Web Scraping: The Hive of Opportunities for All Businesses

The world wide web is a bank of large chunks of unexploited data. This data is a treasure for data-driven businesses when adequately harnessed. The data can be used to create a competitive advantage by analyzing market trends, competitors, and consumer behavior.

As much as data is being uploaded to the internet regularly, there is a need to identify what is relevant for your business, extract it, and put it into use. Getting relevant data for your business needs is not an easy task especially with advancing web technologies.

Continue reading to know what is web scraping, how web scraping is the future of any data-driven businesses, the challenges faced when scraping the web, and the best practices in web scraping.

What is web scraping?

Web scraping is a technique used to harvest large amounts of relevant data from sites. This data is then used by a business to understand the target market and make suitable changes to its marketing strategy, pricing policy, and even way of operation. The data can include customer feedback, competitor analysis, and also real-time feedback on pricing strategies being undertaken by competitors in the market.

Why is a web scraping the future for data-driven businesses?

  • Effective web scraping means a business will have unlimited access to market data, which can be used to make sound business decisions such as pricing strategies, rebranding, and even opening new branches.
  • Advanced web scraping involves an analysis of both texts, sentiment analysis, and even an analysis of satellite images, which can be used to predict natural disasters. These can be used to ensure a business is equipped for what is to happen in the future
  • Web scraping can easily enable a company to come up with an entire decision-making engine or a predictive model without much effort
  • Web scraping can help one to find a service easily for collaboration purposes
  • Web scraping enables businesses to make decisions based on real-time data and market trends. This gives an upper hand to companies as they would take actions based on actual data rather than outcomes of board meetings
  • Web scraping can help businesses avoid scams or scandals and make decisions based on live data, which improves decision making. 

Challenges faced by Web Scrapers

The growth in technology, however, has affected both sides of the coin. It has made web scraping easier but has also created an avenue to come up with anti-scraping measures and even web technologies that render scraping difficult.

Let’s look at some of the challenges faced by web scrapers.

Anti-scraping techniques

Anti-Scraping techniques include detecting and blacklisting of IPs of web scrapers. To go through this hurdle, you need to use proxies that can mask your real IP addresses. Several proxy IPs are available in the market, with most web scraping software able to work with the data center proxies which are readily available. All you need to do is to look for the best datacenter proxies for web scraping that can work for your web scraping software.

Some websites ward off scrapers by limiting the rates of access. Limiting access rates works by flagging the IPs that access the website past the rate limits and suspend them for a while. Rate limits can be bypassed by using a pool of proxies or rotating proxies that can divide the number of requests to avoid them from getting past the rate limits. You can check out the best rotating proxies for web scraping here.

Data storage and cleaning

With increased data scraping, there is also a need for building secure and scalable data storage solutions. If the storage is not set correctly, exporting data for use will be time-consuming. The storage should also be able to clean and export only relevant data. The aspect of data cleaning and filtering makes web scraping more difficult considering missing this aspect can render the scraped data useless.

Rise of complicated front-end technologies

Most websites periodically change their User interface. If your scrappers are not updated, then you won’t be able to scrap complete data. Some require one to log in to access data, which can make scraping difficult. Other websites use JavaScript and ajax, which are executed ant runtime making standard scrapers fail to extract required data as they can only extract data in HTML pages. To bypass the aspect of complicated front ends, you will need advanced scrapers, which in the long run, makes the project a bit costly or hard to acquire.

Redundancy management and handling duplicates 

Many companies have resorted to multiple data scraping streams to be able to scrap more data. Multiple data scraping streams can result in duplicate data, which in turn can have a result of inflated numbers or biased judgment. This increases the cost of the web scraping project because one will have to sieve the data and compare it before adding it to the database.

Best practices in web scraping

  • Check out for scripts that block web scraping bots to ensure you don’t overstep the legal restrictions of scraping the target website
  • Send a reasonable number of requests to avoid getting blacklisted and also prevent the server from crashing.
  • Use proxies and rotating IP’s to mask your real identity and to avoid being blacklisted.
  • Ensure your web scraping software is not repetitive, as some sites can detect repetitive patterns. Ensure your web crawler has human-like tendencies like not doing repetitive tasks.
  • Schedule your web scraping to take place when there is no traffic. Ensure you study the site to get the off-peak hours and set your crawler to work during this time.
  • Ensure the scraping process is as transparent as possible. Don’t use unorthodox means to gain access to target websites

Web scraping can be a real game-changer for every type of business. Research trends show that in the future, all companies would be relying on data-driven decision making. You should not be left behind. Get yourself acquainted with web scraping and enjoy the competitive advantage.

PKI-Security Engineer & security blogger at gbhackers.com. She is passionate about covering cybersecurity and Technology.

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