What is Web Scraping? | Practical Uses & Methods

Web Scraping (also termed Screen Scraping, Web Data Extraction, Web Harvesting etc.) is a technique used to automatically extract large amounts of data from websites and save it to a file or database. The data scraped will usually be in tabular or spreadsheet format.

Data displayed by websites can only be viewed using a web browser. Most websites do not allow you to save or download this data. If you need the data, the only option is to manually copy and paste the data - a very tedious job which can take many hours or days to complete. Web Scraping is the technique of automating this process, so that instead of manually copying the data from websites, the Web Scraping software will perform the same task within a fraction of the time.

A web scraping software will automatically load, crawl and extract data from multiple pages of websites based on your requirement. It is either custom built for a specific website or one which can be configured to scrape data from any website. With the click of a button, you can easily save the data displayed by websites to a file in your computer.

What is Web Scraping used for?

Web Scraping is used for getting data. Access to relevant data, having methods to analyze it and performing intelligent actions based on analysis can make a huge difference in the success and growth of most businesses in the modern world. Data collection and analysis is important even for government, non-profit and educational institutions.

The following are few of the many uses of Web Scraping:

  • 1. In eCommerce, Web Scraping is used for competition price monitoring.
  • 2. In Marketing, Web Scraping is used for lead generation, to build phone and email lists for cold outreach.
  • 3. In Real Estate, Web Scraping is used to get property and agent/owner details.
  • 4. Web Scraping is used to collect training and testing data for Machine Learning projects.

Know More about Practical Uses of Web Scraping

Is Web Scraping Legal?

One of the most frequent questions which comes to your mind once you have decided to scrape data is whether the process of web scraping is legal or not. Scraping data which is already available in public domain is legal as long as you use the data ethically. If websites wish to prevent web scraping, they can employ techniques like CAPTCHA forms and IP banning. Web Scraping software can help you scrape data anonymously by using proxy servers or VPNs.

Know more about the legality of Web Scraping

How to scrape data from websites?

    1. Using a web scraping software

    Web Scraping software falls under 2 categories. First, which can be locally installed in your computer and second, which runs in the cloud (browser based). WebHarvy, OutWit Hub, Visual Web Ripper etc. are examples of web scraping software which can be installed in your computer, whereas import.io, Mozenda, ParseHub, OctoParse etc. are examples of cloud data extraction platforms.

    How to choose a web scraping software?

    2. By writing code or by hiring a developer

    You can hire a developer to build custom data extraction software for your specific requirement. The developer can in-turn make use of web scraping APIs or libraries. For example, apify.com lets you easily get APIs to scrape data from any website. Beautiful Soup is a Python library which helps you parse data out of HTML code behind web pages.

    How to code a simple web scraper?

Web Scraping Need Not be Hard

The problem with most generic web scraping software is that they are very difficult to master and use. There is a steep learning curve involved. WebHarvy was designed to solve this problem. With a very intuitive, point and click interface, WebHarvy allows you to start scraping data within minutes from any website.

If you are interested in knowing more, we highly recommend that you download and try the FREE 15 days evaluation version of WebHarvy.

What is Web Scraping (Video) ?