When it comes to digital marketing, retailers are now shifting towards site scrapers. Competitors in different niches now try to get as much information as possible. This can be likened to the develop real military scenario. The more information you have about your enemies’ strategies, the higher your chances of winning. In short, web scraping is like espionage.
However, since you need to scrape thousands of websites regularly, it cannot be done manually. To provide web scraping solutions, app development companies developed different site scrapers. Every player analyzes the data from his competitors’ secret effective marketing strategies. So top app development companies are now developing apps that can scrape data and also analyze the data.
To put it in the simplest term, a site scraper is a program, application, or software used to copy content from a website, transform the scraped content into the stipulated format and also save it in a specified location.
Just like how web crawlers perform indexing functions on websites, site scrapers function in a similar way. The only difference is that web crawlers crawl all the websites on the web while site scrapers only scrape data from certain websites specified by the user.
A typical scraper can download any data from a specified website or download the whole website. It can also follow links to other content for further downloads. Depending on the purpose of the extraction, data scraped can be saved as XML, HTML, or CSV files. In addition, some data extraction tools can also export obtained data to other kinds of database.
While data extraction has a lot of legitimate uses, it is sometimes used for plagiarism and content theft. This should not come as a surprise since every tool has both positive and negative applications.
Websites that display data extracted from other websites are known as scraper sites. Some of the examples of data scraping tools are Chrome Extension, ScrapeGoat and Scraper, and Web Content Extractor, just to mention a few. Although there infinite reasons for data scraping, the technique can be grouped into only four major categories. These four categories have been discussed below.
The four categories of data scraping
1. The first category is the gathering of data from a single webpage. This is about the easiest form of data scraping and virtually all data extraction tools can handle it. Top app development companies have developed a large number of applications that can handle this task.
2. The second category is more tedious and cumbersome. It is harvesting data from all the pages of a website.
3. The third category of data scraping is filling a set of forms that will unlock the access to a certain web service.
4. The fourth and the most difficult category of data scraping is carrying out any of the three categories of data extraction above periodically. Although top app development companies have developed a few apps for this, a simple data extraction tool may not be able to handle this because it will require another configuration when any of the target site changes its layout. In fact, it is often advisable to outsource the task to a third party data scraping service provider.
Having known all the four major categories of scraping, it is also important to state that you have only three data scraping options. These options are:
• You can develop your own program or have it developed for you
• You can use any of the available data scraping tools
• You can hire the services of an experienced data extraction company
Of all the three options, the third seems to be the best because of the reasons given below.
The first advantage of hiring a third party company is that it will fetch the larger amount of data than the other two options. The cost of developing your own software depends on the project at hand and if you purchase a data scraping tool, the cost will be on the tool. But for the cost of data extraction service will be based on the usage of the service.
Here are various online data scraping tasks for illustration
The demand for online data scraping is increasing by the day due to the fact a lot of companies now make use of a vast amount of data for different purposes. Different organizations and individuals have various web scraping needs.
In fact, right now, there are infinite types of data extraction needs. To illustrate the importance of information gathering, 7 common data extraction requests have been outlined right below. For each of the 7 categories, an actual web scraping request has been given. According to one of the top app development companies, there are numerous data scraping tasks but the ones outlined below are the common ones.
1. Collection of data from PDF files
This data scraping request is for collecting certain data from PDF files and to convert the data to excel files. Each of the target data files has about 15 to 20 data points in about 5 to 15 pages.
2. Extracting information through search engines and online directories
This is a common data extraction need. It requires the gathering of data from search engines and online directories and entering it into a specified database.
3. Organization and verification of email lists
This data extraction request requires the email address, company name, phone number, state, and the city of various companies. This kind of information is usually needed for the purpose of marketing. The information must be verified and organized for ease of use. A complete list of companies can be scraped easily from directories but more information will be gotten from the website of each company.
4. Compilation of email list
This task is for gathering the email addresses of people who have YouTube channels. It could be used for the purpose of partnering with them or for the purpose of marketing certain products/services to them. It could also be for the purpose of carrying out an important survey.
5. List of all property rentals in a specific location
This web extraction request is for the list of property rentals on a particular website. Although the target website has lists of property rentals in several locations, only the ones in a particular location are needed for this request. Since about 1400 to 1650 property rentals are listed on the website, the required ones have to be filtered and scraped out. For each rental company, the details required are property id, name, and renters’ details. All the extracted data should be exported into an excel spreadsheet as specified by the requester.
6. Contact details of finance professors in the United States
This data extraction request is for searching through the websites of all the universities in the United States to fetch the email addresses and phone numbers of finance professors in the United States. The names and universities of the professors have already been provided.
7. Database of UK motor dealers
This web scraping task is for the compilation of UK motor dealers that specialize on Audi and Nissan brands. For each of the dealers, the required details are phone number, email address, postal address, business name, and manager’s name.
In conclusion, there are hundreds of web scraping requests. The ones outlined above were just randomly chosen for the purpose of illustration. You also need to understand that top app development companies have developed a good number of generic web scraping apps but each of them is more suitable for certain web scraping needs than others.