Deep web, also known as the ‘hidden web’ or ‘invisible web’, is part of the Internet which is not indexed by search engines and can’t be accessed directly by users. It is often referred to as ‘dark’ due to its mysterious and often uncontrolled nature, but is much larger than the ‘surface web’. It includes encrypted networks such as TOR, and websites that can only be found by entering in manual URL addresses.
In marketing terms, the deep web can be an extremely effective tool for gathering insights into target customer segments. As it generally encompasses websites that are not indexed by search engines and not easily discovered, the content of these sites is often very up to date and highly relevant. As such, they can provide a wealth of knowledge into customer behaviour that would simply be inaccessible through traditional marketing practices.
Accessing the deep web can be a difficult process and requires a certain level of expertise. It’s important to understand the risks associated with accessing information from the deep web, as malicious activity is rife, and navigating the open-source browser TOR safely requires a keen eye and some detailed knowledge.
That said, there are a number of ways to safely access the deep web for marketing research. Below we provide an overview of the general guidelines and best practices for accessing the deep web for marketing purposes.
1. Understand the risks involved: As with accessing any online content, there are risks associated with accessing the deep web. Before getting stuck in, it is important to understand the potential dangers of interacting with anonymous parties and the implications of any information you might reveal about yourself, as well as risks associated with downloading malicious software or conducting illicit activities.
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2. Utilise a secure browser: The safest way to access the deep web is by using a secure browser, such as TOR (The Onion Router). TOR utilises a number of encryption layers that route your Internet traffic so it is difficult to trace, and thus, providing an additional level of privacy.
3. Take adequate safety measures: Once your secure browser is up and running, there are several steps you can take to ensure you are browsing safely. Consider creating a new and separate email address just for deep web activities, as normal email addresses tend to collect and store data. You should avoid entering any personal information such as your name, address or phone number, as this can easily be tracked. On top of this, use a reputable VPN that encrypts all data and has the necessary firewalls to block any malicious attacks.
4. Navigate carefully: In order to locate websites on the deep web, you will most likely need to acquire URLs manually through dark web directories and forums. Some websites are nothing more than malicious ware, so it’s important to only access trusted websites established by reliable contributors.
5. Protect your data: Despite the security measures in place, it is still essential to be conscious of storing any data acquired from the deep web on your own computer or in an unsecured cloud platform. A false-bottomed USB drive is a must-have for any deep web researcher in order to keep any valuable data secure.
In conclusion, the deep web is a valuable marketing tool for uncovering customer segment insights that are difficult to access through traditional methods. By understanding the risks, utilising a secure browser and taking the necessary safety precautions, you can learn a wealth of valuable data for use in your marketing campaigns.