There is no doubt in the fact that in the age of the internet today, Data is a gold mine. Advances in technology and software development has definitely made accumulating data easier than it was before.
However, it is often disappointing to see that a number of companies are still not truly aware of the benefits Data has to offer. This is why we will be discussing a few interesting ways this mine can prove to be a crucial part of your business model.
What is Data Scraping?
Data Scraping is a technique to fetch data from a source which does not otherwise provide an interface to extract or export the data.
Normally, systems provide interfaces to export data in CSV form or through APIs, but it is not always true. You may be dealing with a legacy system or a manufacturer / distributor or a competitor website which
- does not have an interface
- or does not wish to share the data
- or is too expensive to get data access
Another Variant of Data Scraping is “Web Scraping”
Web pages are built using text-based mark-up languages (HTML and XHTML) and contain data in text form. A web scraper is a sophisticated piece of software that extracts all this data from a web site (unfortunately, without any express permission from the authors).
Web scraping collects three broad categories of information from a website. These are:
1. Website Content: Content and information from all the pages of a website.
2. Website Usage: This kind of information is extracted from the server logs and browser activity tracking system. A Web Scraping Tool keeps visiting a competitor web page at regular intervals and accordingly keeps recording the changes e.g. Increase/Decrease in Inventory. This simple measure gives a fair understanding how often the product is sold at competitor.
3. Website Structure: This is the information extracted from links between people, pages, and other data structural data.
Once all the data is extracted, it can be further mined to analyze specific trends to manipulate your strategies for maximum benefit accordingly.
Now that the concept of Data Scraping is quite clear, we can move to the advantages implementing a scraping software.
Advantages of Data/Web Scraping Services
A few major advantages of data scraping softwares are as follows:
1. Saves Costs: Being done in bulk, overall cost of fetching data in per row of data terms becomes really inexpensive. Besides the services being low cost, it also cuts costs of manpower and man hours required for the same job if do be done manually significantly.
2. Higher Speed: It is pretty obvious that for some straightforward jobs, softwares could do the jobs much faster. This is true in the case of data/web scraping. What could take human effort weeks to complete could be done within a few hours by scrapers.
3. Highly Efficient: Once a web/data scraper deploys the proper mechanism to extract data, it is extracted from every single source efficiently. For instance, in case of web scraping, data to be extracted from a website is extracted from the entire domain. This means that not even a single page is left out which is highly probable human error.
4. Consistent and Organized: Another great thing about scraper is that once deployed, they will continue to extract data until the data is over or it is instructed to stop. This means that huge amounts of new data is uploaded, the scraper can be scheduled to automatically extract it.
All the required data once imported is sorted and placed in an organized structure for ease of use by a simple command.
5. Low Maintenance: Another reason of relief is that scraping softwares do not require lot of maintenance over the long periods of time which adds to its value.
As mentioned earlier, once the data is scraped, it sure is a gold mine for any business. Let’s take a look how.
Usage of Data Scraping
Data scraping accumulates and organize tons of data as required. Once this data is collected, it can be further used to:
1. Since the data is scrapped in a desired format, it can be used to make relevant databases of information which can further be used for a variety of purposes.
2. The scrapped data can be automatically transferred to your company’s business intelligence tools where the refined data can be used for analysis.
3. Since the data can be collected in a more organised manner, you can study it to determine trends of your product popularity, pricing analysis, competitive analysis, customer segmentation etc.
Based on these analysis, companies can ideate new strategies, or replace old ones in order to progress further effectively. There is an incredibly lesser chance of strategies failing since they are backed by statistics and not based on assumptions.
Data Scraping is not something new and not something immensely complex. In fact it is a crucial part of every business nowadays. Companies like Google and Facebook have their whole business model based around data scraping and are continuously evolving to extract more data. If they realize the value of this, so should you.
What kind of websites or databases usually provide an interface allowing you to scrap their data?
It actually depends. Many websites are coded in such a manner that you can scrape some data while not the other data on the same website. For instance, job portals are allowed to scrape all of the new opening page data of a number of companies. A number of travel companies allow comparison sites to scrap their data and compare it with others in order to promote themselves.
Is there any other way to scrap data rather than using web scraping softwares?
I don’t think so. I mean you could do it manually but that would take a lifetime.
“Data is a gold Mine.” I simply can’t stress on this enough.