Web scraping also known as Web Data extraction / Web Harvesting / Screen Scraping is a technology which is loved by startups, small and big companies. In simple words it is actually an automation technique to extract the unorganized web data into manageable format, where the data is extracted by traversing each URL by the robot and then using REGEX, CSS, XPATH or some other technique to extract the desired information in choice of output format.
So, it’s a process of collecting information automatically from the World Wide Web. Current web scraping solutions range from the ad-hoc, requiring human effort, to even fully automated systems that are able to convert entire web sites into structured information. Using web scraping software you can build sitemaps that will navigate the site and extract the data. Using different types of selectors the web scraping tool will navigate the site and extract multiple types of data - text, tables, images, links and more.
Now let’s explore the business ideas using web scraping:
Scrape products & price for comparison site : The site specific web crawling websites or the price comparison websites crawl the stores website prices, product description and images to get the data for analytic, affiliation or comparison. It has also been proved that pricing optimization techniques can improve gross profit margins by almost 10%. Selling products at a competitive rate all the time is a really crucial aspect of e-commerce. Web crawling has also been used by travel, e-commerce companies to extract prices from airlines’ websites in real time for a long time. By creating your custom scraping agent you can extract product feeds, images, price and other all associated details regarding the product from multiple sites and create your own data-warehouse or price comparison site. here is one example of trivago.com
- Online presence can be tracked : That’s also an important aspect of web scraping where business profiles and reviews on the websites can be scraped. This can be used to see the performance of the product, the user behavior and reaction. The web scraping could list and check thousands of the user profiles and the reviews which can be really useful for the business analytics.
- Custom Analysis and curation : This one is basically for the new websites/ channels wherein the scraped data can be helpful for the channels in knowing the viewer behavior. This is done with the goal of providing targeted news to the audience. Thus what you watch online gives the behavioral pattern to the website so they know their audience and offer what actually the audience likes.
- Online Reputation : In this world of digitization, companies are bullish about the spend on online reputation management. Thus web scraping is essential here as well. When you plan your ORM strategy the scraped data helps you to understand which audiences you most hope to impact and what areas of liability can most open your brand up to reputation damage. The web crawler could reveal opinion leaders, trending topics and demographic factors like gender, age group, GEO location, and sentiment in text. By understanding these areas of vulnerability, you can use them to your greatest advantage.
- Detect fraudulent reviews : It has become a common practice for people to read online opinions and reviews for different purposes. Thus it’s important to figure out the opinion spamming: It refers to “illegal” activities, for example writing fake reviews on the portals. It is also called shilling, which tries to mislead readers. Thus the web scraping can be helpful crawling the reviews and detecting which one to block, to be verified, or streamline the experience.
- To provide better targeted ads to your customers : The scrapping not only gives you numbers but also the sentiments and behavioral analytics thus you know the audience types and the choice of ads they would want to see.
- Business specific scraping : Taking doctors for example: you can scrape health physicians or doctors from their clinic websites to provide a catalog of available doctors as per specialization and region or any other specification.
- To gather public opinion : Monitor specific company pages from social networks to gather updates for what people are saying about certain companies and their products. Data collection is always useful for the product’s growth.
- Search engine results for SEO tracking: By scraping organic search results you can quickly find out your SEO competitors for a particular search term. You can determine the title tags and the keywords they are targeting. Thus you get an idea of which keywords are driving traffic to a website, which content categories are attracting links and user engagement, what kind of resources will it take to rank your site.
- Price competitiveness : It tracks the stock availability and prices of products in one of the most frequent ways and sends notifications whenever there is a change in competitors’ prices or in the market. In eCommerce, retailers or marketplaces use web scraping not only to monitor their competitor prices but also to improve their product attributes. To stay on top of their direct competitors, nowadays e-commerce sites have started closely monitoring their counterparts. For example, say Amazon would want to know how their products are performing against Flipkart or Walmart, and whether their product coverage is complete. Towards this end, they would want to crawl product catalogs from these two sites to find the gaps in their catalog. They’d also want to stay updated about whether they’re running any promotions on any of the products or categories. This helps in gaining actionable insights that can be implemented in their own pricing decisions. Apart from promotions, sites are also interested in finding out details such as shipping times, number of sellers, availability, similar products (recommendations) etc. for identical products.
- Scrape leads : This is another important use for the sales driven organization wherein lead generation is done. Sales teams are always hungry for data and with the help of the web scraping technique you can scrape leads from directories such as Yelp, Sulekha, Just Dial, Yellow Pages etc. and then contact them to make a sales introduction. To scrape complete information about the business profile, address, email, phone, products/services, working hours, Geo codes, etc. The data can be taken out in the desired format and can be used for lead generation, brand building or other purposes…
- For events organization : You can scrape events from thousands of event websites in the US to create an application that consolidates all of the events together.
Jobs scraping : Job sites are also using scraping to list all the data in one place. They scrape different company websites or jobs sites to create a central job board website and have a list of companies that are currently hiring to contact. There is also a method to use Google with LinkedIn to get lists of people by company which are geo-targeted by this data. The only thing that was difficult to extract from the professional social networking site is contact details, although now they are readily available through other sources by writing scraping scripts methods to collate this data. For example here is one example of of naukri.com
- Online reputation management : Do you know 50% of consumers read reviews before deciding to book a hotel. Now scrape review, ratings and comments from multiple websites to understand the customer sentiments and analyze with your favorite tool.
- To build vertical specific search engines : This is a new thing popular in the market but again for this a lot of data is needed hence web scraping is done for as much public data as possible because this volume of data is practically impossible to gather.
Web scraping can be used to power up the following businesses like Social media monitoring, Travel sites, Lead generation, E-commerce, Events listings, Price comparison, Finance, Reputation monitoring and the list is never ending
Each business has competition in the present world, so companies scrape their competitor information regularly to monitor the movements. In the era of big data, applications of web scraping are endless. Depending on your business, you can find a lot of areas where web data can be of great use. Web scraping is thus an art which is used to make data gathering automated and fast.
Are you using Agenty or other in-house web scraping technique to collect web data in your business? Share the details in comment below and I’d love to include in my next blog post.