There is a massive amount of data available on the internet, and it keeps growing by the day. Businesses, both startups and established, can use this data for market intelligence and achieve growth through:
- Gaining insight into consumer behavior
- Monitoring the competition
- Setting competitive prices
- Collecting quality leads and maintain an updated contact list
- Keyword research for search engine optimization
This data cannot be useful to your business while it’s on the web. You have to extract it, store it in your computer, and apply data analysis methods to derive applicable insights. And the magnitude of this data translates into a large task in its collection.
You can manually copy this data from the web and paste on your computer, but it would take an unimaginable amount of time. An automated technique known as web scraping or data crawling makes the web data collection an easier process.
What is Web Scraping, and How Does it Work?
Web scraping refers to the automated method of extracting data from targeted websites. It makes use of a computer program known as a web scraper.
The scraper reads the data from the web pages, looking for specific data based on the set parameters. It extracts, parses, and stores it in a database or spreadsheet in a structured format for further analysis.
Website security systems are designed to detect and block IP addresses using scrapers. The purpose of this measure is to prevent scrapers from slowing down the site. Web scrapers also visit websites like real users, leading to misleading analytics.
Proxies make it possible to overcome this problem by rotating the IP addresses. This means making each web request with a new IP address like several organic users. You avoid slowing down the website or having your scraper detected.
In case your scraper is detected, and the proxy IP address blocked, you can still access the website with a different proxy IP. This ensures the uninterrupted completion of your project.
There is also the issue of geo-blocked websites. Some websites block IPs from certain geographic locations due to reasons such as government sanctions. You can still scrape data from these sites by using a proxy attached to a different location.
There are two proxies you can use in your data collection.
- Residential proxies
- Data center proxies
Residential proxies are legitimate IP addresses issued by internet service providers to homeowners. They make it easy to scrape the web like an authentic user without raising suspicion.
Cloud server providers, on the other hand, issue data center proxies. They are artificially made and fast, ensuring a quicker completion of your project.
5 Benefits of Automated Web Data Collection
Here are five features of automated data collection that make it better than the manual method.
1) High Accuracy
A small error or omission in the collection of data can result in misleading insights and misinformed decision making. Unlike the manual copy and paste method of data collection, using a web scraping tool comes with fewer mistakes. The process is automated, creating little room for human error.
2) Real-time Data
Unlike the manual method, web scraping makes it possible to obtain real-time data. You do not have to worry about missing out on newly uploaded data on your target websites and making decisions using outdated information. The web scraper continuously collects this data, ensuring your database is always up to date.
Some web scraping service providers will only charge you for the data successfully scraped. On the other hand, investing in your own web scraping tool is a one-time investment that will meet your data collection needs in the long-term. The manual method is more costly. You have to hire data collection personnel that will demand a salary package, benefits, and so on.
Data scraping is automated. Once you set the right parameters, the data collection tool will extract the data you need in the shortest time. You get to save time, which you can use for more important tasks such as analyzing this data, deriving insights, and creating and implementing the right strategies.
5) Easy Data Management
The web scraping tool is able to read the HTML code from websites and structure it in your database. It ensures that the data you collect is well organized for easy retrieval and analysis. With easy commands, you can arrange it in the method that works best for you.
Web data collection is the reason successful businesses are able to grow their market share continually and withstand the ever-growing competition. You too can take advantage of the massive data available on the web for better strategies and decision making. But you need to automate the data collection method by using a web scraper.
A web scraper will be fast, efficient, cheaper, and will collect real-time data. But you need to invest in a reliable web scraper and proxies. A proxy with a wide IP pool will make it possible to rotate the IPs and access blocked sites.