Brands large and small have competitors they’d like to out-sell, out-promote and out-perform. But as much as you’d like to poke around the competition and see what they’re up to, it’s not always ethical.

The St. Louis Cardinals are the latest (but certainly not the last) organization to get caught snooping around where they didn’t belong. Several employees of the MLB team are currently under investigation by the FBI and Justice Department for hacking into a rivals network to gather scouting reports, player analyses and other proprietary information about the team.

While confidential player reports may not be available to the general public, there are other aspects of your competitors that are ethical to check out, if you know where to look.

Social Media Snooping

If your competitor is on social media, take a look at what they’re posting, who they’re engaging with or who’s following them. If they’re creating content, see how you can create something better. If people are interacting with the brand and no one is responding, take that opportunity to reach out as your brand!

Most social networks also give you the ability to target advertising directly to fans/followers of your competitor. Use related keywords (even try the adding the competitor’s name and product names) to get your brand’s message in front of your competitor’s audience. This will require having budget to put behind your social media strategy, but as we all know, most social networks have moved almost entirely to pay-to-play for brands these days.

SEO Recon

There are several tools available to marketers that can show you what keywords (both organic and paid) that your competitor is ranking for. Some even tell you how your brand stacks up against the competitor for each keyword as well. If your competitor ranks higher than you, create meaningful content around those keywords to boost your ranking. Google’s algorithms change so frequently that rank-boosting tactics go in and out of favor all the time. Lucky for you, quality content that your audience finds valuable will also help.

Understanding your competitor’s paid media strategy and the overall industry landscape in paid media can also be very valuable. Maybe none of your competitors are investing in digital advertising. This could give you the chance to make a small investment and have the online inventory all to yourself.

Before you go hacking into emails or tapping the competition’s phone lines, take advantage of tools available to marketers to scope out the competition and stay #honorable.