You’ve probably heard about web scraping, the procedure of gathering information from the internet. It can be anything from copying and pasting a text to collecting vast amounts of data. Even by reading this text, you’re performing web scraping. Read on to learn what it is, who’s it for, and what it can do.
When people talk about web scraping (or web crawling, data extraction, or data mining), they’re usually referring to the automated data collection process using a piece of software. A great example of this would be price data gathering from Amazon for a report on price changes over a specific period in a particular location. To gather this data, you would have to send constant automated requests to Amazon to keep track of the information you’re interested in and register when it changes.
Most modern web scraping tools collect data and export it into a convenient format for the user. Spreadsheets are most common for smaller scraping projects, while more advanced ones use JSON files and APIs, which are more customizable. In most cases, you set up a program or a script to collect the information you’re interested in and tell it how to format and where to store the information.
People use this type of data gathering for various projects and purposes. It’s a prevalent practice among data scientists, analysts, developers, and researchers. They utilize it to gather massive amounts of data they can study. Businesses use scraping to keep an eye on market trends, see what the competition is up to, make sure their brand is protected at all times, generate new leads, and gain valuable insights on new potential markets.
Many apps, aggregators, and similar services wouldn’t work without web scraping. Stock market monitoring and prediction apps gather relevant data, which helps them make accurate predictions. Price aggregators use elaborate data collection setups to ensure they have the most recent prices from different websites, from airfare deals to hotel accommodation and real estate.
If you’re looking to start your own web scraping project, you first need to figure out what type of data you’re looking to gather. In most cases, it’s a fairly straightforward procedure since you have multiple solutions to choose from, each with its own pros and cons.
Next, you need to visit the website (or websites) with the data you’re interested in and determine where you want to store the gathered information (locally or in the cloud). You can write your custom web scraper or go with an existing solution that suits your needs. Web scrapers come in all shapes and sizes, from browser extensions to versatile software solutions.
Web scraping extensions are often very easy to set up and run as they’re a part of your browser. However, they’re usually limited and lack advanced features you may wish to utilize. If you’re looking to run a large-scale data mining setup, it’s best to go with specialized solutions that offer advanced features not present in simple browser extensions or DIY variants.
Although web scraping is legal when you’re gathering publicly available data, certain websites have ways to make things difficult. In most cases, they’ll block a specific IP address if they notice an unusual number of requests. Others limit the flow of data per IP address or use CAPTCHAs to ward off automatic scrapers.
The best way to tackle this issue is a proxy service with residential proxy servers all over the world like IPRoyal. A proxy service will make your scraper immune to all types of bans and other blocks with IP rotation. You can make sure every single request comes from a different address to protect your IP and identity. If you’re interested in gathering geo-restricted data from a specific geographic location, proxy servers in that location will ensure all the data you scraped is 100% accurate.
Since data found its way into every aspect of our lives and what we do online, you’ll most likely interact with some sort of web scraping on a daily basis. From reading the news to using your favorite shopping apps, data gathering helps make our day-to-day lives easier and more convenient. If you plan to utilize web scraping for your work or the next big business idea, make sure to educate yourself on the subject and choose a solution that works best for your specific needs.