In the modern business landscape, web scraping or data harvesting practices are just as normal as meetings. We’ve long surpassed the romanticized office of the nineties where a tech-geek has crunched every number or piece of information.
We’re no longer living in a material world, we’re residents of a digital one, and that’s not a bad thing. A vast range of business practices has been streamlined and automated through modern technology, such as data. The digital world wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for data, so it’s safe to say that data makes the digital world go round.
The procurement and production of data is the pinnacle of modern business practices, and in this article, we’ll explore the be-all-end-all method for data collection – web scraping.
Defining Web Scraping
Web scraping is a process of collecting data from existing databases, websites, and frameworks that are readily available on the world wide web. Data scraping is an efficient practice because it can accumulate vast quantities of data from places that would be otherwise inaccessible by an individual.
One of the more exciting things about web scraping is that it can be as sophisticated as you ended it to be, and that’s all based on the tools you use.
Tools and Processes for Scraping
There are a couple of ways you can go about web scraping, but without a doubt, the most prominent one is to use a web scraping bot. A web scraping bot is an algorithm specifically programmed to search the web and index relevant information.
The way that it is set up can either collect data qualitatively or quantitatively. In most cases, you’ll need to hide your bot behind a proxy. This ensures that whenever your bot gets detected and banned from any given website for scraping the data on it, it can just re-enter through a proxy and leave the website none the wiser.
Other tools that people use for scraping are custom bots. The internet is “crawling” with data crawlers (pun intended), all of which are decent for SMBs. If you’re running a larger operation and need high quantity, high-quality data – you’ll probably have to create a custom web-scraping bot in-house.
Different Types of Data That Can Be Gathered
We can set up data harvesting bots to collect virtually anything on the world wide web, including all kinds of information such as text, images, and metadata.
These pieces of data can be used for a wide range of things within a business operation; images are significantly rising in popularity as a harvesting target.
Alas, if you want to scrape images from the website, you’ll need a particular bot to do so. Most bots that harvest data will place it in a long and arduous file that is practically useless to humans. Only when it is passed through analytics software does it become somewhat useful for companies.
The data that web scrapers procure is known as raw data, meaning it has to undergo refinishing, refining, and filtering before it becomes useful.
On the other hand, scraping images is entirely different, as when a web scraping bot harvests images from a website, it delivers the image files.
Now, images are much heavier than text and metadata, so they’re usually compressed for indexing purposes. This may cause quality loss when they’re decompressed for delivery, but it allows web scraping bots to collect vast amounts of images for their deployer.
How This Can Be Used in Business
Businesses can benefit massively from web scraping in more ways than one. The first thing that comes to mind regarding the benefits of web scraping is the data itself. By accumulating a lot of data from your competitors or colleagues, you forgo the need to create your database.
Second of all, you can always be on top of your game and learn from the mistakes of others. Web scraping gets you data that will show you what trends are in and what might be less profitable than you have thought.
Almost all data procured through web scraping is passed through extensive analysis before it goes into work. That analysis can tell you a lot about your company, your competitors, and even the industry at large.
Web scraping is as normal as getting a cup-of-joe in the morning at the office. While many of us have moved out of the office due to the pandemic, business is going on as usual, and technology is making it easier on us day after day.
Web scraping is one of the technologies, or better yet, completely transformative methods to the business landscape. With the applications of techniques such as web scraping growing alongside the digital world, it’s fair to say that data and data harvesting will play increasing roles in the future of business.