Web data extraction (also known as web scraping, web harvesting, screen scraping, etc.) is a technique for extracting huge amounts of data from websites on the internet. The data available on websites is generally not available to download easily and can only be accessed by using a web browser. However, web is the largest repository of open data and this data has been growing at exponential rates since the inception of internet.
The Ultimate Guide to web data extraction
Web data is of great use to Ecommerce portals, media companies, research firms, data scientists, government and can even help the healthcare industry with ongoing research and making predictions on the spread of diseases.
Consider the data available on classifieds sites, real estate portals, social networks, retail sites, and online shopping websites etc. being easily available in a structured format, ready to be analyzed. Most of these sites don’t provide the functionality to save their data to a local or cloud storage. Some sites provide APIs, but they typically come with restrictions and aren’t reliable enough. Although it’s technically possible to copy and paste data from a website to your local storage, this is inconvenient and out of question when it comes to practical use cases for businesses.
Web scraping helps you do this in an automated fashion and does it far more efficiently and accurately. A web scraping setup interacts with websites in a way similar to a web browser, but instead of displaying it on a screen, it saves the data to a storage system.
Applications of web data extraction
1. Pricing intelligence
Pricing intelligence is an application that’s gaining popularity by each passing day given the tightening of competition in the online space. E-commerce portals are always watching out for their competitors using web crawling to have real time pricing data from them and to fine tune their own catalogs with competitive pricing. This is done by deploying web crawlers that are programmed to pull product details like product name, price, variant and so on. This data is plugged into an automated system that assigns ideal prices for every product after analyzing the competitors’ prices.
Pricing intelligence is also used in cases where there is a need for consistency in pricing across different versions of the same portal. The capability of web crawling techniques to extract prices in real time makes such applications a reality.
Ecommerce portals typically have a huge number of product listings. It’s not easy to update and maintain such a big catalog. This is why many companies depend on web date extractions services for gathering data required to update their catalogs. This helps them discover new categories they haven’t been aware of or update existing catalogs with new product descriptions, images or videos.
3. Market research
Market research is incomplete unless the amount of data at your disposal is huge. Given the limitations of traditional methods of data acquisition and considering the volume of relevant data available on the web, web data extraction is by far the easiest way to gather data required for market research. The shift of businesses from brick and mortar stores to online spaces has also made web data a better resource for market research.
4. Sentiment analysis
Sentiment analysis requires data extracted from websites where people share their reviews, opinions or complaints about services, products, movies, music or any other consumer focused offering. Extracting this user generated content would be the first step in any sentiment analysis project and web scraping serves the purpose efficiently.
5. Competitor analysis
The possibility of monitoring competition was never this accessible until web scraping technologies came along. By deploying web spiders, it’s now easy to closely monitor the activities of your competitors like the promotions they’re running, social media activity, marketing strategies, press releases, catalogs etc. in order to have the upper hand in competition. Near real time crawls take it a level further and provides businesses with real time competitor data.
6. Content aggregation
Media websites need instant access to breaking news and other trending information on the web on a continuous basis. Being quick at reporting news is a deal breaker for these companies. Web crawling makes it possible to monitor or extract data from popular news portals, forums or similar sites for trending topics or keywords that you want to monitor. Low latency web crawling is used for this use case as the update speed should be very high.
7. Brand monitoring
Every brand now understands the importance of customer focus for business growth. It would be in their best interests to have a clean reputation for their brand if they want to survive in this competitive market. Most companies are now using web crawling solutions to monitor popular forums, reviews on ecommerce sites and social media platforms for mentions of their brand and product names. This in turn can help them stay updated to the voice of the customer and fix issues that could ruin brand reputation at the earliest. There’s no doubt about a customer-focused business going up in the growth graph.