even harder to get accurate data by introducing search volume ranges and grouping keywords with similar meaning, you should consider looking elsewhere.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at five other Keyword Research Tools. Some are lightweight and budget-friendly, while others are heavy-weight and more expensive. So wherever you are on your blogging journey, you’ll find a tool that suits you.

Before we look at the tools, let’s cover a few essentials:

The two methods of keyword research

The primary objective of keyword research is to find keywords that you can rank for in the SERPs; i.e. the Top 10 search results for your term. Why? Because if you’re in the Top 10 search results for your target keyword, then you’ve got more chance of getting the right traffic to your site.

There are two methods of keyword research used in the tools:

Traditional keyword research tools let you enter a ‘seed’ keyword, and then they return a load of keywords. From there you evaluate how difficult it will be to rank for each suggestion.

Competitor-based keyword research tools use reverse-engineering. They assess what keywords your competitors are already ranking for and evaluate if you could do better.

Each method has its benefits, and if possible, you should consider using both when researching your keywords.

Keyword difficulty rating explained

Most keyword research tools now include a keyword difficulty rating. The idea behind this metric is to let you spot low-competition keywords that you can out-rank.

The problem is that most vendors don’t always explain what their rating means in understandable terms. And each vendor calculates their keyword difficulty score differently.

As you check the five keyword research tools below, you’ll see that they returned different scores for our test keyword. We’ve included some notes along the way to help explain the scores.

5 powerful keyword research tools (Google Keyword Planner alternatives)

There’s been plenty written about how to use the GKP for keyword research. Most times it involves downloading data into a spreadsheet, and then sifting and sorting until you have some meaningful outcome.

But with these five keyword research tools, you can do all your searching and filtering inside the tool and then save or download your results as you wish.

Note: Each tool lets you search data from different countries, but to keep things consistent I’m using the google.com US data and the keyword: herbal remedies.

Without further ado, let’s get started.

Answer The Public

Answer The Public is a handy tool for those looking to get started without spending anything.

The idea behind the tool is to compliment the auto suggest results you see in Google and Bing with some relevant words.

Appending a search term with words like “for” or “with” gives a much richer starting point for content ideas.

Let’s take a look.

When you arrive on the homepage, you’re greeted by the Seeker. He’s a bald, white-bearded, impatient-looking bloke who’s waiting for you to enter your keyword idea and your location:

1a AnswerThePublic Seeker

When you enter your keyword, the Seeker returns with some content ideas, divided into three categories:

  • Questions – what, where, why, which, how.
  • Prepositions – with, to, for, like.
  • Alphabetical – a, b, c, etc.

For example, I entered “herbal remedies” and got these results – Questions (42), Prepositions (48), Alphabetical (101):

1b AnswerThePublic Results

You can download the complete results in a CSV file, using the button in the top-right corner. But if you scroll down the page, then you’ll see the results presented in two easier-to-read formats.

The first one is a one-page visualization of the results:

1c AnswerThePublic Question Visualisation

Or you can switch to Data to see the results listed in sections:

1d AnswerThePublic Preposition Data

Pros

  • Free tool
  • Excellent visualization of content ideas

Cons

  • No keyword difficulty score

Go To Answer The Public

Serpstat

Serpstat is an all-around SEO tool with some great features and affordable entry-level pricing.

The all-in-one platform started in 2013 as a Keyword Research Tool. Now it contains four more modules covering Competitor Analysis, Site Audit, Backlink Analysis and Rank Tracking.

Keyword research

When you enter your keyword into the search bar in Serpstat you’re presented with the Overview report:

2a Serpstat Keyword Research Overview

The Overview provides a taste of what’s contained in the four categories listed in the left-hand menu:

  • SEO Research – Includes Keyword Selection (matched keywords), Related Keywords (LSI keywords), Search Suggestions, Top Pages, and Competitors for the keyword.
  • PPC Research – Includes Keywords, Competitors, Ad Examples, and Ad Research reports.
  • Content Marketing – Shows Search Questions (interrogative questions like Ask The Public)
  • SERP Analysis – Shows you the Top 100 Google Results in organic and paid search for the keyword.

For this review, we’ll focus on the organic results from the SEO Research section.

  1.  Keyword Selection returns all the keywords related to your query.

2b Serpstat Keyword Selection

The key metric in this report is Keyword Difficulty. Serpstat grades your chances of your keyword getting in the Top 10 (Page 1) of Google as follows:

  • 0-20 – easy
  • 21-40 – medium
  • 41-60 – difficult
  • 61-100 – very difficult

So, in our example, herbal remedies is rated at 16.55, meaning it should be easy to rank in the Top 10.

Other metrics on this screen include:

  • Volume Google – The average monthly search volume for the keyword over the previous 12 months
  • Volume (last month) – The number of searches for the keyword over the past month
  • Results – The number of documents returned by the search engine for the query
  • Social domains – Social media domains that come up in search results for the keyword

The small icons to the right of the keyword show that the search results contain some rich answers like images, videos, maps, knowledge graphs, etc. For example, if you search for “herbal remedies” in Google you may see this in the results:

2c Serpstat Keyword Rich Image Results

Note:You may see something different due to personalization and a bunch of other factors.
  1.  Related Keywords returns a list of all keywords semantically related to your query.

2d Serpstat Keyword Related Keywords

Here you can see related keywords like herbal therapy and herb remedies. For each related keyword, Serpstat provides the average monthly search volume, plus some other PPC data.

  1.  Search Suggestions are the popular search queries that you see under the search bar as you start typing a query in Google.

2e Serpstat Keyword Search Suggestions

At the top of the screen, you can see the most popular words. When you click on one of these buttons, Serpstat does another search. For example, if you select the ‘anxiety’ button, Serpstat now searches for the keyword: herbal remedies anxiety.

To the right, there’s another option: Only Questions. The Only Questions filter will return the interrogative forms of search suggestions like what, where, how, etc.

2f Serpstat Keyword Search Questions Only

  1.  Top Pages gives a list of all pages ranking for at least one keyword related to your query.

2g Serpstat Keyword Top Pages

For each page, Serpstat provides the number of organic keywords. In the first line of our example, if you click on ‘101’ in the organic keywords column, you’re directed to the page analysis listing all the keywords:

2h Serpstat Keyword URL Analysis Position

This is a great way to see what keywords your competitors are ranking for.

As well as the organic keywords, Serpstat displays the number of social shares each page has received. So, like Buzzsumo, you’re able to get an idea of how popular a piece of content is.

  1.  Competitors is a list of the domains that are ranking for a large number of keywords related to your query.

2i Serpstat Keyword Competitors

So, as you might expect, you can see webmd.com at the top of our Competitors list as it’s a well-established medical site.

For each competitor’s page, Serpstat lists:

  • Common Keywords – The number of keywords related to the researched query.
  • All Keywords – The total number of the domain’s keywords
  • Visibility  – The domain visibility score

Serpstat also allows you to filter your queries and download your data.

Other Serpstat features

  • Competitor Analysis – Automatically identify and research your top competitors
  • Backlink Analysis – Monitor the backlinks of your and your competitors’ websites
  • Rank Tracking – Monitor your and your competitors’ webpage rankings
  • Site Audit – Perform an in-depth analysis of your web pages

Pricing

You can use Serpstat for free. The Freemium model allows you to research keywords and analyze competitors but is limited to 30 searches per month.

The Premium subscription plans start at $19 per month, but you can get an excellent discount by switching to the yearly subscriptions; e.g. 1-year (-20%),  3-year (-40%).

  • Prices start from $29/month or $182/year

Pros

  • Free starter plan
  • Affordable monthly subscription
  • Easy to navigate
  • Includes a keyword difficulty score
  • Provides additional insights in the SERPs like rich data and social shares

Cons

  • The Keyword Difficulty score is a new metric in Serpstat and seems slightly skewed compared to other tools.

Get Serpstat

KWFinder

KWFinder is part of the ‘juicy’ Mangools SEO suite, which also includes SERPWatcher, SERPChecker, and LinkMiner.

KWFinder is a keyword research tool to find you hundreds of long-tail keywords with high search volume and low SEO difficulty. It’s really easy to use, with a user-friendly interface, and most importantly, with metrics to provide an instant help to your SEO efforts.

Let’s get started.

Keyword research

When you log into your account you’ll see a simple search bar waiting for you to input your keyword:

3a KWFinder Search

There are three keyword research options:

  • Suggestions is the primary keyword research method that we’ll take a look at in a minute.

3b KWFinder Suggestions

  • Autocomplete uses the Google Suggest feature to prepend and append your keyword with different letters or words. For example, herbal remedieslooks like this:

3c KWFinder Autocomplete

  • Questions is similar to Autocomplete and will prepend the main seed keyword with question words. For example, with herbal remedies, you get questions like how much herbal medicine, what herbal remedies are good for anxiety,

3d KWFinder Questions

Metrics

The screenshots above are from the left-hand panel of the screen only. Here’s the full picture to give you an idea of the overall data in KWFinder:

3e KWFinder Metrics

Let’s look at the metrics in detail.

On the left panel, you can see the list of suggestions based on your main keyword. Next to each suggestion are the following metrics:

  • Trend – The trend of search in the last 12 months
  • Search – The average monthly search volume (exact match) in the last 12 months
  • CPC – The average cost per click of the listed keyword
  • PPC – The level of competition in PPC advertising (min = 0; max = 100)
  • DIFF – The SEO difficulty of a keyword, based on SEO stats from Moz (DA, PA, MR, MT) of the URLs on the first Google SERP (min = 0; max = 100)

On the upper-right panel, you can see an enlarged SEO difficulty score and a trend graph of search volumes during the last 12 months.

Underneath you can see the Google SERP statistics and other important metrics calculated by Moz.

  • Google SERP – These are the top results from Google search for your selected keyword
  • DA – Domain Authority predicts how well a website will rank on search engines
  • PA – Page Authority predicts how well a specific page will rank on search engines
  • MR – MozRank of the URL represents a link popularity score
  • MT – MozTrust of the URL measures trustworthiness of the link
  • Links – The number of external authority-passing links to the URL
  • FB – The number of Facebook shares for the URL
  • G+ – The number of Google+ shares for the URL
  • Rank – SEO competitiveness rank – the higher it is, the harder it is to compete. (min = 0; max = 100)
  •  Visits – The estimated visits per month on this SERP position

Note: You can get more detailed information about your competitors’ SEO metrics in the Google SERP using the SERPChecker Tool.

The Keyword Difficulty metric is the first one to check as it gives an early indication of whether you stand a chance to rank for your keyword. Here’s the full range of the KWFinder Difficulty Score:

3f KWFinder SEO Difficulty Range

In our example, herbal remedies is rated at 52, meaning it’s possible to rank on Page 1.

But it’s important to remember that keyword difficulty is not the only factor, and you should weigh up the other metrics too.

Other features in KWFinder

There are three other features inside KWFinder worth mentioning.

  1.  Keyword lists management

Lists allow you to keep and categorize the data you find from your keyword research. You can check each suggestion you want to keep and add it to a new or an existing list.

  1.  Import your own keywords

You can import your own lists of keywords into KWFinder in various ways:

  • Write the keywords as separate tags
  • Upload your TXT or CSV file
  • Drag-and-drop your file
  1.  Export your results

You can also export your keywords from either the “Suggestions” table or your keyword lists. You have the option to export to a CSV file (with or without metrics) or copy to the clipboard.

Other tools in the Mangools Suite

Mangools also includes three more SEO tools that integrate with KWFinder and are included in the price (see below).

SERPChecker is a Google SERP and SEO analysis tool. It includes a choice of 49+ SEO metrics and Social metrics. The tool lets you analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors to help you rank higher.

SERPWatcher is a rank tracking tool, and like KWFinder, it’s easy to use. You can track keyword positions on a daily basis. If you head over to the demo page you can see app tracking some domains and keywords.

LinkMiner is a backlink analysis tool. Use this tool to discover which links are pointing to your website. Metrics are given for each link and you can see a snapshot preview of the website on the right hand side. Great for auditing backlink profiles and competitor research.

Pricing

The Mangools freemium model includes a limited free plan and a choice of monthly subscription plans. There’s also a healthy 50% discount when you opt for the annual subscription.

  • Prices start from $49/month or $349/year

Pros

  • Free starter plan
  • Affordable monthly subscription or discounted annual plans
  • Superb user interface
  • Includes a well-explained keyword difficulty score
  • Integrates well with other tools in the Mangools suite

Cons

  • If you need to gather a lot of data on a daily basis, the Agency plan is expensive compared to the Premium and Basic plans.

Get KWFinder*

SEMrush

SEMrush* is another great all-around SEO tool that supports both traditional keyword research and competitor-based research methods. SEMrush caused a stir in the market when it launched in 2008 as it was the first competitor-based SEO tool.

Lewis from Authority Hacker explains competitor-based research with this analogy:

Instead of looking for the needle in a haystack, it allowed you to find the right haystacks with the right needles.

Competitor research

Because SEMrush is primarily a competitor-based research tool, we can’t follow our example of entering our trial keyword herbal remedies. Instead, we have to flip things around and search our competitors to see what keywords they are ranking for.

For this example, I’m using healthline.com as our competitor.

Note: If you’re not sure who your competitors are then you can always enter your own domain first:

4a semrush organic competitors

And from there, you can click each domain to start checking their keywords.

When you enter your competition domain, SEMrush returns a load of data. For instance, this is just the top part of the Domain Overview screen:

4b semrush Domain Overview

Remember this is an all-around SEO tool, so we’ll ignore most of the information now and focus on the Organic Search Positions feature.

Here you can see that SEMrush has found 4,863,217 keywords that our competition domain (healthline.com) is ranking for:

4c semrush Organic Search Positions

SEMrush automatically sorts the results by Traffic% as these are the keywords that are likely to attract the most organic traffic. From here you can start to reverse-engineer your competitor’s best-performing keywords.

Here are the other metrics for each keyword:

  • Position – Where the URL currently ranks in the SERP, and their position from the previous update.
  • Volume – The estimated monthly traffic generated from these keywords (i.e. how many times people search for them).
  • KD – Keyword Difficulty – the higher the number, the harder it is to rank for these keywords.
  • CPC – The average Cost-Per-Click if someone advertised based on this keyword.
  • URL – The web page generating the traffic.
  • Traffic % – The average percentage of all traffic the website is getting from this keyword.
  • Costs % – The share of total traffic cost driven to the website from the keyword over the specific time frame.
  • Competitive Density of advertisers using the given term for their ads.
  • Results – Number of search results in the database.
  • Trend – The changes in interest for the given keyword over 12 months.
  • SERP – A snapshot of the SERP source where SEMrush found the result.
  • Last Update – The time when the given keyword was last updated in our database.

Filters

Using the filter, you can enter your keyword; e.g. herbal remedies, and narrow the search further:

4d semrush Organic Search Filter

Traditional research

If you don’t like the look of competitor-based research, then SEMrush also has a traditional research tool. This is how it works:

4e semrush Keyword Magic Works

Keyword Magic Tool

Start by entering your keyword into the Keyword Magic Tool search bar:

4f semrush Keyword Magic Tool

SEMrush returns the results.

In the top half of the screen is an overview of your ‘seed’ keyword:

4g semrush Keyword Magic Tool Top

Below, SEMrush gives you a massive list of related keywords that you can break into groups by topic:

4h semrush Keyword Magic Bottom

For example, you could pick ‘pain‘ from the left-hand panel and get results like herbal remedies for back pain.

You can filter these keywords by metrics like search volume, CPC, competitive density, and keyword difficulty to get your perfect list.

Keyword Analyzer

After filtering, you can send your more focused list to the Keyword Analyzer to refresh metrics on demand. In this example, I exported our pain group and refreshed the first keyword:

4i semrush Keyword Analyzer

From here you can identify metrics like Keyword Difficulty, Click Potential and, unsurprisingly, the Top Competitors that appear on each keyword’s results page.

Other SEMrush features

  • Advertising Research – Discover your competitors’ Adwords budget and keywords
  • Backlinks – Monitor the quantity and quality of backlinks to your domain
  • Video Advertising Research – Discover the top advertisers so you can create an effective ad campaign
  • Site Audit – Find and fix your On-Page issues and boost SEO-optimization

Pricing

The SEMrush free plan limits you to a handful of searches a day. If you know what you’re looking for you can find some excellent keywords, but the results are limited. The premium plans are expensive if you’re on a tight budget and more suited to experienced bloggers.

  • Prices start from $99/month or $999/year

Pros

  • Limited free plan
  • Combines traditional and competitor-based keyword research methods
  • Excellent competitor-based research tool

Cons

  • Cluttered user interface
  • The Keyword Magic Tool is in Beta phase and still catching up with other traditional research tools.

Ahrefs

Ahrefs* is an all-in-one SEO platform that supports both traditional and competitor-based keyword research. Its background lies in backlink analysis, but it now offers a full suite of SEO tools.

Keyword research

Ahrefs released a brand new version of their keyword research tool – Keywords Explorer 2.0 – in November 2016, and they claim it’s the best:

We knew that adding a few cool features here and there wouldn’t really make a difference. The only option was to start from scratch and take a shot at creating the very best keyword research tool in the industry.

You start by entering your seed keyword:

5a Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

At the top of the results screen is the Overview panel with common metrics like Keyword Difficulty and Search Volume, plus advanced metrics like Return rate, Clicks, and Clicks / Search:

5b Ahrefs Keyword Explorer Overview

Keyword Difficulty estimates how hard it would be to rank on the first page of search results for your given keyword, using the number of backlinks that current top search results have.

In our example, the rating is 37 and suggests, “You’ll need backlinks from ~49 websites to rank in top 10 for this keyword.” Ahrefs is built around the SEO value of backlinks, so it’s no surprise that their KD metric should include this.

Search Volume shows how many searches your target keyword gets per month in a given country (average for last 12 months). Ahrefs calculates this metric by processing large amounts of clickstream data.

Return Rate is a relative value that illustrates how often people search for this keyword again. It doesn’t show the exact number of “returns” and is only useful when comparing keywords with each other.

Clicks is the total number of clicks (organic and paid) on the search results that people perform per month while searching for that keyword. Some searches result in clicks on multiple results, while others might not lead to any clicks at all. As Tim Soulo puts it:

For example, people search a lot for “donald trump age”, but they don’t click on any results because they see the answer right away.

Clicks Per Search (or CPS) shows how many different search results people click on average after performing a search for this keyword.

In the next section, underneath the Overview panel, you get access to thousands of relevant keyword ideas:

5c Ahrefs Keyword Ideas

Ahrefs estimates the Traffic potential by looking at the organic search traffic of the current #1 ranking result for that keyword.

So, in our example, they estimate that if you’re in #1 position for the keyword herbal remedies, then you’d get 1000 visits out of the total 6000 searches per month.

Like we’ve seen with other tools the keyword suggestions are split into three groups:

  • Having same terms – Shows you all keywords that contain all of the terms of a target keyword in them (in any order).
  • Also rank for – Shows you all keywords that the Top10 ranking pages for your target keyword also rank for.
  • Search suggestions – Shows you all search queries suggested via “Autocomplete” when searching for your target keyword.

You need to click the View full report button to see the full extent of the keyword ideas. Here’s an example of the ‘Having same terms’ report:

5d Ahrefs Keyword Ideas Full

Along the top are the different filters you can use to narrow your selection. For example, only show keywords with a KD score from 0 to 40.

You may have noticed that some keyword ideas have a ‘Get Metrics’ button. This means Ahrefs has the data cached and you can access it instantly.

With such a huge database of keywords, you could be hanging around a while for all the results to load, so this option means you can access the data you want when you want. It takes a few seconds for the chosen keyword data to load.

One thing we’ve not seen yet is the SERP data for the keyword. If you press the SERP button of the keyword you want, you get a drop-down display of the current Top 10 results like this:

5e Ahrefs Keyword Serp

Competitor-based research

Ahrefs, like SEMrush, also offers you competitor-based keyword research via its Site Explorer Tool.

Here you can enter your competitor and find what keywords they are ranking for. Then you can find the low-competition keywords by using the filters.

5f Ahrefs Site Explorer Example

In this example, I’ve used the healthline.com domain and added the following filters:

  • Search Position 1-10
  • Search Volume greater than 500
  • Keyword Difficulty up to 40

Like we saw on the Keyword Explorer, you can expand each line to see the full SERP analysis.

Other Ahrefs features

  • Alerts – Get notified of new and lost backlinks, web mentions and rankings
  • Content Explorer – Discover the most popular content for any topic
  • Rank Tracker – Monitor your desktop and mobile rankings for any location
  • Backlink Checker – Analyze backlink profiles and discover link opportunities
  • Link Intersect – Find the sites linking to your competitors but not to you
  • Broken Link Checker – Keep your website free from dead links

Pricing

Ahrefs offers a 7 day trial for $7. The premium plans are expensive if you’re on a tight budget and more suited to experienced bloggers.

  • Prices start at $99/month or $990/year

Note: If you can’t justify using Ahrefs on a monthly basis, you could sign up for a month, do your KW research and cancel. That said, if you can justify the monthly pricing it’s well worth keeping because you’ll get access to the ongoing functionality such as rank tracking and web monitoring. It also means there’s no need to use any other tools to track rankings or monitor mentions on the web.

Pros

  • Limited free trial
  • Reliable keyword difficulty metric
  • Largest database of backlinks and keywords
  • Greater accuracy by processing large amounts of clickstream data
  • Combines traditional and competitor-based keyword research methods

Cons

  • It’s expensive, but they claim to be the best.

Final thoughts

Now you’ve seen each of the keyword research tools in action, you should have an idea of what each one can do.

Remember, at the beginning of this article I mentioned how each tool had different results? If you’ve been taking notes you’ll have spotted some variances in the results.

The bottom line is that each vendor gets its data from different sources and calculates its metrics differently. It’s difficult to compare like-for-like. Once you’ve decided on a tool, you’ll become more familiar with how its metrics are calculated.

Our verdict

Each of these keyword research tools is useful in its own right. You need to choose the best one for your circumstances. Here are our thoughts:

Answer The Public is more of a content generator or keyword suggestion tool. It’s a free tool that you can use to see what people are searching for, but there’s no keyword difficulty rating included. Use it to get broader topic ideas or seed keywords, rather than specific keywords.

If you’re an up-and-coming blogger and you have a small budget, then choose the KWFinder Tool. The user interface is superb, and the keyword data seems quite accurate.

If you’re a professional blogger, like Adam, then you’ll want to invest in the best premium tool – Ahrefs*. Yes, it’s pricey, but the volume and accuracy of the data mean you’ll get a solid return on your investment.

Categorized in Online Research

As more legal content becomes freely available on the web, many lawyers find that the Internet provides a cost-effective alternative to traditional computer-based legal research services. Using common search engines, lawyers can access all kinds of free content, including cases, background information, media coverage, and blog entries about cases and parties. Free Internet services can also be used to keep lawyers advised of breaking developments in their area of practice.

Several states, bar associations, law schools, and others have published or posted links to statutes and cases online. Such resources can be used for research purposes, “but if you need to cite to a case in a brief, you may need to use Lexis or Westlaw to obtain the official site,” cautions Kim R. Jessum, Philadelphia, PA, co-chair of the ABA Section of Litigation’s Technology for the Litigator Committee.

The New Products subcommittee of the Section’s Technology for the Litigator Committee is currently compiling a list of free and low-cost online legal research resources to post on its website, says Justine M. Phillips, San Diego, co-chair of that subcommittee. “In the age of Google, providing this benefit to our members will hopefully cause costly legal research providers to rethink their business approach and provide competitive products,” she says.

Start Your Research Using the Internet 
“Internet search engines should be the first stop for legal research,” advises Priya Prakash Royal, Florham Park, NJ, co-editor of the Section’s Technology for the Litigator Committee website. “Younger attorneys commonly use the Internet to do background research, so they are comfortable starting with a search engine to get an overview of a topic,” Royal says.

Royal encourages all lawyers to use free tools. “Google and Yahoo are effective cross-search tools that allow users to search terms and link the search results to resources such as “Findlaw” or news articles,” she says.

Reviewing free content on the Internet can help put a researcher on the right track before consulting online legal research services, which charge fees. Royal finds conducting Internet searches at the beginning of a legal research project more efficient than looking in the keyword indexes using an online legal research tool.

“Where you have a term of art or a specific topic in mind, an Internet search can get you to articles or books on point, relevant cases, and even public records that can be of use,” says Erica L. Calderas, Cleveland, OH, co-chair of the Section’s Pretrial Practice and Discovery Committee. In addition, one can sometimes find compilations of cases on topics such as electronic discovery or niche areas of the law, notes Calderas. “These can be great resources for information on an emerging area of law,” she observes.

Trust but Verify
“Any resource you find using a search engine ultimately has to be verified,” advises Royal. “If you are reviewing secondary materials online, such as an article or someone’s summary of the case, you should review the primary materials to make sure you are getting an accurate view of the law,” says Calderas.

“While some quick Internet searching can help to refine and make more efficient your approach to further legal research, don’t let it be a substitute for book research or official sources of online research” recommends Calderas. “When you really need an in-depth, comprehensive, ‘turn over every stone’ understanding of the law, there is just no substitute for hitting the books and electronic research services,” she says.

Because the web does not guarantee the same reliability as established legal research providers, “litigators should second-guess the fruits of their online research and confirm the law remains precedential,” advises Phillips.

In addition to reliability, there may be other disadvantages to free Internet research tools. Litigators may recall the old maxim “nothing in life is free” when researching on the web, observes Phillips. “Oftentimes, the “free” content leads you down a cyber-path into “for-pay” research tools. This process can be frustrating and time-consuming,” she says.

Your Clients Have Access to the Same Information
Unfettered access to free legal information means that your clients have the same access as you do, which can pose some challenges for lawyers, says Royal. Clients may read a blog or article and misinterpret its application to their own legal matters. “While this can create potential for disagreement, it also provides an opportunity for a lawyer to demonstrate her value to the client by verifying and interpreting information gathered by the client,” she says.

The value-added element of the Internet is that it is a tool that provides access to breaking developments, and may give lawyers access to information that provides insight into a case, suggests Royal. For example, reading blogs or reader comments on a particular case gives lawyers a window to opinions on the subject, and may generate ideas for legal arguments.

Enhancing Client Relationships
Royal also uses Internet resources as a client development tool. If there is a decision or change in the law affecting her clients’ business, she will send an email forwarding a news article to her client network. “It is another thing to put into your bag of goods,” advises Royal. “Clients are more receptive to reading a news article about a case than they are to reading the case itself,” she observes.

Source: This article was published apps.americanbar.org By Lisa R. Bliss

Categorized in Investigative Research

When it comes to legal research services and databases for Big Law, the two leading providers are Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis. Not too long ago, they were essentially the only players in the legal research game — but that was before the internet and the lure of Fast, Easy and often Free access to information online.

Having recently touched on the a title="Westlaw versus LexisNxis – Which is Better?" ">"ifferences between Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis, I thought it might be helpful to touch on the subject of low-cost and free legal research services and websites. We often get asked about less expensive options for gaining access to legal information, especially as it gets more difficult for law firms to recover the costs of these services. I have compiled a short list of six legal information resources on the internet today.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; nor is it a recommendation to replace Westlaw, Lexis-Nexis, Bloomberg or any other provider! In fact, those services continue to be a must-have legal information resource for many firms. Nonetheless, it is helpful to stay on top of other information options that are available to lawyers, firms and clients themselves.

1. GOOGLE SCHOLAR

Google Scholar provides an easy, free way to search and read published opinions of the United States Supreme Court since 1791; US federal district, appellate, tax and bankruptcy courts since 1923; and state appellate and supreme court cases since 1950. Select the “Case Law” button under the Google Scholar search box. There is also separate search functionality for patent information and legal journals.

2. FASTCASE

Fastcase allows users to access federal & state law, appellate decisions, and statutes. It also includes visualization tools to portray the relationships between cases and a “bad law bot” to pinpoint cases which have received negative treatment. Fastcase has a relationship with HeinOnline to deliver content through Fastcase searches (HeinOnline subscription required.) Fastcase has excellent technology integration with Word, Outlook & Adobe products to enable extraction of citations and batch printing. There is a free mobile app for Ios and Android for pulling cases on the go. Fastcase has relationships with many bar associations to provide free access to a simplified version of the product. Annual subscriptions start at $695 for a single user, and the company also maintains a “Public Library of Law” website which provides free access to cases, statutes, regulations, court rules and constitutions.

3. LOISLAWCONNECT

This service of Wolters Kluwer offers pay-as-you-go options for access to primary legal content. You purchase either a 48-hr, 7-day, or 31-day pass, with no contracts or recurring payments. Pricing ranges from $29.95 for a two-day pass to Court Rules for one state to $184 for 31-day access to Primary Law National and Bankruptcy. For some services a one-year subscription plan is available. There are no hidden charges for printing, downloading or hyper-linking to material outside of your subscription.

4. FINDLAW

FindLaw is a comprehensive resource with helpful content for both the legal profession and consumers. You can conduct a broad search for free on cases or contracts, and you can browse research materials by type, jurisdiction or practice area. In addition, the site offers an archive of published opinion summaries dating back to September 2000 by the U.S. Supreme Court, all thirteen U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, and some state courts.

5. JUSTIA

Justia, based in Silicon Valley, was created with the mission to “advance the availability of legal resources for the benefit of society.” The site provides free access to case law, codes, regulations, legal articles and legal blog databases. And if you want information to come directly to you, the company publishes a variety of free newsletters, including daily opinion summaries for all Federal Appellate and State Supreme Courts and weekly opinion summaries on a wide range of practice areas, essentially from ‘A’ (Agriculture Law) to ‘Z’ (Zoning and Land Use).

6. LEGAL INFORMATION INSTITUTE, CORNELL UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL

GetLegal in partnership with the Legal Information Institute Center at Cornell Law School provides access to U.S. federal materials including the full text of the U.S. Code and opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court, court rules, CFR and additional federal materials. The site also offers quick links to the current authoritative versions of the state statutes, constitution, regulations and court rules.

COMPARING LEGAL RESEARCH SERVICES

When comparing legal research services and databases, the cost is an important consideration, but not the only one. While free case law information is abundantly available on the internet, it can also be said that you get what you pay for. You will not get the kinds of research aids, secondary materials and treatises or enhancements that make the paid tools so valuable and effective. You may not get the depth and breadth of legal content you need, nor know if the content is actually authoritative and legitimate. In addition, browsing and keyword searches consume a fair amount of time while possibly leaving you without crucial information that could help your client.

When time is money and the right information can make or break a legal matter, these shortcomings can quickly move the value gauge from free or low-price to quite costly.

Our Expense Management experts can help ensure your legal research costs are in line with industry standards and offer strategies and advice on how to reduce them.

The two most important research tools are the legal content service or resource and the person doing the research. When you need legal research help, our trained staff are on call with the skills and the tools to find what you need.

 Source: This article was published ccmchase.com By Natalya Berdzeni

Categorized in Online Research

Legal research is generally the process of finding an answer to a legal question or checking for legal precedent that can be cited in a brief or at trial. Sometimes, legal research can help determine whether a legal issue is a "case of first impression" that is unregulated or lacks legal precedent. Virtually every lawsuit, appeal, the criminal case, and legal process, in general, requires some amount of legal research.

Legal information is organized into two general categories:

  1. Primary Law: Binding law that is codified in statutes, regulations, and caselaw.
  2. Secondary Sources: Not legally binding, this type of information explains the primary law and legal theory; including legal digests, treatises, journals, etc.

The U.S. legal system is based on precedent -- that is, decided court cases -- in conjunction with statutes and common law. Therefore, the function of legal research typically is to find out how previous courts have decided cases with similar fact patterns. Most legal research is now performed online. For example, FindLaw's sister company, Thomson Reuters Westlaw, provides online legal research tools you can use to look up cases and verify current law.

Terms to Know

  • Opinion: The formal written expression by a court or judge detailing the reasons and principles of law upon which the case is decided.
  • Parallel Citation: A citation reference to the same case printed in two or more different case reporters.
  • Stare Decisis: The doctrine under which courts adhere to precedent on questions of law in order to insure certainty, consistency, and stability in the administration of justice.
  • Shepardize: To look up a case's citation in Shepard's Citations in order to check the status of the case, whether it is still considered good law, parallel citations, or the use of the case in other jurisdictions.
  • KeyCite: This helpful case citation tool is provided by Thomson Reuters Westlaw. You can view the history of a case, statute, administrative decision, or regulation to help determine whether it is "good law" and to retrieve citing references.

How Your Attorney May Use Legal Research

Your attorney (or a paralegal under their supervision) may review statutes, caselaw, and secondary authority before deciding how to proceed with your case. Since the law is based on precedent, caselaw with a similar fact pattern can give your attorney an idea of how things may play out in court.

Similarly, a corporate lawyer may conduct legal research in order to determine whether a proposed new policy would expose the company to liability. This may include research into building codes, employment laws, or federal environmental regulations.

Source: This article was published hirealawyer.findlaw.com

Categorized in Investigative Research

Online Methods to Investigate the Who, Where, and When of a Person. Another great list by Internet search expert Henk Van Ess.

Searching the Deep Web, by Giannina Segnini. Beginning with advanced tips on sophisticated Google searches, this presentation at GIJC17 by the director of Columbia University Journalism School’s Data Journalism Program moves into using Google as a bridge to the Deep Web using a drug trafficking example. Discusses tracking the container, the ship, and customs. Plus, Facebook research and more.

Tools, Useful Links & Resources, by Raymond Joseph, a journalist and trainer with South Africa’s Southern Tip Media. Six packed pages of information on Twitter, social media, verification, domain and IP information, worldwide phonebooks, and more. In a related GICJ17 presentation, Joseph described “How to be Digital Detective.” 

IntelTechniques is prepared by Michael Bazzell, a former US government computer crime investigator and now an author and trainer. See the conveniently organized resources in left column under “Tools.” (A Jan. 2, 2018, blog post discusses newly added material.)

Investigate with Document Cloud, by Doug Haddix, Executive Director, Investigative Reporters and Editors. A guide to using 1.6 million public documents shared by journalists, analyzing and highlighting your own documents, collaborating with others, managing document workflows and sharing your work online.

Malachy Browne’s Toolkit. More than 80 links to open source investigative tools by one of the best open-source sleuths in the business. When this New York Times senior story producer flashed this slide at the end of his packed GIJC17 session, nearly everyone requested access.

Social Media Sleuthing, by Michael Salzwedel. “Not Hacking, Not Illegal,” begins this presentation from GIJC17 by a founding partner and trainer at Social Weaver.

Finding Former Employees, by James Mintz. “10 Tips on Investigative Reporting’s Most Powerful Move: Contacting Formers,” according to veteran private investigator Mintz, founder and president of The Mintz Group.

Investigative Research Links from Margot Williams. The former research editor at The Intercept offers an array of suggestions, from “Effective Google Searching” to a list of “Research Guru” sites.

Bellingcat’s Digital Forensics Tools, a wide variety of resources here: for maps, geo-based searches, images, social media, transport, data visualization, experts and more.

List of Tools for Social Media Research, a tipsheet from piqd.de’s Frederik Fischer at GIJC15.

SPJ Journalist’s Toolbox from the Society of Professional Journalists in the US, curated by Mike Reilley. Includes an extensive list of, well, tools.

How to find an academic research paper, by David Trilling, a staff writer for Journalist’s Resource, based at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.

Using deep web search engines for academic and scholarly research, an article by Chris Stobing in VPN & Privacy, a publication of Comparitech.com, a UK company that aims to help consumers make more savvy decisions when they subscribe to tech services such as VPNs.

Step by step guide to safely accessing the darknet and deep web, an article by Paul Bischoff in VPN & Privacy, a publication of Comparitech.com, a UK company that aims to help consumers make more savvy decisions when they subscribe to tech services such as VPNs.

Research Beyond Google: 56 Authoritative, Invisible, and Comprehensive Resources, a resource from Open Education Database, a US firm that provides a comprehensive online education directory for both free and for-credit learning options.

The Engine Room,  a US-based international NGO, created an Introduction to Web Resources, that includes a section on making copies of information to protect it from being lost or changed.

Awesome Public Datasets, a very large community-built compilation organized by topic.

Online Research Tools and Investigative Techniques by the BBC’s ace online sleuth Paul Myers has long been a starting point for online research by GIJN readers. His website, Research Clinic, is rich in research links and “study materials.”

Source: This article was published gijn.org

Categorized in Online Research

Search engines are an intrinsic part of the array of commonly used “open source” research tools. Together with social media, domain name look-ups and more traditional solutions such as newspapers and telephone directories, effective web searching will help you find vital information to support your investigation.

Many people find that search engines often bring up disappointing results from dubious sources. A few tricks, however, can ensure that you corner the pages you are looking for, from sites you can trust. The same goes for searching social networks and other sources to locate people: A bit of strategy and an understanding of how to extract what you need will improve results.

This chapter focuses on three areas of online investigation:

  1. Effective web searching.
  2. Finding people online.
  3. Identifying domain ownership.

1. Effective web searching

Search engines like Google don’t actually know what web pages are about. They do, however, know the words that are on the pages. So to get a search engine to behave itself, you need to work out which words are on your target pages.

First off, choose your search terms wisely. Each word you add to the search focuses the results by eliminating results that don’t include your chosen keywords.

Some words are on every page you are after. Other words might or might not be on the target page. Try to avoid those subjective keywords, as they can eliminate useful pages from the results.

Use advanced search syntax.

Most search engines have useful so-called hidden features that are essential to helping focus your search and improve results.

Optional keywords

If you don’t have definite keywords, you can still build in other possible keywords without damaging the results. For example, pages discussing heroin use in Texas might not include the word “Texas”; they may just mention the names of different cities. You can build these into your search as optional keywords by separating them with the word OR (in capital letters).

You can use the same technique to search for different spellings of the name of an individual, company or organization.

Search by domain

You can focus your search on a particular site by using the search syntax “site:” followed by the domain name.

For example, to restrict your search to results from Twitter:

To add Facebook to the search, simply use “OR” again:

You can use this technique to focus on a particular company’s website, for example. Google will then return results only from that site.

You can also use it to focus your search on municipal and academic sources, too. This is particularly effective when researching countries that use unique domain types for government and university sites.

Note: When searching academic websites, be sure to check whether the page you find is written or maintained by the university, one of its professors or one of the students. As always, the specific source matters.

Searching for file types

Some information comes in certain types of file formats. For instance, statistics, figures and data often appear in Excel spreadsheets. Professionally produced reports can often be found in PDF documents. You can specify a format in your search by using “filetype:” followed by the desired data file extension (xls for spreadsheet, docx for Word documents, etc.).

2. Finding people

Groups can be easy to find online, but it’s often trickier to find an individual person. Start by building a dossier on the person you’re trying to locate or learn more about. This can include the following:

  • The person’s name, bearing in mind:

    • Different variations (does James call himself “James,” “Jim,” “Jimmy” or “Jamie”?).
    • The spelling of foreign names in Roman letters (is Yusef spelled “Yousef” or “Yusuf”?).
    • Did the names change when a person married?
    • Do you know a middle name or initial?
  • The town the person lives in and or was born in.

  • The person’s job and company.

  • Their friends and family members’ names, as these may appear in friends and follower lists.

  • The person’s phone number, which is now searchable in Facebook and may appear on web pages found in Google searches.

  • Any of the person’s usernames, as these are often constant across various social networks.

  • The person’s email address, as these may be entered into Facebook to reveal linked accounts. If you don’t know an email address, but have an idea of the domain the person uses, sites such as email-format can help you guess it.

  • A photograph, as this can help you find the right person, if the name is common.

Advanced social media searches: Facebook

Facebook’s newly launched search tool is amazing. Unlike previous Facebook searches, it will let you find people by different criteria including, for the first time, the pages someone has Liked. It also enables you to perform keyword searches on Facebook pages.

This keyword search, the most recent feature, sadly does not incorporate any advanced search filters (yet). It also seems to restrict its search to posts from your social circle, their favorite pages and from some high-profile accounts.

Aside from keywords in posts, the search can be directed at people, pages, photos, events, places, groups and apps. The search results for each are available in clickable tabs.

For example, a simple search for Chelsea will find bring up related pages and posts in the Posts tab:

The People tab brings up people named Chelsea. As with the other tabs, the order of results is weighted in favor of connections to your friends and favorite pages.

The Photos tab will bring up photos posted publicly, or posted by friends that are related to the word Chelsea (such as Chelsea Clinton, Chelsea Football Club or your friends on a night out in the Chelsea district of London).

The real investigative value of Facebook’s search becomes apparent when you start focusing a search on what you really want.

For example, if you are investigating links between extremist groups and football, you might want to search for people who like The English Defence League and Chelsea Football Club. To reveal the results, remember to click on the “People” tab.

This search tool is new and Facebook are still ironing out the creases, so you may need a few attempts at wording your search. That said, it is worth your patience.

Facebook also allows you to add all sorts of modifiers and filters to your search. For example, you can specify marital status, sexuality, religion, political views, pages people like, groups they have joined and areas they live or grew up in. You can specify where they studied, what job they do and which company they work for. You can even find the comments that someone has added to uploaded photos. You can find someone by name or find photos someone has been tagged in. You can list people who have participated in events and visited named locations. Moreover, you can combine all these factors into elaborate, imaginative, sophisticated searches and find results you never knew possible. That said, you may find still better results searching the site via search engines like Google (add “site:facebook.com” to the search box).

Advanced social media searches: Twitter

Many of the other social networks allow advanced searches that often go far beyond the simple “keyword on page” search offered by sites such as Google. Twitter’s advanced search, for example, allows you to trace conversations between users and add a date range to your search.

Twitter allows third-party sites to use its data and create their own exciting searches.
Followerwonk, for example, lets you search Twitter bios and compare different users. Topsy has a great archive of tweets, along with other unique functionality.

Advanced social media searches: LinkedIn

LinkedIn will let you search various fields including location, university attended, current company, past company or seniority.

You have to log in to LinkedIn in order to use the advanced search, so remember to check your privacy settings. You wouldn’t want to leave traceable footprints on the profile of someone you are investigating!

You can get into LinkedIn’s advanced search by clicking on the link next to the search box. Be sure, also, to select “3rd + Everyone Else” under relationship. Otherwise , your search will include your friends and colleagues and their friends.

LinkedIn was primarily designed for business networking. Its advanced search seems to have been designed primarily for recruiters, but it is still very useful for investigators and journalists. Personal data exists in clearly defined subject fields, so it is easy to specify each element of your search.

You can enter normal keywords, first and last names, locations, current and previous employers, universities and other factors. Subscribers to their premium service can specify company size and job role.

LinkedIn will let you search various fields including location, university attended, current company, past company and seniority.

Other options

Sites like Geofeedia and Echosec allow you to find tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Flickr and Instagram photos that were sent from defined locations. Draw a box over a region or a building and reveal the social media activity. Geosocialfootprint.com will plot a Twitter user’s activity onto a map (all assuming the users have enabled location for their accounts).

Additionally, specialist “people research” tools like Pipl and Spokeo can do a lot of the hard legwork for your investigation by searching for the subject on multiple databases, social networks and even dating websites. Just enter a name, email address or username and let the search do the rest. Another option is to use the multisearch tool from Storyful. It’s a browser plugin for Chrome that enables you to enter a single search term, such as a username, and get results from Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Spokeo. Each site opens in a new browser tab with the relevant results.

Searching by profile pic

People often use the same photo as a profile picture for different social networks. This being the case, a reverse image search on sites like TinEye and Google Images, will help you identify linked accounts.

3. Identifying domain ownership

Many journalists have been fooled by malicious websites. Since it’s easy for anyone to buy an unclaimed .com, .net or .org site, we should not go on face value. A site that looks well produced and has authentic-sounding domain name may still be a political hoax, false company or satirical prank.

Some degree of quality control can be achieved by examining the domain name itself. Google it and see what other people are saying about the site. A “whois” search is also essential. DomainTools.com is one of many sites that offers the ability to perform a whois search. It will bring up the registration details given by the site owner the domain name was purchased.

For example, the World Trade Organization was preceded by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT). There are, apparently, two sites representing the WTO. There’s wto.org (genuine) and gatt.org (a hoax). A mere look at the site hosted at gatt.org should tell most researchers that something is wrong, but journalists have been fooled before.

A whois search dispels any doubt by revealing the domain name registration information. Wto.org is registered to the International Computing Centre of the United Nations. Gatt.org, however, is registered to “Andy Bichlbaum” from the notorious pranksters the Yes Men.

Whois is not a panacea for verification. People can often get away with lying on a domain registration form. Some people will use an anonymizing service like Domains by Proxy, but combining a whois search with other domain name and IP address tools forms a valuable weapon in the battle to provide useful material from authentic sources.

 Source: This article was published verificationhandbook.com By Paul Myers

Categorized in Investigative Research

This article will give you some insights on how to make your research process more effective using online research tools.

10 Awesome Online Research Tools 

Online learning has opened up the opportunity for many people to educate themselves, learn new skills, and earn college degrees even if they are not able to attend classes in a traditional sense of the word. Some just don’t have the time/money to move or commute to another city, or they work full time and have families, which means eLearning is their only option. As great as online learning is, it has several drawbacks. Obviously, it requires you to be online most of the time, which is fine, if you are doing research, writing, taking online tests, or attending your virtual classes.

But being online also makes you more prone to procrastination and distractions. There is also the issue of keeping all those gigabytes of research data organized and having hardware that’s powerful enough to enable real-time communication. These are just some of the issues eLearners face. Fortunately, there is something you can do to make your eLearning experience a lot more efficient and stimulating, especially the research part. We have prepared a list of 10 online research tools every online learner should master.

  1. Todoist.
    Research is a time-intensive activity, which means you will need a tool to organize both your professional and personal life. We advise you to give Todoist a shot. Todoist enables you to manage all of your projects and access them from any platform you own, including your desktop computer, laptop, or portable devices. You can share your tasks and collaborate with other people. Another clever feature is “karma” points, which are given to users if they are successful in assigning tasks to projects.
  2. EndNote.
    EndNote is a multi-functional research tool which helps you search for information in online databases and full texts based on abstracts, as well as manage and auto-complete all of your references. Like Todoist, EndNote also enables you to share your research data with your collaborators. If you prefer to work alone, you can do that too by saving, managing and tagging your research results for better access. Other features include bibliography maker that is capable of creating citations in over 6,000 styles, as well as automatic journal suggestion.
  3. EduGeeksClub.
    Every once in a while, you are going to come across an insurmountable obstacle while doing your research. Instead of giving up, you can turn to EduGeeksClub for professional research help. Get in touch with professional writers and researchers and learn all the ins and outs of thorough research. Also, you can commission a paper from them which you can then use as a resource for your essay, paper, or dissertation. They also provide editing and proofreading services.
  4. Zotero.
    Another essential tool all online learners should make use of is Zotero. Zotero integrates itself seamlessly into your browser and uses its clever ability to automatically recognize content for you. After that, all it takes for you to save it to your personal, fully searchable library, which is another feature in Zotero, in a single click. It supports audio and video files, PDF documents, as well as most image formats.
  5. RefWorks.
    RefWorks is a browser-based tool which has the ability to help learners find the right research data, organize it, store it, and easily share it with their colleagues and collaborators. All of that research information and written work needs to be supported by proper citations, and RefWorks generates those for you automatically, as well as bibliographies in every style. If you are not sure how to make use of its full potential, there are plenty of tutorials on how to do it, right there on the website.
  6. DataElixir.
    One of the best ways to keep up to date with all the latest news, developments and data in science is to find a website which curates all of those on a weekly basis. We recommend Data Elixir. Whether you’re an eLearner, a scientist, or a researcher, you benefit a lot for its weekly collection of all the best data resources and news, and you don’t even have to put in any effort whatsoever. You just have to subscribe to their free weekly newsletter and that’s it.
  7. Paperpile.
    Paperfile is a reference management software which, similar to Zotero, works as an extension for Google Chrome browser, making it accessible for Windows, Mac OS, and Linux users. We recommend that you use it to find and import data from platforms like Google Scholar, PubMed, or arXiv. You can easily export all the PDF documents and data to Google Drive, which means you’ll have the opportunity for collaborative editing of your papers. The collaboration doesn’t end there, because you can send data back and forth between Paperpile and Zotero, for example, as well as Mendeley.
  8. DeepDyve.
    High-quality research papers and scholarly journals can often set you back a pretty penny, so it’s important for you to know exactly what you’re getting for the money you’ve paid. The only trouble is, you are often allowed to look at an abstract for free, and decide if you want to buy the full-text paper, and then realize it’s of no use to you. DeepDyve enables you to access the full-text articles for a limited period of time, enough for you to figure out if the paper is exactly what you are looking for.
  9. ContentMine.
    ContentMine is an online resource which aims to bring over 100,000,000 scientific facts close to the people, by converting the collective knowledge of the world that is present in scientific literature into content which can be read on your computes. All of its tools, features, and services are free and open access. They often cite Wikipedia and similar open projects as a source of their inspiration.
  10. Plagiarism Checker.
    In order to rid your work of duplicate content, run it through Plagiarism Checker, which will scan and determine if there is any duplicate content present. If there is, you either need to provide better citations, or rewrite your work so that it’s more unique.

These 10 awesome online research tools will change the way you do research for good, and for the better, and your eLearning process will be made much more streamlined and efficient. In the end, that’s the thing that matters the most.

Source: This article was published elearningindustry.com By Antonio Tooley

Categorized in Online Research

Do you use hashtags for marketing campaigns on Twitter?

Looking for hashtag tools to help improve your use of hashtags?

In this article, you’ll find seven hashtag tools for researching and reporting on Twitter hashtags.

Why Is Researching Twitter Hashtags Important?

Twitter users often follow hashtags that pertain to their interests, so social media marketers can use targeted hashtags to improve their reach among users with specific interests. However, with only 280 characters in which to squeeze both your message and hashtags, you need to choose the hashtags you target carefully.

When you set aside time to research what hashtags are the most popular with your customer personas, you’re better able to target users who reflect your ideal audience. Luckily, several tools available can help you identify and track the best hashtags for your industry.

Each tool has its own strengths. However, generally speaking, a research tool can help you monitor hashtags, improve influencer outreach, discover demographic and geographic information, and gauge sentiment. With the right toolbox, you can simplify social marketing on Twitter.

#1: Discover Hashtag Popularity With RiteTag

RiteTag helps you find new hashtags and track your current hashtags. In addition to showing important hashtag data, this tool helps you find the best possible hashtags for your text and images. With the handy Chrome extension, you can highlight text or right-click an image (as shown below) and instantly get hashtag suggestions for it.

RiteTag hashtag suggestions

The RiteTag hashtag search feature organizes results so you can see at a glance which related hashtags will help your tweet visibility now or over time. The results also indicate which related hashtags are less popular.

RiteTag hashtag search results

For $49 per year, you can use RiteTag for up to 1,000 queries a month for both images and text. Other plans are available if you’re looking for help crafting, publishing, or enhancing posts; these plans range from $7.50 to $15 per month.

#2: Purchase In-Depth Hashtag Reports With ExportTweet

With ExportTweet, you can track hashtags, keywords, and accounts. This tool also helps you find top tweets, related hashtags, influencer data, device source, geographic location, and more. The free tool (accessed via the Try Now button) gives information on the last 100 tweets, but the paid searches offer unlimited tracking time and unlimited report downloads.

ExportTweet hashtag search results

With the pay-as-you-go pricing options, ExportTweet is a great option for new hashtag trackers or those who want to focus on only a few hashtags. You can purchase reports for both real-time hashtag tracking (25,000+ tweets) and hashtag historical data(2,000+ tweets), which include CSV spreadsheets of top related hashtags and all images, videos, and URLs. Real-time reports start at $19.99, and historical data reports start at $16.99.

#3: Reveal Top Hashtags and Influencers With Hashtagify

If you’re not sure where to start with your hashtags and prefer a more visual interface, check out the Hashtagify search tool. Like other search tools, it helps you find relevant hashtags. In addition to data about a hashtag’s popularity over time, you can see which influencers use the hashtag and get details about the hashtag’s reach in different languages and geographic areas.

Hashtagify hashtag search results

The search tool is free to use. You can purchase a Hashtagify plan starting at $9 per month to add hashtag trackers, two months of data storage, full access to the top ranking hashtags, and a bookmark feature to save any favorite hashtags.

#4: Get Day-Of Hashtag Data With Tweet Archivist

Tweet Archivist is another free search tool for hashtags. Other search tools give you a range of several days, but with Tweet Archivist, you get real-time data from the day of your search with the number of tweets and impressions for the day, as shown in this result for the #socialmedia hashtag:

Tweet Archivist hashtag search results

With the free report, you’ll see the top associated words, top URLs associated with the hashtag, the source of the top tweets, top languages used, user mentions, associated hashtags, and an influencer index.

Tweet Archivist hashtag search results

For $14.99 per month, you gain the ability to download data and receive three archives that are updated every hour. If you don’t want a recurring monthly payment plan, other pricing options are also available.

#5: Discover Local Trending Hashtags With Trendsmap

For a local business, Trendsmap is an amazing tool for finding trending hashtags in your area. This tool will reveal the most popular trending topics on Twitter based on geographic data. Yes, you can use Twitter itself for this, but you get only a few trending topics compared to the many you’ll see via Trendsmap.

This tool will show local trending hashtags, users, and words. For example, here you see trending words, hashtags, and users in the Houston area during an uncharacteristic ice storm:

Trendsmap hashtag search results

Trendsmap has a free search feature and pricing options that start at $25 per month. The free search feature provides only real-time hashtag data, whereas the paid plans offer longer historical data.

With the free search, you’ll have to find your location and zoom in to see the top hashtags, users, and words. With the paid plan, you can narrow your search by your physical location, city, or region and customize whether you see hashtags, users, or words.

#6: Track Campaign Hashtags With Socialert

Socialert is a budget-friendly tool, making it perfect for individual users or small businesses. You can do a free search before the tool asks you to upgrade to a paid plan. The free search will analyze 300 tweets over a 7-day period to give you a snapshot of relevant data. You’ll see the hashtag reach and impression rate along with geographic data and overall sentiment.

If you upgrade to a paid plan, you can get in-depth analytics, historical data, search filters, and influencer tracking. The paid plans start at $9.95 per month for two campaigns, and you can upgrade your plan as required to track more campaigns. Here you see a report on the hashtag #smm:

Socialert hashtag search results

#7: Follow Hashtags in Real Time With Keyhole

Keyhole has a free search function for surface-level analytics. Enter a hashtag you want to research. In the results, you’ll see data that’s useful for quickly gathering general information on a hashtag. Get real-time data on the number of posts, users, impressions, reach, demographics, sentiment, and top sources.

For instance, here you see a section of Keyhole results for a search on the hashtag #marketing:

Keyhole hashtag search results

For additional features, upgrade to one of the paid plans.

Conclusion

With Facebook’s new algorithm change, you may need to focus more on your Twitter marketing. Hashtag usage is incredibly important for Twitter, and many tools can help you track hashtags for Twitter optimization. However, some tools may be more useful to you than others.

Every social media campaign has its own strategy, so the level of data you need for each will vary. The free search functions will help you gather initial data, but you might want to dig deeper in other cases.

What do you think? Have you used any of these hashtag tracking resources? What tools have you found most useful? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

 Source: This article was published socialmediaexaminer.com By Lindsay

Categorized in Online Research

Search engines are an intrinsic part of the array of commonly used “open source” research tools. Together with social media, domain name look-ups, and more traditional solutions such as newspapers and telephone directories, effective web searching will help you find vital information to support your investigation.

Many people find that search engines often bring up disappointing results from dubious sources. A few tricks, however, can ensure that you corner the pages you are looking for, from sites you can trust. The same goes for searching social networks and other sources to locate people: A bit of strategy and an understanding of how to extract what you need will improve results.

This chapter focuses on three areas of online investigation:

1-Effective web searching 

2-Finding people online

3-Identifying domain ownership

1. Effective web searching

Search engines like Google don’t actually know what web pages are about. They do, however, know the words that are on the pages. So to get a search engine to behave itself, you need to work out which words are on your target pages.

First off, choose your search terms wisely. Each word you add to the search focuses the results by eliminating results that don’t include your chosen keywords.

Some words are on every page you are after. Other words might or might not be on the target page. Try to avoid those subjective keywords, as they can eliminate useful pages from the results.

Use advanced search syntax.

Most search engines have useful so-called hidden features that are essential to helping focus your search and improve results.

Optional keywords

If you don’t have definite keywords, you can still build in other possible keywords without damaging the results. For example, pages discussing heroin use in Texas might not include the word “Texas”; they may just mention the names of different cities. You can build these into your search as optional keywords by separating them with the word OR (in capital letters).

You can use the same technique to search for different spellings of the name of an individual, company or organization.

Search by domain

You can focus your search on a particular site by using the search syntax “site:” followed by the domain name.

For example, to restrict your search to results from Twitter:

To add Facebook to the search, simply use “OR” again:

You can use this technique to focus on a particular company’s website, for example. Google will then return results only from that site.

You can also use it to focus your search on municipal and academic sources, too. This is particularly effective when researching countries that use unique domain types for government and university sites.

Note: When searching academic websites, be sure to check whether the page you find is written or maintained by the university, one of its professors or one of the students. As always, the specific source matters.

Searching for file types

Some information comes in certain types of file formats. For instance, statistics, figures and data often appear in Excel spreadsheets. Professionally produced reports can often be found in PDF documents. You can specify a format in your search by using “filetype:” followed by the desired data file extension (xls for spreadsheet, docx for Word documents, etc.).

2. Finding people

Groups can be easy to find online, but it’s often trickier to find an individual person. Start by building a dossier on the person you’re trying to locate or learn more about. This can include the following:

The person’s name, bearing in mind:

Different variations (does James call himself “James,” “Jim,” “Jimmy” or “Jamie”?).

The spelling of foreign names in Roman letters (is Yusef spelled “Yousef” or “Yusuf”?).

Did the names change when a person married?

Do you know a middle name or initial?

The town the person lives in and or was born in.

The person’s job and company.

Their friends and family members’ names, as these may appear in friends and follower lists.

The person’s phone number, which is now searchable in Facebook and may appear on web pages found in Google searches.

Any of the person’s usernames, as these are often constant across various social networks.

The person’s email address, as these may be entered into Facebook to reveal linked accounts. If you don’t know an email address, but have an idea of the domain the person uses, sites such as email-format can help you guess it.

A photograph, as this can help you find the right person, if the name is common.

Advanced social media searches: Facebook

Facebook’s newly launched search tool is amazing. Unlike previous Facebook searches, it will let you find people by different criteria including, for the first time, the pages someone has Liked. It also enables you to perform keyword searches on Facebook pages.

This keyword search, the most recent feature, sadly does not incorporate any advanced search filters (yet). It also seems to restrict its search to posts from your social circle, their favorite pages and from some high-profile accounts.

Aside from keywords in posts, the search can be directed at people, pages, photos, events, places, groups and apps. The search results for each are available in clickable tabs.

For example, a simple search for Chelsea will find bring up related pages and posts in the Posts tab:

The People tab brings up people named Chelsea. As with the other tabs, the order of results is weighted in favor of connections to your friends and favorite pages.

The Photos tab will bring up photos posted publicly, or posted by friends that are related to the word Chelsea (such as Chelsea Clinton, Chelsea Football Club or your friends on a night out in the Chelsea district of London).

The real investigative value of Facebook’s search becomes apparent when you start focusing a search on what you really want.

For example, if you are investigating links between extremist groups and football, you might want to search for people who like The English Defence League and Chelsea Football Club. To reveal the results, remember to click on the “People” tab.

This search tool is new and Facebook are still ironing out the creases, so you may need a few attempts at wording your search. That said, it is worth your patience.

Facebook also allows you to add all sorts of modifiers and filters to your search. For example, you can specify marital status, sexuality, religion, political views, pages people like, groups they have joined and areas they live or grew up in. You can specify where they studied, what job they do and which company they work for. You can even find the comments that someone has added to uploaded photos. You can find someone by name or find photos someone has been tagged in. You can list people who have participated in events and visited named locations. Moreover, you can combine all these factors into elaborate, imaginative, sophisticated searches and find results you never knew possible. That said, you may find still better results searching the site via search engines like Google (add “site:facebook.com” to the search box).

Advanced social media searches: Twitter

Many of the other social networks allow advanced searches that often go far beyond the simple “keyword on page” search offered by sites such as Google. Twitter’s advanced search, for example, allows you to trace conversations between users and add a date range to your search.

Twitter allows third-party sites to use its data and create their own exciting searches.
Followerwonk, for example, lets you search Twitter bios and compare different users. Topsy has a great archive of tweets, along with other unique functionality.

Advanced social media searches: LinkedIn

LinkedIn will let you search various fields including location, university attended, current company, past company or seniority.

You have to log in to LinkedIn in order to use the advanced search, so remember to check your privacy settings. You wouldn’t want to leave traceable footprints on the profile of someone you are investigating!

You can get into LinkedIn’s advanced search by clicking on the link next to the search box. Be sure, also, to select “3rd + Everyone Else” under relationship. Otherwise , your search will include your friends and colleagues and their friends.

LinkedIn was primarily designed for business networking. Its advanced search seems to have been designed primarily for recruiters, but it is still very useful for investigators and journalists. Personal data exists in clearly defined subject fields, so it is easy to specify each element of your search.

You can enter normal keywords, first and last names, locations, current and previous employers, universities and other factors. Subscribers to their premium service can specify company size and job role.

LinkedIn will let you search various fields including location, university attended, current company, past company and seniority.

Other options

Sites like Geofeedia and Echosec allow you to find tweets, Facebook posts, YouTube videos, Flickr and Instagram photos that were sent from defined locations. Draw a box over a region or a building and reveal the social media activity. Geosocialfootprint.com will plot a Twitter user’s activity onto a map (all assuming the users have enabled location for their accounts).

Additionally, specialist “people research” tools like Pipl and Spokeo can do a lot of the hard legwork for your investigation by searching for the subject on multiple databases, social networks and even dating websites. Just enter a name, email address or username and let the search do the rest. Another option is to use the multisearch tool from Storyful. It’s a browser plugin for Chrome that enables you to enter a single search term, such as a username, and get results from Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Spokeo. Each site opens in a new browser tab with the relevant results.

Searching by profile pic

People often use the same photo as a profile picture for different social networks. This being the case, a reverse image search on sites like TinEye and Google Images, will help you identify linked accounts.

3. Identifying domain ownership

Many journalists have been fooled by malicious websites. Since it’s easy for anyone to buy an unclaimed .com, .net or .org site, we should not go on face value. A site that looks well produced and has authentic-sounding domain name may still be a political hoax, false company or satirical prank.

Some degree of quality control can be achieved by examining the domain name itself. Google it and see what other people are saying about the site. A “whois” search is also essential. DomainTools.com is one of many sites that offers the ability to perform a whois search. It will bring up the registration details given by the site owner the domain name was purchased.

For example, the World Trade Organization was preceded by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades (GATT). There are, apparently, two sites representing the WTO. There’s wto.org (genuine) and gatt.org (a hoax). A mere look at the site hosted at gatt.org should tell most researchers that something is wrong, but journalists have been fooled before.

A whois search dispels any doubt by revealing the domain name registration information. Wto.org is registered to the International Computing Centre of the United Nations. Gatt.org, however, is registered to “Andy Bichlbaum” from the notorious pranksters the Yes Men.

Whois is not a panacea for verification. People can often get away with lying on a domain registration form. Some people will use an anonymizing service like Domains by Proxy, but combining a whois search with other domain name and IP address tools forms a valuable weapon in the battle to provide useful material from authentic sources.

Source:http://gijn.org/2015/05/05/online-research-tools-and-investigation-techniques/

Categorized in Investigative Research
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