26 Mar A guide to data scraping
While most people will probably go through their entire lives without hearing the words data scraping put together in a sentence, anyone who deals in any kind of market online will, and they should listen very closely.
Web and data scraping, once something that only the biggest of companies used to concern themselves with, is now an invaluable tool for businesses of all sizes and across all kinds of different industries.
After all, who wouldn’t want a powerful, in-depth way of gathering and analysing big data about their market?
How can you start data scraping?
In the simplest terms, data scraping is just a way of gathering data from a source and storing said data in a readable format. In theory, you could grab data from any website and thus get access to a wealth of information about whatever the source of data is.
Of course, data scraping is neither magic nor an ethereal concept; it’s a process that needs real tools. There are two main methods by which any person in any industry would acquire data via scraping: self-coding or purpose-made tools.
Coding from scratch is tough but can yield fantastic results
Self-coding does not refer to the notion that you would have to code a scraper yourself. You could very well hire a developer who specialises in data scraping to do this for you.
The disadvantages to this method would become painfully apparent to anyone within a matter of five minutes: it’s messy, time-consuming, expensive, and requires quite a lot of work from your side, at least in the beginning.
However, the benefits sometimes outweigh those hardships by a significant margin. By creating a scraper made specifically for your own needs, you can take full control of every part of the process and streamline it to your exact requirements.
That way, all of the scraper’s resources and results will be focused entirely on what you want and need with no part of the process being wasted.
Online tools are extremely powerful but can be limiting
Depending on what you want to do, online tools may not offer every single functionality that you are looking for and their customisation abilities are often limited to specific processes.
If your needs happen to fall within the features they can offer, however, then you are very much in luck.
There are various online tools and services (some of which we have detailed below) which are surprisingly versatile and very well-suited for those looking into competitor analysis, price-watching, and other similar processes.
They are much simpler to set up and, while they certainly require work on your part, their easy-to-understand interfaces and often-intuitive processes afford anyone, regardless of technical skill, with the ability to gather incredible data.
The benefits to your business are more significant than you might think
Whatever sector you are in, whatever product or service you are offering, marketing is one of those things that can truly make the difference in your company. While the marketing methods may vary, one thing is constant across every single company: information is power.
Let’s take a look at some examples of how data scraping can help with your business.
Can I use web scraping in my business?
If you are in a business that needs leads, could use some help with your marketing efforts, or are in a competitive market with a presence online, then you could definitely take advantage of data scraping.
As that definition includes a substantial range of business, here are some quick real-life examples where data scraping comes in handy:
● Real estate: Compare and contrast listed properties, price ranges, and the most popular listings across a combination of areas.
● eCommerce: Price comparisons, deal alerts, product reviews, common search terms.
● Travel agencies: Hotel prices, search patterns, rising-star destinations and others that could potentially use a boost
● Internal data: Instead of or as a complement to a CRM system, you could be scraping and analysing your company’s own data to better understand how to improve your systems and processes.
These are just some of the simplest ways but powerful ways you could be incorporating data scraping into your business but if you are creative, then you can find a lot more uses for it.
As an example, if you are in a marketing agency, you could scrape YouTube for the latest viral videos or just to see what kind of videos break the 2M-viewer barrier so you know what kind of content your own company should be focusing on.
Marketing and data scraping: a match made in heaven
In the past, companies may have been able to just do their own thing, acquire some loyal customers, and then just cruise along with no regard to the competition.
Nowadays, people are far more informed consumers. They are more careful about what they choose to buy, and the marketing presence of a company can make or break it.
You need to know everything there is to know about your competition so that you can adjust your own efforts accordingly. That is not to say that you should copy whatever your competitors are doing. After all, originality often goes a long way towards winning customer loyalty and trust.
However, you should certainly know things like your competitor’s prices, when they have sales on, what kind of incentives they are offering to potential customers, how they are interacting with their audience, and what their customers are saying about them.
With data scraping, you can have instant, reliable access to all of that and more. You can scrape websites like Amazon and eBay to find out if your products are priced competitively, and sites like Trivago to see why a hotel in your area is selling like hotcakes while you have too many vacant rooms.
Data scraping and lead generation
For sales-driven organisations, lead generation is bread, butter, and the plate you’ll eat it on. It’s an entirely necessary part of sales yet it’s also one of the toughest ones as it’s a constant struggle.
What is lead generation but information, and what can data scraping provide but access a seemingly endless pool of information? Hopefully you can see where we are going with this.
By scraping the web, you can make the most efficient use of your time and resources so that you can gather, analyse, and organise an incredible amount of information that will make your lead generation efforts just that much more effective.
Once you have identified a target, you can literally scrape hundreds of different contacts and sort through them dynamically, allowing you to get just one step ahead in a manner you can actually control and even properly maintain.
Of course, there is certainly additional work required for this as well. You will need to identify proper sources, for instance, and the data is not going to cleanse itself. However, even the fact that you would have access to a lot more information than normal would be a tremendous advantage.
Feeling overwhelmed? Let’s take a look at some options
While we have gone through a lot of information, we haven’t really talked about any real players in the data scraping market. If you choose to go with the self-coding way we talked about before, then this section is not for you. Otherwise, read on to find out some of your options.
Wrekin Data: quick and easy
If you want to get to the output as quickly and as efficiently as possible, then a data scraping service provider is the most suitable option. Find out more at https://www.wrekindata.co.uk.
Mozenda: well-established but pricey
Chosen by a significant number of Fortune 500 companies for their data-scraping (or data harvesting as Mozenda might calls it), Mozenda is perhaps the most popular and well-established tool in the market.
While its learning curve is not the easiest and its pricing can be prohibitive, its services are undeniably fantastic. And if you have the resources to spare, their managed services can provide you with accurate data whenever and however you need it.
Import.io and Octoparse: Great pricing, no learning curve
The teams behind Octoparse and Import.io seem to have one mission: to make data scraping as easy as possible without breaking your bank. While their services may not offer a lot of flexibility, you can be up and running within seconds.
Both companies are relatively new kids on the block but have already proven that their data scrapers perform exceptionally well and do not require you to be a coding expert or to spend hours learning how to use a single piece of software.
Browser extensions: quicky and easy
If you are looking to scrape the simplest of data without spending any money or time in a new tool, then you can look towards browser extensions like Data Scraper. These will integrate with your browser and will let you extract information on the go, though they are usually not as flexible or powerful as dedicated solutions.
Essentially, you can’t go wrong with data scraping
Hopefully, you have now become more familiar with what data/web scraping is all about and how you can make the most of it for your own business.
From scraping data from your competitors to gathering leads to simply creating a directory of empowering information for your company, data scraping is a tool you simply shouldn’t ignore.