You might have heard the term data scraping, sometimes referred to as web scraping, mentioned, but not been very clear on what it means. Or perhaps you have read a little about it but are still unclear. Here, we will try to explain what it is and how it works.
What is it?
Data scraping is a technique through which a computer program can extract data from websites and other programs. The process of data scraping concentrates on transforming any website content that is of a structured nature, often HMTL, into an even more structured data form which can then be stored in either a database, excel spreadsheet or a .csv file. Structured data is a very particular type of data that is very organised; because of this is laid out in a pattern that is predictable.
How does it work?
The data that is displayed on most websites is viewable only via a web browser, the functionality to save a copy of the data for personal use is not there. Manually copying and pasting this data can be a monotonous and rather tedious process that can take a very long time to complete. This is where web scraping software comes into its own. Software can be set up to automatically load and then extract data from several pages of a website based on your own specific requirements. There is generic software available on the market or you can opt for something custom built that be set up for a specific website. All it takes is a click of a button and the software can scrape the information you need far more quickly and accurately than a human being can.
Who uses data scraping?
There are plenty of large companies that will use data scraping on a daily basis to help keep them at the top of their market. Take for example a company who compare travel deals from many different companies on a central website. Without data scraping they would not be able to check complete regular checks on the prices that the different sites offered on the same product and keep their information up to date.
It can also be a very practical tool for any company who wants to keep and maintain a position in the market place allowing them to easily compare prices and make sure that their products are optimised. It can also be used to generate potential sales leads, produce information for marketing campaigns, and even to generate new business opportunities.