What is scraping? Find out how to legally extract web content.

What is scraping? Find out how to legally extract web content.

Claudia Roca

May 10, 2023

May 10, 2023

May 10, 2023

What is scraping? Find out how to legally extract web content.
What is scraping? Find out how to legally extract web content.
What is scraping? Find out how to legally extract web content.

Let's face it: you need to perform comparisons, analysis, or collection of data that is already posted on a website.

In previous years, if you were commissioned to do this, chances are you would have had to go through an endless manual collection process.

Luckily, today technology is on our side and tools have been created to help us streamline the job, there are even some that do everything on their own.

However, as there are more and more technological programs that we can use, it’s normal that we get confused about which one to use for what, so it is time to focus.

If we’re going to talk about collecting data from a website, then scraping can become your best friend.

There are still many people who don't know what it's all about, haven't tried it, or fear that it's a tool that incurs something illegal, but that's why it's ESSENTIAL to get informed.

Remember that information is power, so before judging scraping by external opinions, you have to know yourself what it’s about and in which cases it can help you.

So... What is scraping?

The term scraping is usually used nowadays to talk about web data scraping.

That is to say, it’s a technique or computer-type tool that allows you to scrape and collect everything that is found within a website.

That’s why when you start looking into this on the Internet, you will probably come across terms such as web scraping, data scraping, or content scraping, but you must be clear that they all refer to the same thing.

By means of scraping, it’s possible to collect all kinds of information or data found online.

That’s why it’s a technique that is being increasingly used when web analysis, content comparison, monitoring... is required.

The best part of all is that thanks to this tool, you can extract all kinds of data found within a website.

From the published content to the data found in the base, HTML structures, and API data.

What other data can be obtained by scraping?

In addition to the above-mentioned, scraping can go much further.

However, it should be noted that the data mentioned above are usually the most sought-after and the most easily accessible from scraping.

However, if you need much more specific data, it is possible to access them, but it’s likely that you will have to use more thorough scraping techniques to obtain them.

In this case, we’re talking about data such as information sources, search engines, government information, social media data, company information, and even prices posted on an online shopping website.

Undoubtedly, with a greater variety of data to scrape, more uses can be given to a technique like this.

What can scraping be used for?

Considering the possibilities of scraping and all the types of data it can collect, today workers in various sectors make great use of this type of tool.

Thanks to the way it works, it makes it possible to perform various tasks, especially those related to data analysis, which is essential for many large companies.

Since almost any data published on a site can be collected, it’s normal that this is one of the most used techniques for tasks such as reporting, developing advertising strategies, and much more.

Now, so that you can better understand all the aspects in which scraping can help you, let's talk about them:

1. Analyzing your competition and conduct market research

The field of digital marketing is one of the most important in today's world and if you work in this area, you will know how vital it is to be aware of what your competition is doing in order to generate market studies as often as you should.

This way you will be able to obtain accurate data on what your competitors are doing, and how they are doing and thus be able to create a much more schematic plan of action.

Of course, constantly monitoring what your competitors' brands are doing is something that can take too much time if you want to do it manually.

This is where scraping becomes an ideal tool that will allow you to get all the data you need, quickly and in a much more automated way.

2. Monitoring your own brand

While it's true that monitoring what other companies are doing is important, you'll know that it's also essential to monitor your own brand's digital progress.

This may not be something that all companies need to do, but the truth is that for companies that have a relevant and active website, internal analytics are of great importance.

So you can use scraping tools to analyze your company's digital progress over time.

3. Creation of Leads

Now, let's suppose that you are interested in increasing the number of customers who buy your products or services and you are interested in having many Leads.

Remember that when we talk about leads we are referring to users who are potential customers because they have expressed interest in your services.

Thanks to scraping, you will be able to create a much more accurate list of leads. You will be able to extract data from people who have left such comments on your website or on your social networks.

In addition, you will be able to investigate your competitors' platforms who are looking for products that are similar to what you sell.

That way, you will be able to generate a list of potential customers to whom you can write with special offers and thus increase your sales gradually but noticeably.  

4. Automating the work of websites that present comparisons of products and services.

Another method to earn money online that has been giving good results is to create web pages in which product recommendations are made.

It’s these types of sites that usually work with programs such as Amazon Affiliates to generate profits.

On websites of this style, you will find tops of specific products in which they talk about the best-selling models, the cheapest, or the best quality.

There are also sites of this style about restaurant recommendations, travel agencies, and hotels.

They are undoubtedly a type of digital work that generates good income, but before scraping you had to invest a lot of time.

Because you had to research manually the best products or services you were going to talk about.

Now, thanks to the existence of scraping, making this type of list or web article is much easier, because you only have to collect data from certain web platforms to structure your digital content.

5. Storing blog posts

Another task that becomes possible and quick to perform thanks to scraping is to archive or save all blog posts.

If you really like the content of a blog or you need it as a source for some kind of work, you can scrape its content and save it on your computer.

That way, you can have a good backup of the information, which will cover your back in case a post is deleted or there is a problem with the blog in general that causes all of its content to be deleted.

6. Price scraping

To finish explaining what scraping is for, we cannot overlook the option of price scraping.

This type of information collection can be applied to any online sales platform in order to have a list of all your products with the respective prices of each one.

In addition, if you do deep scraping, you will be able to access historical data on the price of products.

That way, you will be able to see how it’s changed over time and when it was sold the most.

This is something that can be useful for two things: to do web analysis of prices in a much more specific way or to buy products in bulk and have a better idea of what price to sell them for.

Likewise, if you are the owner of a sales website, having the opportunity to collect all the existing data on prices will help you to make a financial analysis of your company.

scraping used for

How is scraping done?

Scraping, although nowadays it’s booming, is something that has been used for a long time and surely you’ve used it at some point without realizing it.

The mere fact of copying and pasting information from a website is scraping, although it used to be done manually and could take much more time than you would like.

That's why we’re going to leave manual scraping aside and explain how automatic scraping is done nowadays.

For sure this is what you want to know, as it’s the most automated way to collect information. So, one of the first things you should be clear about is the concepts that interfere with the scraping process:

1. Crawler

Two types of programs are involved in the scraping process. The first one is the crawler, which is also known as a spider.

This is the basic program that will be in charge of performing web searches, so it’s said that the crawlers are the ones that guide the scrapers.

When trying to explain the scraping process, the metaphor of the horse and the plow is often used.

That is to say, the crawler would be the horse that guides the scraper or plow towards the objective they must fulfill, which would be to access the data they are trying to collect.

2. Scraper

Now, you already have an initial perception of what the scraper is, but it’s time to delve a little deeper into it.

The scraper, in this type of process, becomes the tool that will be in charge of extracting all the necessary data with extreme precision and, above all, speed.

It should be noted that today there are a variety of scraping tools that are responsible for fulfilling the function of the scraper. Given the options presented to you, you will have to choose the one that suits the data you need to extract.

In most cases, these scraping tools vary according to the complexity of the projects for which they are used, so you will have to find the one that best suits your case.

How to apply for web scraping?

Once you have the two programs or tools you need, you are ready to start collecting data from other websites.

Now is when you need to know the steps to follow to achieve a complete scraping of the data you’re looking for.

So, in order for you to be aware of the steps to follow, we list them one by one:

  1. Select the website on which you want to perform the scraping.

  2. Gather the URLs of the specific pages from which you want to extract the information.

  3. Set the request to get the HTML of the page you are interested in.

  4. Use the locators to find the data found in the HTML.

  5. Finally, you must save the data in a structured format such as JSON or CSV.

How to request a website scraping

Although at first, it may seem a bit confusing, the truth is that once you get the hang of it, you will be able to start using it more frequently.

Many jobs and digital tasks today are done by scraping, so you should not be afraid to use it, understanding scraping for what it is: a tool that can help you streamline and automate your digital work.

Have you ever used scraping? Have you found it helpful? Would you recommend it to others? Let us know your opinion in the comments section.