What is web scraping and how do businesses use it to gain an advantage?

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What is web scraping?

Web scraping (web data extraction, web harvesting) is the process of recovering data from websites for further processing. Typically, web scraping is done by semi-automated software that downloads web pages and extracts specific and useful information. You can analyze, reformat or store the information in a database.

What is web scraping used for?

  • Scans a defined list of URLs
  • Extracts a specific set of data from each website page
  • Converts data to a particular format
  • Stores data in a database or spreadsheet
  • Alternatively, the web scraper feeds the data into other software for further processing

How Services Can Use Web Scraping

Marketing

Web scraping can be used to scan websites for names, phone numbers, and email addresses. Known as contact scraping, this automates the process of finding the right contact details for a marketing prospect.

Sales

The sales department can use web scraping to stay informed of current market prices. Web scraping can monitor price changes, gather competitor details, and provide invaluable research information for potential sales opportunities.

Customer service

Businesses can use web scraping to automatically find and process product reviews to gauge customer sentiment. Agile businesses that respond quickly to negative reviews are considered to be more customer-focused.

Social media can also be analyzed by web scraping tools to help find instances where proactive customer service could improve overall customer sentiment.

Features and Benefits of Web Scraping

How much does web scraping cost?

You can create a web scraper in-house, hire a third party to create a web scraper for you, or outsource your web scraping needs to a web scraping service provider. Unless you have a team of skilled developers, the cheapest and easiest option is to choose a third-party provider.

For example, the proxy provider Smart Proxy (opens in a new tab) provides a web scraping API plan that starts at $50/month for up to 25,000 requests. Pricing varies depending on how many queries you need, so a maximum of 625,000 queries costs $500/month.

Web scraping FAQ

What is web scraping used for?

Web scraping is used by businesses for many reasons. Real estate agents use web scrapers to find properties available for rent, for example. Price comparison sites use web scrapers to find the lowest online prices.

Many companies use web scrapers to generate leads by collecting contact information about potential customers. And any business can use web scraping to research industry trends and market information.

Web scraping is legal, but you should make sure you only scrape publicly accessible websites. It can also harm websites like TechRadar in the most insidious way.

What is an example of web scraping?

Companies often use web scraping tools to look up contact details on websites. These are entered into a central database by the web scraping software. The company’s sales reps can then use the data to contact each prospect, which generates business for the company.

How to learn web scraping?

If you want to write your own web scraper, Python is a popular programming language to choose. Udemy (opens in a new tab) offers online video courses on creating a web scraper in Python. You can read more about this online course website in our Udemy Reviews (opens in a new tab).

For easier access to web scraping, Smartproxy offers a no-code scraping plan, so you can scrape websites without having to write a line of code.

Why is Python used for web scraping?

Python is a popular programming language for web scrapers because it already has great web scraping libraries in Beautiful Soup and Scrapy. Python is a good, comprehensive, easy-to-understand language with lots of features focused on HTML parsing.

Other popular languages ​​and frameworks for web scraping include Node.js, Ruby, PHP, and C++.

Main takeaways

  • You use web scrapers to analyze website data
  • They convert the information found into a more usable format
  • Web scrapers are often used for research, lead generation and consumer sentiment monitoring
  • Web scrapers are cost effective, scalable, fast and flexible
  • Once a web scraper is set up, it requires minimal ongoing maintenance

Further reading

We recently covered the LinkedIn scraping court case (opens in a new tab)where web scraping was officially considered legal in the United States, and we looked at how web scraping is changing e-commerce (opens in a new tab).

We also discussed how web scraping has found new uses in the web security industry, such as in find phishing websites (opens in a new tab) and help protect intellectual property (opens in a new tab).

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