The Ultimate Web Scraping Guide.
March 15, 2021
It is no lie that data is power in many ways. For different reasons and applications, different information available online can be used for gaining an advantage in various spheres of life, especially in business.
The most primitive and simple way of gathering the information is by doing it manually - copy and pasting everything by hand. This works great if the data which needs to be gathered is small in quantity. However, when it comes to collecting data at scale - web scraping is the way to go. For people that have never dealt with web scraping, it might take a minute to get acquainted and understand different ways and methods used; however, fear nothing - this article will explain and get you acquainted with the process of retrieving web data by web scraping!
In this blog, we are going to answer these questions:
- What is web scraping?
- How does web scraping work?
- Is web scraping legal?
- What are the different kinds of web scrapers?
- Where is web scraping applied?
- Web Scraper.
What is web scraping?
Web scraping, also known as web harvesting or web data extraction is a process of gathering information from websites. It automates the tedious manual work of copying-pasting the information you are after by hand. It takes only one scraper to gather texts, prices, images, product links in one export file while the manual process can take ages.
The most primitive goal of web scraping is to make the data collection process efficient and as short as possible. Many businesses are fueled by data; therefore, data collection manually by hand is an unbelievable process; therefore, web scraping makes collecting leads, customer reviews, competitors' prices, and such, fast and simple.
How does web scraping work?
Each website is built upon a code that creates a structure in which the information is displayed on the website. Now, Web data extraction basically involves 2 processes - fetching and extracting. Fetching is simply the act of downloading the page - its structure, code, and data. Once the page is fetched - the process of extracting implies that only the parts that are relevant and necessary for us are taken from the whole fetched page.
Might sound complicated and hard to grasp; however, many software applications and tools have been developed that have written code that performs the fetching and extraction automatically with the user having to only designate a scraper of which information exactly is needed from the particular website.
Is web scraping legal?
A very popular question among people is whether web data extraction is legal since it is copying data and pasting it somewhere else.
The answer is yes and no. More precisely - there is no specific law in place that would forbid web scraping; therefore, it should be no problem; however, it is not quite that simple, because websites have Terms & Conditions (T&C) that regulate the rules of the usage of the website. Many specify in their T&C that the specific website can not be scraped or that it is not forbidden to scrape; however, the gathered data can not be used for commercial purposes. If T&C rules are broken - the act of web scraping is considered illegal.
All that you have to do is just CTRL + F search for web scraping in the T&C of the website you are looking to scrape and the information can be found in a minute or so.
What are the different kinds of web scrapers?
There are different types of web scrapers. Mostly depending on the amount of data you are looking to retrieve, or additional features for web scraping process - the types can vary.
There are three kinds of web data extraction types:
Browser extensions - in recent years, web scraping extensions have grown in popularity. It’s no surprise since it can be the most convenient type of scraping since it can be done on the spot, through the browser. Web scraping with simply an extension is very efficient and useful for one-time projects or extraction of smaller quantities.
Downloadable software - probably the least popular type of web scraping tools are the ones that run on downloadable software. Don’t oversee this type though - they are very capable and powerful; however, since browser extension and cloud-based scraping tools have taken the market - downloading software for a process that can be run through your browser seems like a hassle nowadays.
Cloud-based software - the way to go if you are looking for larger amounts of data to be extracted, automation, APIs, and various scraping jobs run at the same time. Many cloud-based web scraping software providers work as B2B businesses, however, for most of them, a subscription plan is available to anyone.
Self-built - last but not least, basically anyone can build their own web scrapers. It might sound cool; however, it does require advanced programming knowledge. Nonetheless - self-built scrapers require continuous maintenance, and as long as you are not a programming expert - the self-built scrapers can not offer full functionality and every feature that the other types of scrapers do.
Where is web scraping applied?
Nowadays data is a key component for accelerating or pursuing a business. Data is necessary for various business spheres. Starting from research and marketing to engineering and artificial intelligence.
With web scraping, it is possible to gather thousands of leads in a short period of time, price monitor your competitors in only a few clicks, and optimize your products in the most efficient way.
Read one of our previous blogs about how web scraping can fuel your business.
Web Scraper extension.
Web Scraper Cloud.
If you are looking for ways to automate your web scraping processes, there are free 7-day trials available for each of our subscription plans.
Hope this blog got your engines ignited on web scraping.
Have fun scraping!