When you want to obtain a large amount of information from a website faster, the copy and paste option may not work. You need a better way to retrieve data, and that’s how web scraping comes in.
So what is web scraping? It is the process of extracting large data from a website using intelligence automation. The benefits of web scraping are many, as the data collected can be used to add value to purpose. Most of the information collected through the process is often unstructured, so it has to be converted into an API or spreadsheet format to be useful. The process can be done manually, but it’ll take much time and cost you much more than when you use automated tools.
Scraping Web Data
Scraping web data can be challenging since websites are different. That’s why we have web scrapers with different features and functionalities.
There are plenty of ways to carry out web scraping. You can use API’s or create a code from scratch. Large websites like Google have APIs that allow you to obtain data in structured formats. But not all sites have this advanced technology, and you have to get the information you need through web scraping.
Web scraping requires a scraper and crawler. A scraper is a tool specifically designed to extract data from websites. Scrapers vary in design according to the scope and complexity of the project. The crawler, on the other hand, is an AI algorithm that searches the web for the specific data required by following links on the internet.
Types of Web Scrapers Available
There are different types of web scrapers, some of which require programming knowledge to operate, especially if you need those equipped with more features. You can build your own web scrapers or download the pre-built options and customize them to your needs.
The different web scrapers include;
Cloud Web Scrapers
These are web scrapers that run on the cloud from off-site servers offered by your scraper providers. Cloud web scrapers do not eat up your RAM or CPU storage since the vendors provide all the resources for scraping. You can use your PC for other important tasks without experiencing issues like low speeds.
Browser Extension Web Scrapers
As the name suggests, these types of scrapers can be added as extensions to your browser. Browser extension web scrapers are easy to run but are also limited because of their integration with your browser. All advanced features outside your browser’s scope cannot run on these scrapers.
Software Web Scrapers
Software web scrapers are downloadable. You can install them on your computer with all the advanced features they come with. They are a bit complex compared to other web scrapers and are not limited by your browser’s scope.
How to Use the Web Scraper
A web scraper can get you all the data you need from specific sites or extract only the information you specify. You can use these web scraping hacks to collect the information you need from all the websites.
Once the scraper loads the HTML codes, it will then extract the required data and output in the specified format i.e., a CSV file or spreadsheet. You can also save it as a JSON file to be used for API. Ideally, you have to go through the data to filter out what you need before saving it.
What Can a Web Scraper Be Used For?
Web scrapers can be used in many ways, including;
1. Analyzing Product Sentiments
Businesses can use web scraping to understand the consumer’s sentiments about their products by collecting and analyzing data from social media sites. This can help them create products that suit their customers’ needs and differentiate them from the competition.
2. Carrying Out Market Research
Through analyzed data, companies can get an idea about market trends and develop strategies geared towards the company’s future growth.
3. Email Marketing
You can use web scraping for your email marketing by collecting email IDs from different sites and using it to send marketing emails to people. This will enable you to promote your products and brand widely.
Other ways you can use web scraping include;
- To conduct job searches
- Compare product prices
- Monitor your competition
- Collecting data from yellow pages for lead generation
- Gathering site data before website migration
Web scraping can be used to do a lot of things. This is because you can use the right proxy for web scraping to have access to all the data you need and can use it to your advantage.
What features Web Scraper should have?
An excellent web scraper should have these features:
- It should be able to scrape text from any website (AJAX, dynamic website, and Java)
- It should make it easy to create a new project
- The web scraper should be able to crawl into many websites at the same time
- It should have a codeless drag and drop web parsing interface that enables data selection
- It should be capable of maintaining an autorun process without manipulation
- It should have an optical character recognition for text extraction
- It should be able to extract HTML code and export extracted data to a database, spreadsheet, or through API
- It should be able to scan various file formats
- It should be able to extract diagrams or images from web pages
- The web scraper should be able to publish data to BI tools through API
Web scraping is an essential skill that every business needs for growth. You can gather data easily and fast and use it to gain a high market value for your company. Web automation tools are becoming more popular, which means you can apply web scraping even if you have no programming skills.