These days, all businesses need to stay abreast of what their competitors or other companies are doing – and how they are doing it. Whether you are a startup or an already big company, you need to know everything about what your rivals are doing right. And that means data – lots and lots of data!
But, how do you get all that data? Do you go to each of their websites and copy-paste all their backend and front-end data? That’s not feasible at all!
What you need is an automated tool to extract the data. Such a tool is known as a web scraper.
Let’s get down to the details…
What is a web scraper?
Web scraping, also known as web data extraction or web harvesting, is the process of extracting, retrieving, or “scraping” data from a website. How you use the datadepends entirely on your business needs and strategy.
What data does a web scraper extract?
To view data displayed on websites, you usually need a web browser. However, few websites would allow you to save the data they put on display to your hard disk or website. Some browsers allow only limited scraping facility. That is where a ‘Web Scraper’ can be useful.
A web scraper automatically accesses and saves data that you would otherwise have to manually copy from the websites. These tools can carry out these actions without continuous prompting, governed by merely a predefined algorithm that keeps working on the backend, saving you time to focus on your business.
As opposed to screen-scraping, which only copies the pixels displayed on your screen, web scraping allows you to extract the webpage’s underlying HTML code, along with all the data stored in its database.
With a web scraper, you can forget about copy-pasting texts from a website to create your database.
A web scraper or web data extractiontool can automatically load, extract, and process all kinds of data from multiple webpages of any website – all at the same time, predefined by your specific needs, while you simply surf through the site.
Why You Need To Use A Web Scraper
Web scrapers could serve a variety of purposes, depending on what you’re looking for on other websites.
Are you looking to generate leads?
Do you need to find out how your competitors are fixing their rates?
Are you looking for data on what kind of automation tools your business rivals are utilizing?
Whatever may be your reason for using a web scraper, a web data extractor can utilize a variety of tools and mechanisms to get you the data you need to crunch those numbers to design your next business strategy!
The core functions of any web scraping tool are to:
Find the source of the data you need
Fetch the data from the source designated by you
Analyze the data accessed and aggregated
In short: Web scraping is all about data aggregation and analysis.
These are only a few ways you can utilize this technology. Depending on your business strategy, mission, and target audience, you can come up with different reasons to scrape data from other websites.
The bottom line, however, is always to scale your business.
How Does a Web Scraping Tool Work?
Generally, the mechanism any web scraper follows goes like this:
The scraper then starts extracting, depending on the algorithm set by you. If you requested the entire data from the website, that’s what you will get! However, if you need some specific data, you would have to select that before you give run the extraction.
Once the scraper has collected all the data requested by you, it will format it in a way that is easy to analyze. For instance, most web scrapers usually land the final data in a CSV or Excel spreadsheet format. Other bots may give you in a JSON format that can be directly placed into a number-crunching software to analyze the data you just received.
How to Enhance Web Scraping?
Web scraping is, in itself, an extraordinary thing! Why do we need to enhance it anyway?
Well, did you think all websites would allow you to copy their data as and when you desire?
To protect their data, most popular websites these days use their own set of tools to stop you from scraping their data. Often, the same tools can be used to both extract from others as well as to secure your own. At other times, a web scraping tool does one or the other task. It depends on how you customize it.
For you to remain undetected while your web scraper bot does its job, you need to engage a proxy server. Proxies for web scraping are useful to keep your scraper and its source, i.e., your original IP address, hidden from vigilant websites who would have their guards up against prying eyes (read data harvesters looking for data to scrape).
The Best Web Scrapping Tools for Online Data Extraction
There are thousands of web scraping bots out there. While each tool has its own set of advantages, it all boils down to what you need or expect from your crawling software.
Choosing the perfect bot for you may be difficult. But the bottom line is always to find the right kind of data that fits your business model and strategy best.
The choice of scraping bot depends on what kind of data you need, how often you need, and how much budget are you willing you allocate for it.
While this list is in no way exhaustive, this is only a glimpse into what to expect from a web scraper.
So, before you go searching for the Best Web Scraping Tools for Online Data Extraction, you must first assess your business requirements and strategy, as well as how much money you are willing to spend on one of the most essential tools of scaling your business.
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