Every aspect of an individual’s online social, leisure, and financial presence is generating heaps of data. All that data is untapped information waiting to be exploited for business use. Once processed, all that data will provide valuable information to businesses, to be used to gain the competitive edge.
As markets become more competitive, the most sought-after commodity for businesses is now ‘Information’. Businesses are trying to make use of new and innovative techniques to gain that strategic edge. One such technique gaining popularity is web scraping. Online businesses especially are making use of such data and web scraping services to gain valuable insights, to improve service and performance levels.
In order to understand web scraping better, we put together an article to answer the common questions surrounding this new technique, and whether a specialised data scraping company can be an answer to this.
What is Data and Web Scraping?
Data scraping or more commonly known as web scraping is a technique used to describe the extraction of data from a website, to be processed, analysed and used later on as required. Although the procedure can be carried out manually, the word usually refers to an automated process carried out by a tool or bot. A web scraping software directly accesses the WWW using the HTTP protocol or a browser in an automated environment. The data obtained during the web scraping process must also be saved in an organised format such as CSV or Excel.
How does it work?
The process of web scraping works by first fetching it and then extracting using an automated web scraping tool. Fetching can be defined as the process of downloading content from a website. After the data has been fetched, the extraction process begins, followed by parsing. The text can also be searched and reformatted before being copied into a spreadsheet and used for a later purpose.
Types of Data that can be Web Scraped
Web scraping can be used to retrieve a wide range of data, which is very useful for conducting large-scale market research. The following are examples of data that can be scraped from the internet:
- Real-estate listings
- Email address
- Product review scrapes
- Scraping to create other websites.
- Collecting trending data from social media websites
- Quantitative and qualitative data for research purposes.
- Specific task scraping / One time scraping.
- Scraping Amazon for specific categories of books.
- Scraping Reddit for important information by searching for specific keywords.
Techniques used in Web Scraping
There are mainly two types of Web Scraping which have their own set of techniques:
The simplest form of scraping is done by manually copying the relevant data off the websites and pasting it in a spreadsheet. This form is especially laborious and repetitive in nature and can prove to be expensive.
The technique involves scrapers using DOM Parsers to get access to the nodes that contain the data to be scrapped. Then tools, such as XPath can be used to scrape the web page. DOM Parsing can work with complete web-browsers like Internet Explorer and Firefox, embedded with to extract complete webpages.
A common expression-matching algorithm that uses the UNIX grep command normally combined with other programming languages like Perl and Python.
How Data and Web Scraping Services Benefit Businesses
Impressions are not enough, gaining quality leads is the main priority for businesses. In order to increase the chances of conversion, contact information selection has to be more precise. Through web scraping, businesses can collect the most targeted information that fits their ideal website and customer profile. For people that can be the job title, experience, industry, company, whereas for websites it can be their niche.
It can be tough to keep a balance between industry pricing and a business’s own profit margins. In order to gain that valuable insight. Web scraping can be involved to see what competitors are upto and establish a dynamic pricing strategy. If there are sudden changes to pricing during promotion events, these can be spotted out and matched to reflect.
Depending on your outreach strategy, having a list of ready-to-use contact email addresses of companies as well as key people can be quite beneficial for sales prospecting purposes. Especially when you intend on reaching out to a large audience for newsletters and bulk emails. Even though this can quickly go south and be considered as SPAM, it does give a large amount of data to begin with.
Specialised Data and Web Scraping Services can be used to fetch critical market and competitor data across different platforms. Which can then be analysed and used back into the market strategy for more effective functioning. Businesses can make important decisions based on the insights gained from the information that is pooled from different areas.
Through web scraping, businesses can make use of the large amounts of data publicly available but not downloadable. Especially, governments websites which host large amounts of datasets that could be used to gather and analyse for prediction purposes. Businesses can use such information to estimate market trends, identify new target areas, and gain the competitive edge.