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All About Data Scraping and How It Works

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Data Scraping

If you have ever wanted to lift a significant amount of data from webpages, data scraping is the solution. Traditional cutting and pasting is tedious and wastes valuable time and energy. Besides, old-fashioned ways of getting data from websites can get you blocked if you retrieve large amounts of material. 

Web scraping is a smoother, more efficient way of retrieving content from sites. It involves lifting the texts through the HTML code and storing the data in a file or spreadsheet. Data scraping can be done through coding and tools to make the task easier and maximize the amount of retrieved data. In addition, scraping is often done with a VPN or proxy that will shield your IP address and prevent blocking. 

Why Scrape Sites for Data?

Web scraping can be used for many practical purposes. Data research is the key to creating an effective marketing strategy for companies and brands. Analyzing scraped texts from websites for keywords, linking techniques, style, and tone provides valuable insights for updating content marketing strategy. 

Keeping tabs on pricing fluctuations can be a daunting challenge for businesses. Similar products may be sold on hundreds or thousands of sites, and automated scraping updates information on pricing changes. This information can explain drops or rises in sales and performance. Scraping represents significant time savings compared to manual pricing research.

Maintaining a product page on an eCommerce platform provides an opportunity to extract valuable data. Customer reviews, ratings, sales information, and competing product pages can be scraped and analyzed to refine marketing strategies. Also, scraping makes it easier to send product information from an eCommerce page to another vendor. 

What Is the Difference Between Data Scraping and Data Crawling?

Web crawling and web scraping are similar to the point where they may seem like two phases of the same process. 

As the term suggests, web crawling involves a bot similarly exploring the internet as a spider crawls over a web. A web crawler is a bot that searches the internet for items to index. When it locates a page that is relevant to your search, it indexes it. Crawlers are designed to dig deep to find the right information for indexing. In a sense, a web crawler is similar to search engines like Google and Yelp, since they comb through the web to find links that match your search. 

Web scraping is performed once the information has already been found through web crawling. A request is sent to the target website, and the report comes back in the form of HTML code. The next step to scraping is parsing and extracting. Parsing involves translating the code into a form the computer can use. Once the data is parsed into an intelligible form, it is extracted into a document or a database.

How Does Data Scraping Really Work?

To successfully scrape data, you can either do so manually or through a unique tool. There are many scraping hacks for those with in-depth technical knowledge and those who need simple, user-friendly tools. 

The most basic method of web scraping is cutting and pasting texts. This may be fine for a small amount of data, but it can be tedious for more extensive scraping and get your IP address blocked. 

HTML parsing uses JavaScript to look for nested or linear HTML pages. DOM parsing is often used for those who want to capture the layout of a page and uses a device that looks for certain styles and patterns within XML files. Scrapers access nodes with the data and extract it. The XPath method selects nodes of data across the tree-like XML structure. 

Google sheets web scraping employes the IMPORT XML function for scraping data. Text Pattern matching uses languages like Perl or Python to scrape from content that uses a similar style or text arrangement. 

In addition to the above methods, many tools make web scraping easy. Some have a simple point and click feature and require no technical knowledge or coding. Another useful tool is a browser extension that allows you to create a plan of what content from certain sites should be retrieved. The browser extension extracts the texts and stores them in a file. 

Web Scraping Is the Best Way to Retrieve Large Amounts of Internet Data

If you need more than a simple cut and paste action and want to access a large amount of content from websites, web scraping is necessary. Techniques for retrieving data can require technical knowledge or involve tools that are ideal for beginners. Retrieved information makes data analysis easier for refining marketing strategies or performing research. 

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