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When we first hear the word web scraping, it seems a little strange to us. But Web scraping is nothing fancy, it’s our own copy and paste, with a few extras. In this article, we would like to introduce you to web scraping and how we can use Web Scraping in different areas of our life and live a more comfortable life.
What is Web Scraping?
Web Scraping means collecting information from one or more different websites and saving it in the desired format. A web scraper is a tool that collects information from websites and provides it to us in the format we want.
How Does the Web Scraping Tool Works?
Web scrapers can extract all data on specific sites or specific data that the user wants. Ideally, it’s best to specify the data you want so that WebScraper can quickly extract that data.
For example, you may want to check Amazon’s page for the types of water heaters available. But you may only need information on different water heater models and not customer reviews.
Then the scraper receives the required data from these HTML codes and outputs this data in the format specified by the user. Mostly, this data is in the form of an Excel spreadsheet or a CSV file, but the data can also be saved in other formats, such as a JSON file.
Web Scraping Methods
Web scraping is done in the following two ways:
- Manual Web Scraping
- Automatic Web Scraping
Manual Web Scraping
When we copy and paste the information of a website, we are doing web scraping manually.
Disadvantages Of Manual Web Scraping
Manual web scraping has 2 main problems:
- It is very long and boring.
- It does not apply in all cases.
Automatic Web Scraping
When we do the web scraping process through web scrapers, we are doing automatic web scraping.
Advantages of Automatic Web Scraping
Web scraping with web scrapers has advantages that make it very attractive:
- It has a very high speed.
- It is affordable and in most cases free.
- It is done in a short time.
- We get organized and structured data.
Applications Of Web Scraping
The applications of web scraping are evident in every field. Because Every business or individual needs to collect data and information for specific purposes. Today, various sites contain this information. We can extract this information using web scraping and analyze and compare it.
In the continuation of this article, we will learn about 7 of the most common uses of web scraping.
1. Monitoring Competitors
Monitoring the competitors helps us to know the strategies of the competitors and get updated data from them. Accessing new information through web scraping helps us gain insight into:
- Competitors’ pricing
- Their advertising method
- Their social media strategy
2. Investigating People’s Opinions and Tendencies
Through web scraping, we can collect user comments on social networks and analyze them. This is how we better understand their opinions on a specific issue. For example, about a person, product, brand, or company.
- Investment Decision Making
- Product Monitoring
- Brand and Company Monitoring
- Product Development
- Politics and Campaigns
Investigating the opinions and tendencies of people in social networks with Sentiment Analysis and web scraping
Examining the opinions and tendencies of people in social networks with web scraping
3. Market Research
Market research is very important and should be done with the most accurate information available. Web scraping can help us in the following cases:
- Market Trend Analysis
- Achieving the market price (Market Pricing)
- Research and Development (R&D/ Research & Development)
- Monitoring competitors (Competitor Monitoring)
- Entering an industry with confidence and trust (Optimizing Point of Entry)
- An example of web scraping in the field of tourism
If we consider web scraping in the field of tourism, those who work in this industry collect essential hotel information such as price, type of rooms, facilities, and their location through online travel agencies. In this way, they can improve the strategy of existing hotels or design a strategy for building new hotels.
4. News & Content Monitoring
Web scraping provides us with the possibility of extracting news, announcements, and other relevant information from official and unofficial sources. Since it is not possible to read the desired information from all sources. Web scraping helps us a lot in this field.
- Investment Decision Making
- Online Public Sentiment Analysis
- Political Campaigns
5. Machine Learning
The quality of machine learning models depends on the quality of the training data used. So when data is not readily available, we can use web scraping to collect information for us from different websites.
- Machine learning training
- Testing machine learning models
- Providing some of the highest quality data for classification and training of predictive algorithms
- With the rapid growth and advancements in machine learning and artificial intelligence, the importance of web scraping is also increasing.
6. SEO Monitoring
SEO control tools such as SEMRush, Ahrefs, Moz, etc. use web scrapers to scrape Google and other search engines to see which pages are ranked with which keywords. This data allows them to determine how hard it is to rank for a given keyword.
7. Comparison Of Prices
Websites such as Alibaba.com, flightio.com, and mrbilit.com use web scrapers to compare the prices of various types of tickets. Therefore, by using web scraping, we don’t need to compare 20 different websites to find the best ticket.
Steps In Web Scraping Process
Without exception, every web scraping operation will follow the following process
- Requesting the contents of a website
The web scraper sends a request to receive information to the destination website. This is done through one or more URLs. This information is then returned to the web scraper, usually in HTML format.
- Extracting the desired information
The web scraper extracts the data we want from the HTML file.
- Save the extracted data
Finally, the web scraper saves the data in formats like CSV, JSON, or in a database.
Tools For Web Scraping
The procedure is usually like this. A request is sent to the desired page. The content of the page is received by the program, and finally, the text or photo or any content we need on the page is extracted.
We can do web scraping with different programming languages. Here I mention three of the most famous ones.
Python: Python is definitely the most popular and powerful programming language for web scraping. Because of the different libraries, it has for web scraping. Like beautiful soap and scrappy.
PHP: Although PHP is used exclusively for creating web applications, with a library like a goutte, web scraping is also possible with it.
Each of these languages and libraries has limitations and depending on the type of project, we must choose the right tool. But in general, python is easier than others and has a wider range of applications.
Difference Between Crawlers And Web Scrapers
Web Scrapers and Web Crawlers work a little differently. But finally, they are designed to extract data from the Internet. In most cases, people use these two terms interchangeably, which is a mistake.
A web crawler sometimes called a “spider”, is an autonomous robot that systematically searches websites and stores their content in a database. This action, which is called Index, is done through the internal links of web pages. It can be said that crawlers are the main pillar of search engines such as Google, Bing, etc.
On the other hand, Web Scraper is a tool designed to accurately and quickly extract data from one or more specific websites.
Types Of Web Scrapers
According to the type of project, they are very different in design and complexity. Just like anyone can build their own website, anyone can build their own web scraper.
In the following, we will get to know the types of web scrapers:
Homemade Web Scrapers
We build self-made web scrapers using frameworks like Scrapy and libraries like Beautiful Soup and Selenium; which make it easier for us to build a web scraper.
To build a web scraper, we need some advanced programming knowledge. The more we want to make a better web scraper with better features, the more skills we need.
Beautiful Soup is an open-source Python library designed for web scraping HTML and XML files. It is the best Python parser, widely used.
Scrapy is an open-source Python framework that is originally designed to make a web scraper. It can product data extraction in e-commerce, extract articles from news websites and solve common problems of pre-built web scrapers.
Pre-Made Web Scrapers
If we don’t want or can’t build our own web scraper, we can use pre-built web scrapers without writing a single line of code. In general, there are two types of pre-built web scrapers.
- Browser Extensions
- Web Scripting Software
Browser extensions are programs that are added to browsers, such as Chrome and Firefox. The advantage of browser extension web scrapers is that they are simple and easy to use.
Web Scripting Software
On the other hand, there is web scripting software that can be downloaded and installed on your computer system. While they are a bit more difficult to use than extensions. But they are used because of their more advanced features.
Examples of Web Scraper Software
Below we will get to know two examples of the best pre-made web scraper software:
- Parsehub is available for Windows and Mac operating systems.
- It can perform web scraping even on complex sites.
- It can also scrape files and photos.
- Parsehub also outputs JSON and CSV.
- We can schedule web scraping on an hourly, daily, and weekly basis.
- It is also possible to change the IP for websites that use anti-web scraping techniques.
Parsehub is a great option for data analysts, marketers, and people with no coding skills.
- Octoparse is only available for Windows operating systems.
- It is more complicated than Parsehub.
Octoparse is perfect for people without programming knowledge in many industries, including e-commerce, investment, cryptocurrency, real estate, and companies that need web scraping.
How to Select the Best Web Scraper?
In order to choose the best web scraper, We must clearly define our goal. Therefore, the better we understand our purpose of web scraping, the better we can choose the right web scraper.
Since every web scraping project comes with a need, a goal that details our desired results is necessary. Accurate answers to the following questions can help us a lot to determine the goals of the web scraping project:
- What kind of information do we expect to get?
- What will be the result of this web scraping?
- How often should we update the obtained information?
- Who are the end users who want to use this data?
- How do we deliver data to end users?
How to Protect Websites Against Web Scraping?
Due to the use of new algorithms in web scraping bots, most security mechanisms are not able to identify them. For example, the robots related to the browser do their work quietly and like a real humans. All incoming and outgoing traffic must be analyzed to identify bots.
This ensures that all incoming and outgoing traffic to your site is human or bot. The following factors are effective for checking traffic:
HTML Fingerprint: The process of observing robots starts from HTML headers. This can give us clues as to whether the visitor is a robot or a human.
IP Reputation: collecting information from the IP of all visitors to our website. In this way, we can recognize the IPs that do not have a good history and we have already observed attacks through them.
Behavior Analysis: Examining user behavior patterns, such as the number of suspicious requests and illogical visit patterns, helps us identify bots.
Is Web Scraping Legal?
Web scraping in itself is not illegal, But it is necessary to consider several points:
- The type of data we extract.
- The method we use to extract data.
- The place we use to publish data.
Hope you understand the topic completely. If you still have any questions write us in the comment section. we will answer you very soon. Do share with your friends if you like this. Thanks.