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Disambiguating Digital - What is Web Scraping?

In business, having the right information is crucial to ensuring that you make the right decisions for your business. From market research to current market trends, customer behaviors and so much more, having up-to-date intelligence at your disposal allows you to put strategies in place that are optimized for success. However, trawling through the internet and extracting data manually take a lot of time, which can be better spent on other areas of your business.

This is where web scraping comes into play. In essence, this process involves extracting or scraping data from the internet using specialist software, bots, web spiders, or web crawler applications. It saves businesses a huge amount of time and effort in gathering the data they need for their operations. However, without the right technical knowledge and expertise, it can be difficult to ensure you get the most from your web scraping efforts.

Web Scraping

Continue reading to learn more about web scraping, how it works and what the advantages are for your business.

The Origins of Web Scraping

When the internet first began, there weren’t many websites around and there was nothing close to the amount of data that is available nowadays. However, over time, business directories sprung up, websites for businesses became commonplace, and social media and online marketing started to become serious business. Digital marketers and businesses requiring all sorts of data and information could no longer find what they needed through a quick search online. So, the concept of web scraping was born.

How Does a Web Scraper Work?

In simple terms, a web scraper is a specialized software programme or application used to the crawl the internet for specific information and collect that data from multiple sources.

The process begins with web crawling, whereby the software makes HTTP requests to a list of URLs and then downloads this information as HTML. This data is then passed to the extraction process, followed by data cleaning where the data is structured. Finally, the information is fed into a queue where the data is written into a format such as CSV and stored for use by the client.

The Applications

Web scrapers can be used for any number of different applications depending on what you are looking to accomplish. This type of software can be very powerful when used by experts who understand the process correctly and can use the software to its full potential.  

Google is without a doubt one of the biggest companies in the world and most peoples go-to for information of virtually any kind. Their search engine is a complex platform, but at the end of the day, it is a web scraper. When you search for anything through Google, they are able to pull from a huge amount of data they have collected over time and direct you to the most appropriate resources. They essentially scrape the web for the content you need and then redirect you to the source.

Another useful application of web scraping is to do with price monitoring. Perhaps you need to compare prices of different products for an upcoming sale in your online store or to source the best-value materials for your new product. Finding this information manually would be a painstaking process. However, with web scraping, you can gather this information from hundreds or even thousands of websites around the world quickly and efficiently.

Whether you have your own in-house marketing team or you hire an agency, you rely on web scrapers to gather all sorts of information about your competitors, your customers, and the market. Knowing what the hot products are, how consumers are spending their money, where they are shopping and what is not doing well in the marketplace is vital information for you to succeed in your niche.

How Web Scraping Can Work For You

Web scraping is an important part of business today, allowing you to gather a lot of data much easier than scouring manually from the internet. There are so many different types of information that can be utilized so many different ways, that it really can be overwhelming even knowing where to start. However, with the right approach, this information can be invaluable for any type of business and can help you lay the foundations for a successful future for your company.

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