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Web Scraping Basics – Towards Data Science
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What Is Web Scraping And How Does It Work? | Zyte.com
In today’s competitive world everybody is looking for ways to innovate and make use of new technologies. Web scraping (also called web data extraction or data scraping) provides a solution for those who want to get access to structured web data in an automated fashion. Web scraping is useful if the public website you want to get data from doesn’t have an API, or it does but provides only limited access to the data.
In this article, we are going to shed some light on web scraping, here’s what you will learn:
What is web scraping? The basics of web scrapingWhat is the web scraping process? What is web scraping used for? The best resources to learn more about web scraping
What is web scraping?
Web scraping is the process of collecting structured web data in an automated fashion. It’s also called web data extraction. Some of the main use cases of web scraping include price monitoring, price intelligence, news monitoring, lead generation, and market research among many others.
In general, web data extraction is used by people and businesses who want to make use of the vast amount of publicly available web data to make smarter decisions.
If you’ve ever copy and pasted information from a website, you’ve performed the same function as any web scraper, only on a microscopic, manual scale. Unlike the mundane, mind-numbing process of manually extracting data, web scraping uses intelligent automation to retrieve hundreds, millions, or even billions of data points from the internet’s seemingly endless frontier.
Web scraping is popular
And it should not be surprising because web scraping provides something really valuable that nothing else can: it gives you structured web data from any public website.
More than a modern convenience, the true power of data web scraping lies in its ability to build and power some of the world’s most revolutionary business applications. ‘Transformative’ doesn’t even begin to describe the way some companies use web scraped data to enhance their operations, informing executive decisions all the way down to individual customer service experiences.
The basics of web scraping
It’s extremely simple, in truth, and works by way of two parts: a web crawler and a web scraper. The web crawler is the horse, and the scraper is the chariot. The crawler leads the scraper, as if by hand, through the internet, where it extracts the data requested. Learn the difference between web crawling & web scraping and how they work.
A web crawler, which we generally call a “spider, ” is an artificial intelligence that browses the internet to index and search for content by following links and exploring, like a person with too much time on their hands. In many projects, you first “crawl” the web or one specific website to discover URLs which then you pass on to your scraper.
A web scraper is a specialized tool designed to accurately and quickly extract data from a web page. Web scrapers vary widely in design and complexity, depending on the project. An important part of every scraper is the data locators (or selectors) that are used to find the data that you want to extract from the HTML file – usually, XPath, CSS selectors, regex, or a combination of them is applied.
The web data scraping process
If you do it yourself
This is what a general DIY web scraping process looks like:
Identify the target websiteCollect URLs of the pages where you want to extract data fromMake a request to these URLs to get the HTML of the pageUse locators to find the data in the HTMLSave the data in a JSON or CSV file or some other structured format
If you outsource it
1. Our team gathers your requirements regarding your project.
2. Our veteran team of web data scraping experts writes the scraper(s) and sets up the infrastructure to collect your data and structure it based on your requirements.
3. Finally, we deliver the data in your desired format and desired frequency.
Ultimately, the flexibility and scalability of web scraping ensure your project parameters, no matter how specific, can be met with ease. Fashion retailers inform their designers with upcoming trends based on web scraped insights, investors time their stock positions, and marketing teams overwhelm the competition with deep insights, all thanks to the burgeoning adoption of web scraping as an intrinsic part of everyday business.
What is web scraping used for?
In our experience, price intelligence is the biggest use case for web scraping. Extracting product and pricing information from e-commerce websites, then turning it into intelligence is an important part of modern e-commerce companies that want to make better pricing/marketing decisions based on data.
How web pricing data and price intelligence can be useful:
Dynamic pricingRevenue optimizationCompetitor monitoringProduct trend monitoringBrand and MAP compliance
Market research is critical – and should be driven by the most accurate information available. High quality, high volume, and highly insightful web scraped data of every shape and size is fueling market analysis and business intelligence across the globe.
Market trend analysisMarket pricingOptimizing point of entryResearch & developmentCompetitor monitoring
Alternative data for finance
Unearth alpha and radically create value with web data tailored specifically for investors. The decision-making process has never been as informed, nor data as insightful – and the world’s leading firms are increasingly consuming web scraped data, given its incredible strategic value.
Extracting Insights from SEC FilingsEstimating Company FundamentalsPublic Sentiment IntegrationsNews Monitoring
The digital transformation of real estate in the past twenty years threatens to disrupt traditional firms and create powerful new players in the industry. By incorporating web scraped product data into everyday business, agents and brokerages can protect against top-down online competition and make informed decisions within the market.
Appraising Property ValueMonitoring Vacancy RatesEstimating Rental YieldsUnderstanding Market Direction
News & content monitoring
Modern media can create outstanding value or an existential threat to your business – in a single news cycle. If you’re a company that depends on timely news analyses, or a company that frequently appears in the news, web scraping news data is the ultimate solution for monitoring, aggregating, and parsing the most critical stories from your industry.
Investment Decision MakingOnline Public Sentiment AnalysisCompetitor MonitoringPolitical CampaignsSentiment Analysis
Lead generation is a crucial marketing/sales activity for all businesses. In the 2020 Hubspot report, 61% of inbound marketers said generating traffic and leads was their number 1 challenge. Fortunately, web data extraction can be used to get access to structured lead lists from the web.
In today’s highly competitive market, it’s a top priority to protect your online reputation. Whether you sell your products online and have a strict pricing policy that you need to enforce or just want to know how people perceive your products online, brand monitoring with web scraping can give you this kind of information.
In some situations, it can be cumbersome to get access to your data. Maybe you need to extract data from a website that is your own or your partner’s in a structured way. But there’s no easy internal way to do it and it makes sense to create a scraper and simply grab that data. As opposed to trying to work your way through complicated internal systems.
Minimum advertised price (MAP) monitoring is the standard practice to make sure a brand’s online prices are aligned with their pricing policy. With tons of resellers and distributors, it’s impossible to monitor the prices manually. That’s why web scraping comes in handy because you can keep an eye on your products’ prices without lifting a finger.
Learn more about web scraping
Here at Zyte (formerly Scrapinghub), we have been in the web scraping industry for 12 years. With our data extraction services and automatic web scraper, Zyte Automatic Extraction, we have helped extract web data for more than 1, 000 clients ranging from Government agencies and Fortune 100 companies to early-stage startups and individuals. During this time we gained a tremendous amount of experience and expertise in web data extraction.
Here are some of our best resources if you want to deepen your web scraping knowledge:
What are the elements of a web scraping project? Web scraping toolsHow to architect a web scraping solutionIs web scraping legal? Web scraping best practices
Types of Scraping Techniques | How to Prevent Scraping – Radware Bot …
Scraping is the act of extracting data or information from websites with or without the consent of the website owner. Scraping can be done manually, but in most cases it’s done automatically because of its efficiency. Scraping of content or prices is mostly carried out with malicious intent, and there are several techniques used to scrape content.
Manual scraping involves copying and pasting web content, which takes a lot of effort and is highly repetitive in the way it is carried out. This is an effective way of stealing content when the website’s defense mechanisms are tuned to only detect automated scraping bots. However, manual scraping is rarely seen in practice, due to the fact that automated scraping is far quicker and cheaper to carry out.
DOM Parsing: The Document Object Model, or DOM, defines the style, structure and the content within XML files. DOM parsers are generally used by scrapers that want to get an in-depth view of the structure of a web page. Scrapers can use a DOM parser to get the nodes containing information, and then use a tool such as XPath to scrape web pages. Full-fledged web browsers like Internet Explorer or Firefox can be embedded to extract the entire web page or just parts of it, even if the content generated is dynamic in nature.
Vertical Aggregation: Vertical aggregation platforms are created by companies with access to large-scale computing power to target specific verticals. Some companies even run these data harvesting platforms on the cloud. Creation and monitoring of bots for specific verticals is carried out by these platforms with virtually no human intervention. Since the bots are created automatically based on the knowledge base for the specific vertical, their efficiency is measured by the quality of data extracted.
XPath: XML Path Language, or XPath, is a query language that works on XML documents. Since XML documents are based on a tree-like structure, XPath can be used to navigate across the tree by selecting nodes based on a variety of parameters. XPath can be used in conjunction with DOM parsing to extract an entire web page and publish it at the destination website.
Google Sheets: Google Sheets can be used as a scraping tool, and it’s quite popular among scrapers. From within Sheets, a scraper can use the IMPORTXML (, ) function to scrape data from websites. This is useful when the scraper wants specific data or patterns to be extracted from a website. You can use this command to check if your website is scrape-proof.
Text Pattern Matching: This is a regular expression-matching technique using the UNIX grep command and is usually clubbed with popular programming languages like Perl or Python.
There are several web scraping tools and services available online, and scrapers need not know all of the above techniques unless they want to do the scraping themselves. There are tools such as cURL, Wget, HTTrack,,, and several others that are highly automated. Scrapers also use automated headless browsers such as,, for scraping purposes.
How to Prevent Web Scraping
Scraping with the intent of stealing data is illegal and unethical. Owners of online businesses should take every possible step to continuously protect their websites and apps from scraper bots to protect their brand and retain their competitive edge. The sophisticated, human-like bots prevalent today give scrapers many options to scrape web content without detection. This is why a dedicated bot management solution is essential to deter scraping and even more serious threats such as account takeover and application DDoS on websites and apps. For a more in-depth look at scraping attacks, read our e-book ‘Deconstructing Large Scale Distributed Scraping Attacks’.
Frequently Asked Questions about how to scrape
How do you do scraping?
This is what a general DIY web scraping process looks like:Identify the target website.Collect URLs of the pages where you want to extract data from.Make a request to these URLs to get the HTML of the page.Use locators to find the data in the HTML.Save the data in a JSON or CSV file or some other structured format.
What is scrape method?
Scraping is the act of extracting data or information from websites with or without the consent of the website owner. Scraping can be done manually, but in most cases it’s done automatically because of its efficiency.
Is Web scraping legal?
So is it legal or illegal? Web scraping and crawling aren’t illegal by themselves. After all, you could scrape or crawl your own website, without a hitch. … Big companies use web scrapers for their own gain but also don’t want others to use bots against them.