Web scraping has become the cornerstone of data extraction and market research. Companies across all industries are looking for web scraping experts that can help them develop scraping tools.
But you don't really need experts. There are web scraping tools available that allow you to scrape data with the same or slightly better speed, efficacy, and diversity.
Let's take a quick look at why you should use web scraping tools for data extractions.
What is a Web Scraper?
You must've copy-pasted data from a website, maybe for a college assignment or a school project. If yes, then you've also performed web scraping, but at a substantially smaller scale.
Simply put, web scraping is the process of extracting, retrieving, or scraping data from a website.
But unlike manually browsing through pages and extracting data, the web scraping process includes the use of intelligent, automated tools.
We call these tools web scrapers. They're specialized computer programs capable of extracting millions or billions of data points from various web pages on a website. The data is originally extracted in HTML format. You can later parse the data to filter useful information. You can save the data in various formats as per your project specifications. Generally, companies prefer JSON, TSV, and CSV.
How to Conduct Web Scraping?
Pick any web scraping guide, and it'll suggest two methods of web scraping: by writing code or using the software. Let's discuss the methods in brief.
1. Writing Code: If you have the required expertise, you can develop a custom data extraction tool. A lot of web scraping APIs are available that allow you to create scraping software easily. If you don't have experts in your team, you can hire developers for writing code.
2. Web Scraping Software: The second, and a highly recommended method, is by using web scraping software. Web scraping tools are of two types: on-premise and cloud-based. These solutions enable you to scrape websites seamlessly even if you have zero knowledge about coding and other technicalities involved in scraping.
Why Use a Web Scraper?
You can use any of the above-mentioned methods to scrape the web. If you have experts in your team who can code a fully-functional web scraper, go for custom software development. But if you're a non-tech business, opting from a ready-to-use web scraper would be the best pick.
Here are some key benefits of using web scraper software.
1. Less Coding Required
Web scraping requires some serious skills. For starters, you'll need mastery in scripting languages like Python, HTML, JS, and CSS. You'll also need to learn about the BeautifulSoup library and how to parse robots.txt files. Last, you'll need to be familiar with the Selenium web driver. Choosing the right proxies for web scraping is another crucial step.
Unless you're an IT company, finding these skills in your in-house team is unlikely. With a web scraper tool, you can facilitate and automate the entire scraping process with no or minimal coding. Thus, you can enjoy the benefits of web scraping regardless of your company's technical proficiency.
2. Easily Collect Data from Your Competitors
One of the key benefits of web scraping is extracting data from your competitor websites. In fact, many companies - in countries like France - have allowed open access to their data.
But the API is sluggish, and the data needs further enrichment. Since custom web scrapers utilize these APIs, they're likely to struggle when it comes to scraping data. Hence, you'll have a hard time collecting data from your competitors.
Furthermore, custom scrapers are designed to scrape data from a particular website. So, if you want to scrape five competitor websites, you'll need to write code for five separate software.
With a dedicated scraping tool, you can overcome all of these tedious tasks. These programs are designed to work on multiple websites, so you can seamlessly scrape your competitors without creating different scrapers.
3. Track Prices from Multiple Markets
Web scrapers help track prices, especially e-commerce data to improve customer service. But you can program your scraper for only a particular type of market. Of course, you can reprogram it to work for other markets too, but it's a lot of work.
With web scraping tools, you can track prices, customer sentiment, and other information across different markets. This helps you save time and enables you to conduct scraping at a broader scale.
4. Extract Data for Marketing Research
Companies focus on extracting as much data as possible when it comes to business intelligence and big data. And it's fine. By writing specific code, you can scrape tons of data for marketing research.
But what about the quality? You will collect data from different websites and sources, but how'll you know which part of it is useful?
Web scraping tools allow you to scrape information with a laser focus. You can, therefore, extract high-quality data that helps you make informed decisions.
Web scraping and data extraction should be a part of every company's market research strategy. Earlier, web scraping was a complex process best suited for tech-savvy organizations. But now, with easy-to-use scraping tools available, anyone can extract data with ease.