Web Scraping 101: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know and More

By Bex
8 Min Read
Web Scraping 101

In the last few years, the importance of data has increased as it is needed for planning, monitoring, marketing, and decision making. Organizations are now more data-centric than ever before. Decisions are now based on these sets of data to ensure more effective planning and operations.

Availability of clean and valuable data is complex due to many factors including the users’ privacy. Web scraping provides the easiest way to get information available on websites and use that for your own business or research.

Web Scraping

Web scraping is the process of information extraction from websites to use for different purposes. The uses include marketing, research, planning, and overall business decision-making. Every web scraper follows three main steps.

  1. Gather the unstructured data or text available on the web page.
  2. Check for consistent patterns in the data and find out the information we are looking for.
  3. Use a similar pattern to unstructured data to extract the required information.

Web Scraping Methods and Tools

Data is valuable and requires resources to gather; that’s why no business shares customer data. Websites protect data by blocking users who enter their sites unethically and blocking their IP addresses.

Data on websites are unstructured and extracting accurate data is not easy. Companies change their websites layouts and interface multiple times to protect data from scrapers and sometimes remove valuable information from websites.

There are several methods of web scraping such as headless browser, Ip rotation, and Web crawler. Here, we discussed some web scrapers’ tools and programming methods for scraping below.

Proxies

Proxies are intermediate servers that provide a gateway between the user and the internet. Web scrapers use these proxy servers to hide their computer identity when trying to scrape the data from the websites. They use proxies to look like a regular user on that website, so the server security can not detect them.

Proxies allow you to access smoothly without getting blocked. They also provide access to geo-blocked content, widening your reach. It will enable you to scrape multiple times with unlimited concurrent sessions on the same website.

Residential proxies are the proxy type that allows the selection of a specific country, city, or mobile carrier. For example, residential proxies from Blazing SEO provide you with a new but legitimate IP address that you can pin in another location.

Selenium and Chrome

Programmers use various coding techniques to extract data from the websites using different programs. Some tools, such as Selenium, are used to access websites using different layouts. Selenium is used on websites based on JavaScript or directly via HTML.

Selenium and Chrome provide greater flexibility for small web page scraping based on JavaScript frameworks. Selenium and Chrome can help extract JavaScript-based forms, elements with CSS selectors and expressions.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP)

The requests for data access are sent manually using HTTP requests after opening the socket. Regular expressions and patterns for strings are searched using Regex. Xpath expression is used for text data, and then Regex is used to extract data.

Manually sending the HTTP request with a socket and parsing is complicated compared to other methods.

Scrapy

Scrapy is the general web scraping framework used to build up spiders and then scrape data from websites, such as scraping Amazon reviews.

Scrapy also provides other services such as downloading website pages asynchronously, processing them, and saving them. Scrapy can perform crawling, multithreading, and sitemaps.

Scrapy provides a GUI mode called Scrapy shell. The scraping code works quickly and can select different expressions in the shell

BeautifulSoup

There are many built-in libraries and frameworks in a programming language that support web scrapping. Requests and BeautifulSoup are the best libraries for scraping with easy installation and many other features.

Request and Beautiful libraries are used to do POST requests, control cookies, and setting of query parameters. BeautifulSoup is helpful to parse web HTML returned by the server to know about logging in or logging out. BeautifulSoup can extract every link on the website homepage easily.

Purpose of Web scraping

Web scraping has a variety of uses such as business leads for startups, marketing plans, data for educational purposes, and even government policy-making. Here, we discuss some practical applications of web scraping use.

Customer Information

The requirement of customer information is significant to the use of overall web scraping. The importance of customer information is great for businesses to address customer needs and upscale overall customer experience.

Customer information such as contact number, email id, etc., is extracted, which are usually available on social media sites such Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Sentiment Analysis

The sentiment analysis uses text analysis, usually used on social media platforms. People’s writing on social media is extracted and analyzed using natural language processing.

The power of sentimental analyses is unimaginable because everyone uses social media applications and takes their interests in different posts. For example, how many people commented against the party or disliked their posts can analyze political conditions.

Research and Development

The data related to research and development is available on different sites such as the World health organization, united nation organization sustainable goals. This data is scraped into a specific tabular form for the research.

Search engine optimization

Web scraping is also used in SEO to monitor page ranging, finding Google keywords related data and domains.

Besides that, Web scraping helps in a successful SEO campaign for the company. It helps to extract information for guest blogging opportunities.

Final Thought

Data is essential for any organization in decision-making. Organizations pay a hefty amount for customer data collection and maintenance. Web scraping tools such as proxies, programming scripts are beneficial for web scrapers. These tools are efficient to extract the required information from websites. We have discussed web scrapping tools and methods in detail. The article also discusses the main purpose of web scraping and its benefits.

However, web scraping is not legal and ethical, but no other method is available to get data. Web scraping tools and scripts are not accurate on every website. Getting accurate data in proper format and frames requires a lot of effort. So, there is a great need for rules and regulations in web scraping to formalize it.

Posted by Bex
Bex is a technical and non-technical writer, he is into the content marketing industry since 2015 and also contributed to many top news sources in the world