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April 28, 2023
18 min

What is Web Scraping and How Can It Benefit Your Business in 2024?

April 28, 2023
18 min
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To make the most of global digitalization, organizations have access to Big Data that they can use to drive business growth, research, and development. However, obtaining relevant data can take time and effort. It is where web scraping comes into play. 

Web scraping is extracting data from websites by using automated software tools. In this article, we will tell what web scraping is, its importance in today's digital world, the process of web scraping, and examples of what web scraping can be used for. We will also discuss the legal and ethical considerations and applications of web scraping and tools and techniques.

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What Is the Essence of Data Mining as Part of Big Data?

Web scraping, data scraping, or web data extraction, is the process of extracting data from pages using automated scraping software tools. This data can be in various formats: text, images, audio, and video. Web scraping tools automatically navigate web pages, locate relevant data, and extract it. The extracted data can then be stored in a structured format for later use. If you need an individual approach to a solution, schedule a call.

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Lots of Web Scraping Data Options

In today's digital world, data is the most valuable resource for businesses and researchers. Web scraping is essential for obtaining the data needed to drive business growth. The use of web scraping allows organizations to collect Big Data quickly and efficiently, providing them with a competitive advantage over competitors. Web scraping can also be used to monitor brand mentions on social media, track competitors' pricing strategies, and gather data for market research.

Web scraping process

Web Scraping Order Without Regard to Data Types

The web scraping process involves several steps for extracting the desired data from websites. It is a vital tool to scrape data and for obtaining qualitative, relevant data that can be used for analysis. 

Here is an in-depth overview of web scraping:

  1. The first step in web scraping is identifying the website from which you want to extract data. It could be a competitor's website, a social media platform, or any other website with relevant data. It is important to accurately identify the website to ensure the correct data is extracted.
  2. Once you have identified the target website, you must determine the data you want to extract — product information, pricing data, customer reviews, or any other information relevant to your business.
  3. Various web scraping tools are available, and the choice of tool will depend on the specific requirements of your project. Some popular web scraping tools (Beautiful Soup, Scrapy, Selenium, Octoparse, and WebHarvy) automate the process of data extraction and enable you to extract data from websites quickly and efficiently.
  4. After selecting the web scraping tool, you must configure it to extract the desired data. It involves setting up the tool to navigate the website and locate the data. You may specify the URL of the website, the HTML tags to be extracted, and any other parameters required by the tool.
  5. Once the tool is configured, you can run it to extract the data. The tool will navigate through the website and extract the specified data. The extracted data can then be stored in a structured format for later use.
  6. The extracted data may contain errors, duplicates, or irrelevant information. Therefore, cleaning and processing the data before analysis is essential. It involves removing duplicates, correcting mistakes, and filtering out irrelevant information.
  7. Once the data is cleaned and processed, you can analyze it to gain insights and make data-driven decisions. Data analysis techniques - data visualization, regression analysis, and machine learning - can be used to extract insights from the data.

It should be noted that web scraping can be complex, and there may be some challenges along the way. For example, some websites may have measures to prevent web scraping, such as CAPTCHAs or IP blocking. Additionally, some websites may require authentication or login credentials to access specific data. Therefore, it is integral to be aware of the potential challenges and take steps to overcome them.

Web scraping can be a powerful tool for obtaining relevant data that can be used to drive business growth and research. However, it is essential to follow ethical and legal practices when using web scraping tools. Organizations must ensure they are not violating laws or agreements when using web scraping tools.

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Where Can You Use Web Scraping Content?

Web scraping is a versatile technique that can be used for various applications across various industries. Its potential uses are limited only by the creativity of the user. Here are some examples of what web scraping can be used for:

  1. Market Research: Web scraping can be used to collect data on competitors' products, pricing strategies, and marketing campaigns. For example, a company in the fashion industry can use scraping to monitor the prices and availability of similar products offered by competitors to determine their pricing strategy.
  2. Lead Generation: Web scraping can be used to collect contact information for potential customers. This information can be used for targeted marketing campaigns and lead generation. For example, a real estate company can use web scraping to collect contact information for potential home buyers and sellers to target them with specific marketing campaigns.
  3. Product Data: Web scraping can collect product data for analysis. This data can be used to optimize product listings, improve pricing strategies, and identify trends. For example, an e-commerce website can use web scraping to monitor product prices, descriptions, and reviews to identify popular products, adjust prices, and improve product descriptions.
  4. Brand Monitoring: Web scraping can monitor brand mentions on social media. This information can gauge customer sentiment, identify potential issues, and respond to customer feedback. For example, a company can use web scraping to monitor social media platforms for brand mentions to address negative feedback and improve customer satisfaction.
  5. Real Estate: Web scraping can collect data on real estate listings, prices, and trends. This data can inform real estate investment decisions, identify potential opportunities, and monitor the market. For example, a real estate investor can use web scraping to identify potential areas for growth.
  6. Digital Marketing: Web scraping can collect data on social media platforms, including engagement rates, demographics, and content performance. For example, a digital marketing agency can use web scraping to collect data on social media campaigns and optimize them for better engagement and reach.
  7. Research and Development: Web scraping can collect data on scientific research, academic publications, and patents. This data can inform research and development decisions, identify potential research collaborators, and monitor scientific trends. For example, a pharmaceutical company can use web scraping to monitor scientific publications for possible drug discoveries and identify them.
Where Can You Use Web Scraping Content?

Legal and Ethical Aspects and Data Security

Web scraping can be a powerful tool for obtaining valuable data, but it is crucial to consider the legal and ethical implications of using web scraping tools.

Legal Considerations

  1. Websites have terms of service agreements that users must agree to before using the website. These agreements can limit the use of web scraping tools, and violating them can lead to legal consequences.
  2. Copyright law protects the intellectual property rights of website owners. Copying or distributing copyrighted content without permission can lead to legal action.
  3. Data protection laws (GDPR and CCPA) protect the privacy rights of individuals. Collecting personal data without consent can lead to legal punishment.

Ethical Considerations and Consent Legitimate

  1. Web scraping can involve collecting personal data without the consent of the individuals. You must respect the privacy of individuals and obtain their permission before collecting their data.
  2. Being transparent about using web scraping tools and the data being collected is essential. Organizations must communicate the purpose of the data collection and obtain consent from the individuals involved.
  3. The data collected through web scraping should be used responsibly and ethically. Organizations should ensure that the data is not used for malicious purposes like discrimination or harassment.
  4. Web scraping should be used fairly and without bias. The data collected should not be used to discriminate against individuals based on their differences.

Liability for Violation When Illegal Scraping Is Used

There are risks and consequences associated with unethical or illegal web scraping practices. These can include legal action, damage to reputation, and loss of trust from clients and stakeholders.

Therefore, following ethical and legal practices when using web scraping tools is important. Organizations must obtain consent or have a legitimate interest in the data they are collecting and ensure that the extracted data is being used ethically and responsibly.

What Techniques Provide High-Quality Web Scraping?

The first method that comes to mind is that data can be collected manually by hiring people to track information on the resources of interest. But the productivity of such work will be low, and the possibility of error due to the human factor will be high. During the development of data science, web scraping has accumulated several proven techniques and tools.

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1. Using web scraping tools

Automatic scrapers or click scrape tools offer an easy way to extract data.

  • No programming knowledge is required. You only need to know which button to press.
  • You can create 100,000 data points for less than $100.
  • You can scrape millions of pages without worrying about infrastructure or network bandwidth.
  • Even if websites use anti-bot protection mechanisms to prevent data collection, good scraping tools deal with these protection methods and ensure smooth operation.
  • You can scrape anytime, anywhere, taking advantage of cloud-based tools infrastructure.

2. Own web scraping technical stuff

If your requirements are too hard to handle by a web extraction tool, consider building your team of developers and data engineers to transform and load (ETL) your data into a database (ETL). This approach allows you to customize according to your requirements, as well as manageability and flexibility. However, this approach requires money and resources.

3. API for data collection

Programming knowledge is usually required to use APIs that provide the required data. But as data requirements increase, so do costs. It is also not possible to personalize the data collection process.

4. Unified data service

Another way to use web scraping tools or hire developers is by outsourcing data mining requirements. Some companies provide IT services, and under the hood, they will use one of the above approaches.

5. Scraping methods for mobile applications

Mobile app scraping uses tools like Selendroid, Appium, Bluestacks, or Nox emulator to run bulk mobile app scraping in the cloud. Recycling at scale is full of problems if you do it yourself. If that's what you're after, you might also keep in mind:

  • Scraping the PWA of the mobile app, if it exists
  • Scraping of mobile applications on outsourcing

Top 5 Best Web Scraping Tools

DATAFOREST offers a custom approach to solving each specific problem. In this case, it is probably to use standard techniques and tools, but only if it benefits the project. We believe that standard tools can implement non-standard solutions.

Best open-source web scrapers:

  1. Scrapy is a Python framework originally conceived for web scraping, but it also serves to extract information using an API or as a general web crawler.
  2. Apache Nutch is a modular Java framework for building search engines based on technologies adapted to the specifics of Internet search.
  3. StormCrawler is an open-source resource kit for building scalable, low-latency crawlers based on Apache Storm.
  4. PySpider is a powerful web page crawler that offers an API for fetching data from third-party resources and a web interface for controlling and managing many aspects of the process.
  5. BS4 is a Python library for extracting data from HTML and XML files.

In addition to mastery of standard tools, DATAFOREST has its own time-tested solutions. The combination of these two approaches completely covers the needs of our clients in web scraping.

Techniques of web scraping

Applications of Web Scraping With the Specific Data

Web scraping has a wide range of applications across various industries. This section will discuss some industries that use web scraping and the specific use cases for web scraping in each sector.

  1. In the e-commerce industry — to collect product data, monitor prices, and analyze customer reviews. This data can be used to optimize pricing strategies, improve product descriptions, and identify popular products.
  2. In e-market research — to collect data on competitors' products, pricing strategies, and marketing campaigns. This data can be used to gain insights into the market and make data-driven decisions.
  3. In the real estate industry — to collect data on listings, prices, and trends. This data can inform real estate investment decisions, identify potential opportunities, and monitor the market.
  4. In digital marketing — to collect data on social media platforms, including engagement rates, demographics, and content performance. This data can be used to optimize digital marketing campaigns and improve brand awareness.
  5. In the finance industry — to collect market data, stock prices, and economic indicators. This data can inform investment decisions, identify opportunities, and monitor market trends.
  6. In the healthcare industry — to collect data on medical research, clinical trials, and drug pricing. This data can inform research and development decisions, identify potential research collaborators, and monitor scientific trends.
  7. In the law industry — to collect data on legal cases, court decisions, and legislative updates. This data can be used to monitor legal trends and identify potential opportunities.

Use Cases of Automated Web Scraping in Business and Research

Web scraping has numerous use cases in both business and research. This section will discuss some of the most common use cases of web scraping in these fields.

Business Use Cases

Web scraping can be used for:

  1. Lead generation by collecting contact information for potential customers. This information can be used for targeted marketing campaigns.
  2. Competitive analysis by collecting data on competitors' products, pricing strategies, and marketing campaigns. This data can be used to gain insights into the market and make data-driven decisions.
  3. Brand monitoring by collecting data on social media platforms and monitoring brand mentions. This information can be used to gauge customer sentiment, identify potential issues, and respond to feedback.
  4. Product development by collecting data on customer feedback, reviews, and ratings. This information can be used to improve product features and identify potential areas for growth.
  5. E-market research by collecting data on consumer behavior, preferences, and trends. This data can be used to inform market research and identify potential opportunities.
  6. Data analytics by extracting and analyzing data from various sources. This data can inform decision-making processes, identify trends, and gain insights into customer behavior.

Cases of Research As Part of Artificial Intelligence

Web scraping can be used for:

  1. Data collection in research by collecting data from various sources, including websites and social media platforms.
  2. Text mining by collecting textual data from various sources. This data can be used to identify patterns and relationships in copywriting.
  3. Sentiment analysis by collecting data on customer reviews from social media platforms. This data can be used to identify potential issues.
  4. Data visualization by collecting and visualizing data from various sources. This data can be used to identify trends and patterns in different groups of goods and services.
  5. Machine learning by collecting data for training models. This data can be used to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of the machine-learning process.

65% of businesses consider the banking sector as the leader of global data-driven decision-making in enterprises in 2020.

Leader of global data-driven decision-making in enterprises in 2020.

Web Scraping for Both Business and Research Solution Class

Web scraping can provide numerous benefits to organizations and researchers, including such:

  1. The quick and efficient data collection saves time and resources.
  2. Valuable insights into market trends, customer behavior, and competitors' strategies, allowing for more informed decision-making.
  3. Cost savings by reducing the need for manual data collection and analysis.
  4. A competitive advantage by providing insights into competitors' strategies, product offerings, and pricing.
  5. Research outcomes by providing access to a large amount of data quickly and efficiently.

Organizations and researchers can extract valuable insights from the data collected and improve their decision-making processes by following the best practices outlined above and using appropriate web scraping tools and techniques.

Web Scraping Is for Technology Alliance Partners

Web scraping is a verified tool that can supply customers with valuable data. However, it is vital to be aware of the legal and ethical considerations of web scraping and to use appropriate tools and techniques. With proper use, web scraping can give businesses a competitive advantage and help them make informed decisions.

As technology advances and more data becomes available, web scraping will continue to be an essential tool for organizations in various industries. It is important to understand the potential benefits and risks of web scraping and to use it responsibly and ethically.

If your business, regardless of size, will benefit from the data collected by scraping, it does not seem to you. DATAFOREST is constantly in touch for simple solutions to complex problems. Let's take a look at yours.

Legal and ethical considerations of web scraping

FAQ

What is web scraping, and how does it work?

Web scraping is extracting data from websites using automated software or tools. It works by sending a request to a website, parsing the HTML code, and extracting the relevant data using regular expressions or XPath techniques.

Is web scraping legal?

The legality of web scraping depends on various factors, such as the website's terms of service and the jurisdiction where the scraper operates. In general, scraping publicly available information is legal, but scraping personal or copyrighted information may be illegal.

What are some standard techniques used in web scraping?

Some common techniques used in web scraping include scraping HTML content, using APIs, and using specialized web scraping tools such as BeautifulSoup or Scrapy.

What are the benefits of web scraping for businesses and researchers?

Web scraping can provide businesses and researchers access to large amounts of data quickly and easily. This data can be used for various purposes, such as market research, competitive and trend analysis.

What are some challenges that arise during the web scraping process?

Some common challenges during web scraping include dealing with anti-scraping techniques, handling dynamic websites, and ensuring data quality and accuracy.

How can one ensure the quality and accuracy of the data obtained through web scraping?

To ensure the quality and accuracy of the data obtained through web scraping, it is important to verify the data source, use multiple sources for validation, and perform data cleaning and normalization.

What are some ethical considerations to keep in mind while web scraping?

Some ethical considerations to remember while web scraping includes respecting the terms of service of the website being scraped, avoiding scraping personal or sensitive information, and being transparent about the data collection process.

How can web scraping be used to gain a competitive advantage in the market?

Web scraping can gain a competitive advantage by giving businesses insights into their competitors' pricing, product offerings, and marketing strategies.

Can web scraping be used for personal data collection, and if so, what are the potential risks involved?

Web scraping can be used for personal data collection, but doing so may be illegal or unethical, depending on the source and nature of the data. Potential risks in private data collection include legal action, reputational damage, and loss of trust with customers or stakeholders.

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