Scraping is the process of extracting data from one website and saving them in a different place—for instance, on a different website. This process can be done in several ways, manually or automatically, with the help of software. In many cases, scraping is also referred to as screen scraping, harvesting, or web scraping.

Data from web scraping can be used in different forms and ways. For instance, many websites actively encourage their users to scrape the websites’ data and use these data on a third-party website. A good example is Google Maps, which encourages its users to scrape its data and integrate the data into their own websites. However, there are also many forms of illegal scraping, such as scraping when a website strictly forbids the use of its data. Such restriction can usually be found in the terms and conditions of a website. A third form is predominantly a grey area, like Twitter scraping. Twitter allows users to scrape data but limits the amount of extracted data to a certain number of megabytes per minute.

Now question is that “what is actually web scraping and where is it used???” Let us explore web scraping, web data extraction, web mining/data mining or screen scraping in details

What is Web Scraping?

Web Data Scraping is a great technique of extracting unstructured data from the websites and transforming that data into structured data that can be stored and analyzed in a database. Web Scraping is also known as web data extraction, web data scraping, web harvesting or screen scraping.

Web scraping is a form of data mining. The overall goal of the web scraping process is to extract information from a websites and transform it into an understandable structure like spreadsheets, database or csv. Data like item pricing, stock pricing, different reports, market pricing, product details, business leads can be gathered via web scraping efforts.

There are countless uses and potential scenarios, either business oriented or non-profit. Public institutions, companies and organizations, entrepreneurs, professionals etc. generate an enormous amount of information/data every day.

 Uses of Web Scraping:

The following are some of the uses of web scraping:

  • Collect data from real estate listing
  • Collecting retailer sites data on daily basis
  • Extracting offers and discounts from a website.
  • Scraping job posting.
  • Price monitoring with competitors.
  • Gathering leads from online business directories – directory scraping
  • Keywords research
  • Gathering targeted emails for email marketing – email scraping
  • And many more.

Techniques used for data gathering

There are several techniques for scraping data. The most common are presented here:

  • HTTP manipulation: HTTP manipulation enables the harvesting of static and dynamic data from a website via an HTTP request.
  • Data mining: Data mining is an automatic, programmed process which recognizes a website’s information according to predefined scripts and templates which contain embedded data. With the help of a so-called wrapper, data are transferred from one website to another. The wrapper acts as an interface between the two websites. Eg. Kimonolabs, import.io
  • Scraping tools: Depending on the nature of the scraping tool, different data can be extracted. Whether the data are single website-related information or full functionalities and structures, there are available tools for extracting them. In many cases, however, such tools are very costly and are worth the money only if you intend to pursue extensive data harvesting. Cheaper alternatives are available, especially for extracting social media data useful for all kinds of marketing activities.
  • Manual copying: Even though there are a great variety of tools available, in many cases people still rely on the traditional manual copying. This is especially the case if website information is blocked against any form of automatic scraping tools, like robots.txt. In such cases, people usually rely on the help of overseas freelancers who provide data entry services.
  • Microformats: Another form of scraping is scraping and using microformats. Microformats are (referring to the terms of the semantic web) a more commonly scraped set of information. However, the technique remains mainly the same, and only the format of the extracted data is differing.

As we can see, scraping can be done in any section of the web, and if you know about the basics and the possible areas of usage, you are already ahead of a great proportion of the Internet community.