You might not see this coming, but the rate at which data is growing is simply astonishing. According to a study conducted by IDC, it is predicted that worldwide data creation will grow to an enormous amount of 163 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025.
If you are still finding it difficult to picture as to how fast data grows, have a look at this: IBM revealed (in 2016) that we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data a day. Additionally, it found that 90% of the data was created in the last two years.
With so much data in the form of social media posts, government reports, research papers, forums, and so on; there lies immense opportunities in which this data can be used for analytics, prediction and forecasting trends.
This is when web scraping comes to your rescue and helps you get the best returns on investment. Here is an obvious question – what is data scraping? For starters, data scraping is a procedure of extracting publicly available information, media, and files and saving them into a database.
How Web Scraping Helps Businesses?
More and more businesses are embracing the idea of web scraping because it helps in:
- Competitive monitoring
Web scraping helps you maintain a pace with your competitors. Easily keep an eye on your competitor’s activities – their events, pricing strategies, marketing campaigns and the like by extracting the related information from various portals. This will help you in staying ahead of them, and will also boost your marketing efforts.
- Lead generation
Easily collect information about your prospective customers – their tastes and preferences, phone numbers, addresses, emails, and other relevant information through web scraping and target them through your campaigns.
Web scraping eliminates the need for extracting all these details manually. You just need to run your script and you are good to go.
- Machine learning
If you are in the process of training your bots, web scraping can help you in this aspect too. Crawl all the data that you need – from images to files, and data points with the help of web scraping, and feed all the extracted data to your bots.
- Price intelligence
Offer competitive pricing to your customers by analyzing what your competitors are offering in real time with the help of web scraping. Also, have a look at their pricing strategies and plan your next steps accordingly.
Although web scraping proves to be quite advantageous for businesses and enterprises, it must be borne in mind that not all scraping activities are legal and ethical.
Type of Data That Can Be Scraped by Businesses
To be on the safer side and to prevent yourself from falling into any legal complications, it is highly recommended to make use of API to scrape the information. However, if the concerned portal doesn’t have an API, it is always the best practice to ask for written permission.
That said, here are some types of publically available data that can be scraped by businesses:
- Searching for job candidates
If you are looking to hire the best talent for your organization, web scraping can help you out. Scrape information from various career-focused social network websites and search for the right candidates.
Pro tip: Keep it safe and obtain written permission. LinkedIn sued 1-100 people who were scraping data anonymously from the portal.
- Lead generation
Extract contact information of your prospective clients and customers through crawling bots, and use the data thus obtained to fuel your marketing strategies.
- Recognize trends
Scrape social media websites and analyze the customer trends – what type of content performs the best, what generates the most traction and so on.
Data Scraping Techniques
Now that you are convinced of the usefulness of data scraping, and want to take it ahead, here are a few techniques through which data can be scraped:
- HTML parsing
HTML parsing is used for screen scraping, text extraction, link extraction and so on. It is done by making use of java scripts to extract data from nested HTML pages.
- DOM parsing
If you want to get an in-depth view of the web page structure, DOM parsing will help you out. DOM stands for Document Object Model and helps you in understanding the contents, style, and structure contained within the XML files.
DOM parser is often used to collect the nodes that contain information and then an additional tool is used to scrape web pages.
- HTTP programming
You can easily retrieve static and dynamic web page information by making HTTP requests through socket programming.
- Web scraping software
If the programming-based approach sounds difficult, enterprises can also try using web scraping software which retrieves the required information from a web page automatically and stores it in your local database. Oxylabs.io offers exactly such software, based on its reviews, they proved to be reliable and a trustworthy company.
The Wrap Up
The bottom line here is that web scraping can help businesses in their day-to-day operations. The only catch here is to perform it carefully and ethically.
What are your views on this? Let us know in the comments below.