Having access to more data can help you make better business decisions, identify opportunities or even build a new business selling data. Many businesses have already benefited from having more information at their disposal. You may have heard about web scraping before. Perhaps you even wondered how web scraping works?
In this article, we’ll briefly introduce web scraping. We’ll also cover how to get started with web scraping and the different tools such as scraping software and a residential proxy from a provider like Smartproxy to get you started on the right foot. Continue reading to discover just how easy it is to begin collecting data.
What Is Web Scraping?
Web scraping can be described as collecting large amounts of data across many websites and compiling it into a single format. Once the information has been gathered and compiled, it can be evaluated. This is where the real benefits of web scraping lie. You can discover market trends, pricing intelligence, monitor brand awareness and sentiment, and more from the collected data.
Not only can the information be used to benefit your own business, but you can also use it in other ways. Individuals can use it for personal reasons, such as collecting all the real estate listings in an area when looking for a new home. Alternatively, some have even built businesses entirely centered around web scraping to sell the data they collected.
What Tools Do You Need to Start Scraping Data?
To start scraping data efficiently, you need a few different tools. While it is possible to collect data manually, this process takes a long time, and there are many opportunities for human error, which could lead to unreliable data. Using tools specifically designed for web scraping is much faster, easier, and more efficient.
The most important tool required is a good web scraper, which will do all the work. Web scrapers are tools that automatically scrape the web and collect the data based on the parameters set by the user. Once all the raw data has been collected, these tools then parse the data so that it is in a readable format. The data is then compiled into your chosen format, usually a spreadsheet or similar.
It is possible, and even easy, to build your own web scraper if you have a bit of coding knowledge. There are even open-source files available to get you started. The benefit of building your web scraper is that you have more freedom and opportunities for customization. This means you can build a tool that does exactly what you want it to. However, you should be aware that you’ll be responsible for maintaining and updating the tool frequently when building your own tool.
Alternatively, there are already-built solutions available for those that don’t want to worry about the coding and maintaining the software themselves.
ParseHub is a powerful tool that has become very popular among web scrapers. One benefit is that they have a free plan available, so you can try out the software and only start paying once you need to scale your scraping efforts. There are also a variety of packages depending on your needs, so you have options available to choose the one that suits your needs and budget.
Octoparse is another popular web scraping tool that is available. This tool also has a free version available that is slightly more limited than the paid version but gives you an excellent opportunity to test out the software before scaling your web scraping efforts. In contrast to Parsehub, where the free version has a limit on the number of pages scraped, Octoparse has a limit on the number of records exported.
Smart Scrape is a handy web scraping tool from a proxy provider. The benefit of using a tool like this is that there is flawless integration with your proxy, which makes the tool even easier to use. Smart Scrape has a three-day free trial so that you can test how the web scraper works. There is also a handy Chrome extension available so that you can continue your scraping efforts even while browsing.
It is essential to use proxies alongside your web scraping tools. While it is possible to use datacenter proxies, we recommend looking into a residential proxy. This is because a residential proxy comes with IP addresses that are linked to real devices and ISPs. This means they look like real users rather than bots so that you can avoid being banned from sites. Not getting banned means you can collect more data, and the collected data will also be more accurate.
Web scraping doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be a simple and even easy process if you are equipped with the right tools. If you use a good-quality web scraper paired with a reliable residential proxy, there is no reason for you not to start collecting more data right away.