Web scraping is the process of obtaining data from one or more websites. It is also known as web content extraction or web harvesting. If you have ever collated Google search results, collected prices of different products on Amazon for comparison, or checked the reviews of different products, then you have scraped the web. However, the manual collection of data can only get you so far.
The process of web scraping involves collecting data that are not arranged in a pre-defined order (unstructured data) and saving it in an organized manner (structured data). This process is an automated technique for extracting a group of data from websites. It is referred to as “automated” due to the implementation of a web crawler, popularly called a bot. Web scraping bots work by parsing through a given web page’s source code and extracting data according to some preset parameters.
Once the web scraping bots obtain the data you need, it is copied into a local spreadsheet for easy analysis. Web scraping bots allow you to collect data in large volumes, of the kind that would be impossible manually.
You can apply web scraping in various ways, including price monitoring, weather data surveillance, research, data mining & integration, product analysis, website analysis, online reputation monitoring, and more.
Web content scraping has a wide range of functions that have not been entirely explored yet. Whether for personal, professional, or business uses, web scraping is a handy tool to have in your arsenal. If you need more reasons to start using web scraping to obtain your data needs, here are ten of them.
1. Web Scraping for SEO
Search Engine Optimization is used to improve the rank of a website on the search engine. SEO determines if your website shows up on the first page of Google or the second or the fifteenth. And how high your website is on whichever page you happen to be. If you have been employing content creation to promote your business, you need to get started with web scraping. With web scraping, you can upgrade your SEO process by easily obtaining data on ranking keywords, competitor rankings, the word count of top-ranking articles, etc.
Moreover, web scraping allows you to execute technical SEO analysis to ensure your site performs as it should. You can also target specific high-ranking title tags to drive traffic to your website with a tool like SEMrush. These tools require data extraction to function because the data (keywords and title tags) are copied from other sites and structured in the tool.
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2. Web Scraping Helps in Tracking of Brand’s Online Identity
Brand monitoring has become more important these days as more and more brands find their customer base on the internet. The brand’s perspective includes content creation, engaging customers online, social media/marketing campaigns, etc. Meanwhile, a customer’s outlook of a brand’s online reputation involves checking reviews that influence their purchase. Web scraping helps you track your brand’s social network so you can easily monitor reviews (both positive and negative).
3. Promotes Creativity
The amount of data available on the internet is mind-boggling. If you were to spend all your time trying to make sense of the data, you would have no time for more creative tasks. With web scraping, you can automate your data collection process and focus on using the data in innovative ways to advance your personal or business goals. Even better, you can generate more and better ideas and develop better theories by scraping the web for more data on the topic you are working on. With data scraping, it is easier and quicker to prove your thesis. For every technical idea or theory you have, you can easily obtain the data you need to prove or disprove it with web scraping.
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4. Automated Lead Generation
Data is an essential tool for advertising. In marketing, generating sales leads usually requires listings that can be derived from web scraping. Furthermore, the web harvesting process helps you to discover companies that need your services. By utilizing a web crawler or bot, you will be able to automate several search options. For example, your LinkedIn profile search will be an easier process when you filter it. Also, you can mechanize a Google maps search for businesses in your local area. It’s bye-bye to manual data collection tasks when you implement web scraping to automate almost any data collection need.
5. Starting a Business
You can start a business with web scraping. Many businesses and professionals need quality data for their business to run properly. Data on their customers, on their industry, on the market, etc. But most businesses don’t have time to spend on data collection or don’t have the necessary methods to collect data easily. You can then scrape the web for these data sets they need, clean them up and sell them.
An excellent example of this is a lead generation business. You could help businesses collect data like names of decision-makers, email addresses and business models. Another interesting example is Chad Kimball Google Maps that even teenagers are now using to make money online.
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6. Improve Social Media Advertising
One of the most significant challenges that new business owners face is connecting with their target audience. However, web scraping makes it easier for you to find your target audience by allowing you to extract a competitor’s followers on most social media platforms. This method is quite recommendable, especially if you are confident that you can deliver the service or product the competitor is offering. This procedure is less hassle-free than searching for an online customer base all on your own. You can also use web scraping for influencer marketing by scraping content to see the people with the top-performing content in your industry. Read more on how to leverage social media effectively here.
7. Data Mining for the Development of Machine Learning Prototypes
In the Artificial Intelligence industry, companies typically face challenges acquiring fairly large images that match particular keywords. Again, web scraping says goodbye to manual search with the possibility of crawling the web and searching for the visual representations attached to the specific keywords. Additionally, you can save the pictures in a folder of your choice to further your inquiries and ultimately develop your model.
8. Database Management
One of the most important aspects of web scraping is the integration of bots. These bots make the automation of data collection and integration into a database very easy. Using web scraping to collect data makes data integration a lot easier. Data integration is the process of reconciling disparate sets of data and standardizing it. Manual data collection makes data integration very difficult due to the unstructured format of manually-collected data. On the other hand, web-scraped data is already structured to be integrated into your database easily.
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9. Monitoring Market Trends
With web scraping, you can efficiently and effectively monitor market trends in real-time. Web scraping bots can help you obtain forecast data, make predictions and follow market fluctuations. By scraping data like industry news, influencer predictions, market upheavals, etc., you can quickly identify the direction your industry is heading and position your business to benefit from that direction.
If you are looking for the best way to obtain data to build a competitive recruitment strategy for your business, then web scraping is your best bet. With web scraping, you can easily collect data like competitors’ recruitment practices, how prospective employees are marketing themselves, how job postings are being structured, etc. You can also use web scraping to collect data from job aggregation websites. This data can tell you the types of jobs that are getting the most applicants and the ones that are getting the least applicants.
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How To Get Started with Web Scrapers
Before we delve into how to get started with web scrapers, let’s discuss the technicalities of web pages. HTML and XHTML are text-based mark-up languages used to build web pages and offer many applicable data in text format. While you can easily view the HTML and XHTML codes’ end product, collecting the data embedded in the code is not that easy. And that’s why you need web scraping. Unfortunately, many of these web pages also have defenses that make them hard to access by automated systems.
You can’t scrape some websites because the owners adopted techniques that prevent you from doing that. These sites discern and prohibit bots from crawling the web pages. Therefore, advanced web scraping software that uses natural language processing, DOM parsing, and computer vision to imitate end-users surfing the net have been developed to tackle this problem. That way, the bots can perform the web content extraction tasks on the web pages.
Now let’s go into how to get started with web scrapers! Firstly, you need the URL of the webpage you want to scrape. That is where the request is sent when you run a program (code) for web content scraping. In response, you will gain access to the XML or HTML page immediately after the webserver transmits the data. Afterward, the program will parse the XML or HTML page, obtain the data and finally, extract it. Here is how to get started with web scrapers, using Scraping Robot as a case study:
- Go to the Scraping Robot site and signup for an account.
- Open the tab and click on “My Projects.”
- Click on “Create New Project.”
- Choose from the “Modules Library,” containing over 20 modules, including social media platforms. If you can’t find a module that fits your needs, you can send a message to have a custom module built for you. Creating a custom module allows you to get specific with the type of data you want to scrape. They can build a custom module for a single need or multiple data needs.
- Type in the word(s) you want to scrape in the blank space.
- Click on “Start Scraping.”
- Also, insert the right amount of scrapes needed to complete the scraping and your billing address.
- Finally, you can download the results in CSV.
While this process is recommended for web scraping beginners, some expert coders also use python to create their data extraction codes. If you are a professional coder, then here is a process you can follow to extract data. You can read more on extracting data with python using this step-by-step guide here:
- Open the site that you want to scrape.
- Inspect the website
- Search for the data you want to extract
- Write the code
- Run the program
- Extract the data
- Save the data in the appropriate format.
Web scraping is a necessary tool for everyone who requires a bulk of data on the internet. Apart from the ones we’ve listed above, there are so many other ways you can apply web scraping for your business and personal needs and make sure you always have the data you need when you need it. So what are you waiting for? Get started with web scraping now and be more productive with less time and hassles!