In this data-driven age, where data is more valuable than oil, individuals, groups, and organizations are trying to acquire as much data as possible. Over the years, a lot of different and innovative ways have been developed to collect the data. This entire process of extracting or harvesting online public data is known as web scraping. The data thus acquired is used for various purposes.
How Does Web Scraping Work?
Technically, web scraping involves two steps:
Fetching is the process by which a browser retrieves a page from the server for the end user’s viewing.
To do this a web page’s content is parsed, searched or reformatted and then transferred to a spreadsheet.
For instance, a web scraper can be programmed to extract all the contact details from a web page. Thus, all you need to do is run the bot, and all the data will be extracted and fed into your database.
However, web scraping is not as easy as it may seem. Since scraping takes a toll over the target server’s bandwidth, a lot of websites employ tools to prevent scraping by restricting bots from crawling through their pages.
Proxies help businesses overcome all these challenges.
Web Scraping and Proxies
Proxies form a rather important part of the scraping process. Proxies help by:
- Allowing the scraper to remain anonymous
- Bypassing anti-scraping mechanisms
- Reducing the chances of getting banned by a website due to a high request volume
- Enabling you to make requests from a specific geographical location
This gets even easier if instead of one proxy server, several are used concurrently. Such a system is known as a Proxy Pool.
What is a Proxy Pool?
When a scraper employs several different proxy servers to split the traffic over a period, the system is called a proxy pool. It has many advantages:
- Increases the number of requests that can be raised
- Large websites with robust counter-bot measures will require a larger proxy pool
There are cases where a pool can contain more than 1,000 proxy servers at a time. That can become very cumbersome to manage and can also reveal your identity. Here are a few solutions to help you deal with such situations:
- Do it Yourself
Here, you manage and rotate the proxies on your own. Although the cheapest of all three, this can be the most wasteful solution, especially if one doesn’t have a team to monitor and manage the infrastructure.
- Proxy Rotators
A lot of proxy providers also provide proxy rotation and geographical targeting services. This eases up the responsibility from your shoulders and helps you in focusing on other important tasks.
- Done for You
Businesses can also choose to outsource their proxy management for better performance.
Advantages of Web Scraping
In today’s business environment, it will not be wrong to say that one who controls the data controls the fortune. This is simply because extracted data can be fed to analytics software to take care of security, analyses the trends, and predict the future. This is why more and more companies are using web scraping to manage their sales leads, fuel their marketing department, advance their SEO techniques, and gain business intelligence.
Let’s have a look at some of the common use cases of web scraping:
- Price Monitoring
E-commerce has changed the landscape of retail business. It has ushered in the era of consumer dominance. This has triggered a game of competitive pricing among competitors. Brands keep changing their prices frequently to remain in the consideration of their consumers.
This is where web scraping helps. It enables the brands in keeping a track of their competitors’ pricing strategy and effectively plan out theirs to counter that.
- Ad Verification
Businesses today are following their customers on every viable channel. In one such attempt, they distribute their ads via ad servers onto various websites where the potential consumers may be. However, sometimes hackers or competitors direct their ads to fake websites or porn websites, thus tarnishing their image. This is when web scraping helps you in verifying that your ads are running exactly as they are supposed to.
- Market Research
It has become imperative for businesses to monitor various groups and pages on social platforms and other ecommerce websites to find out what their targeted consumer is talking about or interested in. This helps them in modifying their products to suit the needs of the consumer or create user-specific content to market the products effectively. This way, web scraping helps you keep an eye on more than one social channel at once.
- Lead Generation
Web scraping has become an important tool of lead generation. There are only so much leads a sales team can generate manually and on their own. But deploying a web scraping tool on online business directories can provide businesses with a range of high-quality prospective leads that can be contacted later.
The Wrap Up
This brings us to the end of this article. As is evident, web scraping has evolved itself to become a necessary tool for businesses – to stay connected, to gain business intelligence, and to stay ahead of competitors.