How Do Web Scraping Tools Work? [All you need to know]

How Do Web Scraping Tools Work? 

By now, you must have heard about web scraping and its role in helping business owners derive insights from the data available on the web

Web scraping is the automated process of extracting data from targeted websites. This data is used in areas such as:

  1. Competition monitoring
  2. Improved customer satisfaction
  3. Improved pricing
  4. Keyword research 
  5. Lead generation

But the quality of data you collect, and consequently, the insights you derive will depend on the effectiveness of the web scraping tool.   

We will look at how these tools work, show you the type of scraping tools you will find in the market, and help you learn how to make the best choice. 

How Do Web Scrapers Work?

Web scraping involves extracting data from specified websites. The scraper is therefore given the URLs to the websites it’s supposed to scrape. It loads the HTML code of these web pages and extracts the data needed, such as prices or customer reviews

The scraper then outputs the data in a readable format. It stores it in a database or spreadsheet for further analysis. 

Web scrapers are powered up by proxies to bypass website restrictions because most websites block scrapers to prevent them from slowing down the site. Residential and datacenter proxies are the most commonly used proxies. 

The proxy acts as a go-between, preventing direct contact between your device and the web server. 

The proxy server comes with an IP address attached to a different location, enabling you to scrape data from geo-blocked sites. 

Types of Web Scrapers

Here are four common types of scrapers.

1) Browser extensions

Browser extensions can be added to your browser. They are easy to run and best suited for running small web scraping projects. This is because you can only scrape one page at a time. You cannot add advanced features that need to occur outside the browser.

2) Software

This is downloadable and installable software that you can use to scrape data. It has the capacity to provide advanced features. You can scrape one or more pages at a go, making it suitable for small to medium-sized projects. 

3) Self-built

You can build your scraper, but this will require advanced programming knowledge. Unless you are a programming expert, self-built scrapers will have limited functionality. They also require continuous maintenance. 

4) Cloud-based Scrapers

Cloud-based scrapers operate from an off-site server provided by your vendor. The capacity of your PC will not limit your scraping project. It also does not interfere with your ability to work on other tasks. The web scraper extracts the data, and you get a notification when it’s ready to export it. You can scrape massive amounts of data and use IP rotation.

Choosing the right scraper for your project will depend on the nature of your project. 

Features of an Excellent Web Scraping Tool

There are a few factors that you must consider when choosing a web scraper for your project.

1) Easy to Use

Get a scraper that is easy to set up and use. Ensure that it has a fully-fledged user interface. You should be able to easily use the features and get the most out of the tool despite your limited technical knowledge. 

2) Flexibility

Websites are built using different programming languages. Your scraper should be capable of extracting data from any website. It should be capable of working beyond the basic HTML code, such as CSS and JavaScript. 

3) Scalability

The best web scraper should be able to grow with the growing needs of your business. It should maintain a high performance despite the size of the project at hand. And this is one of the main attractiveness of cloud-based scrapers.  

4) IP Rotation

IP rotation using proxies makes it easy to scrape data without having your IP blacklisted from websites. Scrapers with IP rotation will have each web request made with a different IP address. You can scrape multiple pages or websites simultaneously without slowing them down or drawing the attention of the website security system.  

5) Flexible Output Formats

Get a scraper that provides a variety of options for exporting the data collected. The most common formats are CSV or excel files. But if you can get a scraper with additional formats such as exporting to an API, the better. 

Winding Up

The quote “information is power” applies to the business world as well. The web is an excellent source of information that businesses can use to gain insights about the market and dominate it. You can get a deeper understanding of your customers, rivals, and market conditions.

But you need the right web scraping tool for this. Ensure that the kind of tool you use for your web scraping project is user-friendly. It should provide enough flexibility to meet your needs as they change. It should also ensure that your projects continue uninterrupted by providing IP rotation.