Main Uses of Web Scraping: 9 Reasons to Start Gathering Data
The most frequent uses of web scraping in business explained.
Web scraping is a method for collecting data. You can scrape various sources online like social media, competitor websites, search engines, and e-commerce marketplaces. Scraping can help you to acquire leads, improve your marketing strategy, or give you some ideas for investment opportunities.
If you’re looking for ways to boost your business automation, we’ve listed the most practical uses of web scraping.
Why Businesses Scrape the Web
The field of web scraping is growing fast for several good reasons.
First, it helps to optimize manual processes and increase efficiency. Modern websites can have thousands of pages, so gathering manual data, such as product information, becomes slow and prone to mistakes. Automated data collection tools can both speed up this process manyfold and reduce human error.
Furthermore, web scraping allows making data-driven decisions. External data is becoming essential for business growth. By collecting and analyzing various sources on the web, companies can implement timely changes, better understand the competitive landscape and their own customer behavior, and foresee future trends.
Finally, web scraping can not only supplement, but also create new business models. It stands behind many analytics tools, price comparison platforms, and web monitoring services. Data collection also underpins such essential internet utilities as the Wayback Machine.
Practical Uses of Web Scraping
1. Price Monitoring
Companies use web scraping software to continuously monitor e-commerce sites and get up-to-date pricing information on different products.
One way to tailor price monitoring to your needs is to make automated product price comparisons. You can build a system that compares products from different e-commerce sites. This way, you can analyze the competition and adjust your prices to maximize sales or run discounts.
Besides, price monitoring can help your team to identify competitor strategy. Scraping ensures constant data flow, which can be analyzed in the long run – you can foresee trends or sales opportunities and optimize your logistics.
If you’re a business owner and your products are sold by resellers and retailers, you’ve probably heard about Minimum Advertised Price (MAP). Manufacturers, distributors, and retailers set a minimum price for an item to ensure that the product isn’t sold or advertised below outlined price. By automating the price monitoring process, you can keep tabs on any MAP policy violations that could damage your brand image.
2. Data Aggregation
One company can have its information scattered around the web: social media platforms, forums, and websites. But that’s not the trickiest part concerning data analysis; things get even more complicated when you need to monitor several companies at once. A subset of web scraping, data aggregation allows gathering raw data from multiple sources to produce comparative insights.
Data aggregation is very popular in the travel industry – since there are many participants, it can be tough to find optimal deals. Travel aggregators collect real-time data from multiple sources to provide the best offers for hotels, flights, car rentals, and more.
3. Generating Leads for Sales and Recruitment
Lead scraping is a method of collecting publicly available data from social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), real estate portals (Zillow, Realtor), hiring platforms (Indeed, Glassdoor), or directories (Yelp and Yellowpages).
Companies scrape information like phone numbers, emails, social media profiles, interests, positions, salaries, and locations. This way, they can generate leads for potential clients or employees. Let’s say you’re in a coffee business and you want to distribute your product around some shops. By scraping Yelp reviews and contact information, you can build a list of coffee shops in target areas.
Another way to improve your business sales is to generate leads through email marketing. Marketers build scraping software designed to crawl the internet: websites, comment sections, and forums to collect as many email IDs as possible. And even though sending promotional and marketing emails in bulk is a gray-hat case, companies still heavily rely on this method since it’s a more personal way to communicate with customers.
4. Protecting Brand Image
Brand protection requires constant product and brand tracking. Marketers scrape public sources to protect the company’s intellectual property against counterfeiting, social media impersonation, and copyright violations like trademark squatting and patent theft.
Let’s say someone in a different locale decides to copycat your website with the exact same name, but… there’s a clever typo. With the help of web scraping, businesses can identify and take down fake websites. Some impersonators block traffic coming from certain countries, so companies pair their scrapers with proxies to spoof their location.
Similarly, businesses monitor their reputation by scraping social media platforms, Google, web forums, and other sources for feedback about their products. They can then use this information to improve their communication strategy or interact with customers by replying to comments.
5. Finding Investment Opportunities
The finance sector heavily relies on up-to-date data. Alternative data like product reviews, consumer sentiment on social media, and trending news items are just a few finance-related data points that hedge funds and traders scrape to form their investment strategies.
For example, investors collect employee sentiment data from job sites like Indeed or Glassdoor to get the ratings of the company they’re investing in. Venture capitalists gather data from sites such as Crunchbase and TechCrunch to create lists of companies and monitor information on their investments. This might give your business an idea of where to invest next.
Data gathering is also popular among real estate hustlers. Agents scrape things like hospitality places, highest-ranking areas, travel destinations, amenities, property types, prices, or parking spaces to get valuable information for selling or renting options.
6. Analyzing Consumer Sentiment
Before buying, potential customers search for reviews and relevant hands-on experience. E-commerce platforms like Amazon or eBay are among the first to appear at the top of Google’s search results. Scraping social media platforms is another great method to reveal valuable insights.
What can you do with this data? First, you can use it to understand what customers like or dislike regarding your services, brand, or product. This way, your business can build credibility and address the pain points.
Furthermore, you can evaluate the customer sentiment toward your competition to see if they’re meeting expectations and identify areas where you can capture unhappy customers.
Finally, consumer sentiment analysis can help you validate product ideas by mining reviews for suggestions before launch or tracking how customers respond to your pilot projects.
7. SEO Monitoring
Marketers use web scraping to create and monitor the success of their search engine optimization strategies. You can use SEO scraping in your business to perform competitor research, track search engine ranks, and research for new content opportunities.
First and foremost, marketers use SEO metrics for competitor analysis. By extracting meta titles and descriptions of your competition, you can compare them with your own. Also, you might want to scrape their images or keywords to optimize your SEO strategy. Or, you can just gather Google’s top-ranking pages to observe the whole market.
Scheduling automatic site audits can also help businesses improve website visibility in search engines and avoid technical issues like broken links or server errors and other problems preventing your website from ranking in the top Google results.
There are more neat tricks. For example, a scraper can extract entities from best-ranking pages to optimize for featured snippets to improve SEO content marketing. Or, it can help to grow organic traffic by collecting low-competition keywords through Google’s autosuggest.
8. Website/App Testing and Monitoring
Some businesses have their websites running in different countries, so webmasters need to make sure that the site is functioning properly in every location. With the help of proxies and web scraping (for example, to automatically open and screenshot every page), they can verify that the website is localized properly everywhere.
Web scraping also helps with QA. Developers use it for emulating website load to check resilience to DDoS attacks and the server’s capacity.
Developers also build scrapers to ensure the content is in place and well maintained. They can run tests every time someone in the team makes changes to the site like, such as add new features or change element positioning.
9. Training Machine Learning Algorithms
From speech recognition and customer service chatbots to driverless cars and residential proxies, machine learning (ML) is one of the most trending topics in tech. But it would be much less useful without large amounts of raw data. Needless to say, scraping tools are just right for the job. Data scientists use public web data to train ML models on custom data sets.
For example, you can collect product specifications from various e-commerce website and then train a model to automatically standardize them to one format. This can save a lot of manual labor in preparing a data set for analysis.
Getting Started with Your Web Scraping Project
While web scraping may be useful to you, websites aren’t exactly happy to be scraped. They use various techniques like rate throttling, CAPTCHAs, and IP blocks to prevent automated access. So, besides having a quality scraper, you’ll also need some additional tools to mask your IP address and, in some cases – the browser’s fingerprint.
Web scraping and proxies go hand in hand. Most e-commerce or social media websites monitor bot-like activities. That means your scraping efforts won’t be unnoticed. Usually, residential proxies are enough to keep your project going. These IPs come from real residential devices, so you’re less prone to being blocked. By rotating your proxy, you can also avoid CAPTCHA prompts and rate limiting.
Check out other obstacles you might encounter when scraping and ways to overcome them.