How Does Web Scraping Work? Unraveling Science of Data Extraction

Web scraping is the process of extracting data from different sources like websites, which has boosted data usage by businesses and users. As websites have evolved, there have been changes in how the data are presented. Web scraping techniques help gain value for the business and improve its procedures.

In this article, we will explore web data scraping, including the most common scraped websites, and what are the pros and cons of applying this technique. Before we start let’s understand what exactly web data scraping is;

What is Web Data Scraping?

Web scraping is a technique utilized to extract information from different sources like websites or applications. As more and more data is available online, web data extraction is becoming extremely crucial for businesses. With web scraping, you can easily access this large amount of data.

Automated scraping tools such as web crawlers navigate the web by making HTTP requests to the servers and downloading the HTML of web pages. The HTML are being parsed to extract the information that users are interested in.

Businesses are utilizing web scraping to extract the data such as product information, pricing data, customer reviews, and more. The data then can be used for various purposes such as market research, competitor analysis, and product development. Along with the advantages of web scraping for businesses, the technique has various legal implications.

There are websites that have rigid website terms of service or other policies that restrict web scraping activity without permission which can lead to legal actions. However, it’s important to carry on such web scraping activities under proper guidelines.

How do you Scrape Data from a Website?

We follow a comprehensive process when it comes to scraping data from any website. Here are the basic steps to scrape data from a website:

➡️ Inspect the Website

Use your browser’s developer tools to inspect the page’s HTML source code you want to scrape. After inspecting the website, it will give you an idea of the data structure and what information you want to extract.

➡️ Identify the Data

Determine the elements on the page that contain the data you want to scrape, such as specific tags or attributes. You can use a browser that automatically highlights selected frontend content with the corresponding code in the backend; you can more easily identify these tags.

➡️ Write the Code

Write the code in programming languages such as Python, Java, or JavaScript to extract the data using tools such as Beautiful Soup, Selenium, or Scrapy. You need to determine the type of data you want the scraper to collect and store.

For example, if you are looking for book reviews, you will want information such as book title, author name, and rating. The code will navigate to the website, extract the data and save it in the desired format.

➡️ Handle Dynamic Content

Websites use JavaScript to load content or data dynamically, so you may need to handle this in your code using a headless browser such as Selenium WebDriver.

➡️ Execute the Code

The next stage after writing the code is to test the code. Then, the scraper requests access to the site extracts the data and parses it according to the steps we talked about in the last section.

➡️ Manage Scraping Frequency

Scraping many pages too frequently can strain the website’s servers and may result in your IP address being blocked. Make sure to scrape responsibly by managing the frequency of your scraping and limiting the number of requests per second.

How Does Web Scraping Work
How Does Web Scraping Work

Top 5 Most Scraped Websites

Data has gained a lot of importance in today’s business landscape. Several sources can provide you with the data you require, no matter what your goals are- generating leads, doing market analysis, or getting opinions based on sentiment analysis.

We have listed some of the most popular data sources that have been scraped. We will help you see the different, unique categories of data each one generates.

1. Amazon

Amazon is the most popular website amongst the most commonly scraped websites. Many users and organizations utilize Amazon as one of the data sources when it comes to gaining insights into customer behaviors, market trends, and pricing information.

Web scraping from Amazon can provide valuable information on product trends, strategies, and user experience. By scraping such listings and reviews, businesses can understand user behavior and expectations which can lead to improvements and decision makings.

Again, scraping from websites like Amazon can raise legal and ethical concerns. Unauthorized data scraping is often prohibited from websites and requires permission for ethical scraping practices. 

2. Google

Google is just another popular and commonly scrapped website. Many organizations who are looking forward to improving and optimizing their search engine, and online presence, scrape data from Google for such insights.

Data scraped from Google can provide access to large amounts of datasets which can help in improving your website performance in search results, keywords, and ranking. The scraped data can be analyzed and help to understand the user requirements and competitors’ strategies for website improvements.

However, while scraping such a wide amount of data, Google has strict policies against unauthorized or illegal scraping which can result in penalties or blocks. Make sure you are using scraping tools and methodologies that comply with Google’s terms of service to avoid legal or ethical issues.

3. Facebook

Facebook is considered to be the most popular website to collect the demographic information of a user or market. As Facebook ads target a specific demographic of users such as age, gender, location, and interests, it provides a valuable set of information.

Web scraping Facebook can enable businesses to understand their target audience and understand the user’s journey. Similar to other websites, ethical web scraping is essential to extract data from Facebook. Additionally, it may sometimes be difficult to gain insights into a specific segment, but you can collaborate this information with other sources to reach a comprehensive analysis.

4. Yelp

While Yelp has a large database of business listings and user-generated reviews, it is the most comprehensive source of yellow page data. It allows you to gather information on competitors, consumer preferences, and market trends.

Yelp data can provide businesses with information on consumer preferences, such as the type of products and services they are looking for, their preferred price range, and the features they value. As a result, you can easily gain consumer reviews, monitor your online reputation and address any negative feedback or complaints.

Unfortunately, the data collected from Yelp may not always be accurate or up-to-date, and using the data for commercial purposes may violate Yelp’s terms of service.

Watch our webinar video featuring Sandeep Natoo, a renowned data scientist, as he shares invaluable insights and showcases his expertise in web scraping. In this session, he provided a live demonstration on extracting data from Yelp, offering practical examples and tips.🔽

5. Indeed

Indeed is one of the largest job search engines, with millions of job postings worldwide. By scraping job listings from Indeed, businesses can gather information on the job market, the types of jobs in demand, and the qualifications and skills employers are looking for. This information can be useful for businesses in various industries, such as staffing agencies, human resources, and career counseling services.

You can use web scraping tools, such as Selenium, to extract the data from the website. However, you will need to ensure your scraping tool is set up to rotate IP addresses and user agents and handle captchas and rate limiting to avoid being detected and blocked by Indeed’s systems.

Utilize Tech and Expertise to Analyze Data for Valuable Insights to Empower your businesses

Advantages of Web Scraping

✔️ Automation

The main advantage of web scraping is that it is easy to get data from different websites. Before web scraping, data retrieval was a tedious and time-consuming process. Web scraping has to automate the time-consuming process of collecting and handling data. In addition, several web scraping tools extract data in large volumes.

✔️ Cost-effective

Data collection has become much easier and more cost-effective with web scraping and other digital techniques. Web scraping eliminates the need to collect data, reducing time and labor costs manually. Several tools provide you data you need quickly and affordably.

✔️ Accuracy

Web scraping services are not only speedy, but they are also accurate. Data extraction is critical, and human error can lead to serious problems. With web scraping, you can easily eliminate human error. The data collected through the automated tools are quick and accurate so that you can focus on other aspects of the business.

✔️ Data Management

Automated software and programs can help you save time by doing tedious tasks such as copying and pasting data. This way, they can focus more time on creative work. Web scraping leverages the data you want to collect from various websites and uses the right tools to manage it properly. Automated software and programs also ensure that your information is secure.

Related Read: Advantages of Web Scraping and its Impact on the Digital World

Advantages and Disadvantages of Web Scraping

Disadvantages of Web Scraping

❌ Website Protecting Policy

Since websites’ HTML structures are always changing, your web crawlers will sometimes break. Therefore, whether using web scraping software or writing your web scraping code, you will need to do some maintenance periodically to ensure your data collection pipelines are clean and operational.

❌ Inconsistent Data

Web scraping can be unreliable; as we learned earlier, websites can change without notice. Therefore, there can be inconsistency in the data collected and also cause inaccuracy. Such situations can cause difficulties in making decisions based on the data collected.

❌ Rate Limiting

Websites that limit the number of requests that can be made from a single IP address in a certain period restrict the scalability of web scraping projects. The rate limiting can make it difficult to gather the data you need.

❌ Ethical Concerns

Web scraping can collect sensitive information, such as personal or confidential business information, without consent. Such practices can raise ethical and privacy concerns.

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Conclusion

To summarize, web scraping is a powerful tool for gathering data from websites and can be used for various purposes. However, it is important to understand the technical and legal aspects of web scraping before implementing it. By following best practices and ethical guidelines, you can effectively and efficiently collect the data you need while avoiding potential roadblocks.

Several websites are scraped to collect the data and create value. You can harness the power of web scraping to achieve your goals with a little effort.

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