Web Scraping – How It Collects Public Data And What You Can Do With It

Web scraping or harvesting is a term that’s being used more frequently, and the reason for this is because of the benefits it has for businesses and individuals. With more businesses relying on data to make informed business decisions, it’s become critical to find efficient ways to collect public data. So what exactly is web harvesting, and what are the benefits of using these tools?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at web harvesting and everything that it can be used for. We’ll also look at the roles that a parser and location-specific proxy, such as UK proxies, play in the process.

We’ll be discussing the following topics when it comes to web harvesting:

  • What is web scraping?
  • What part does parsing play in web scraping?
  • What can be done with web scraping?
  • Tools required for web scraping

What Is Web Scraping?

Web Scraping

Web harvesting is the automated process of collecting vast amounts of public data across many different websites. This information is then compiled into a single format, such as a spreadsheet, so it can be organized, utilized and evaluated according to the user’s needs. It is important to remember only to collect public data, ie. Data you can see when accessing a website without needing to complete sign-ins, captcha, etc. Don’t try to collect private data or data behind a sign-in, as this is not considered public and could have legal repercussions.

Web scrapers are programs that you use to collect this data. You simply input the data you want to collect, and all the relevant parameters and the program will scan various websites and collect the relevant information. It is possible to build your own tool if you have coding experience. Alternatively, many already-built tools such as Octoparse, Parsehub and Smart Scraper don’t require the user to know any coding.

What Part Does Parsing Play In Web Scraping?

Data parsing is extremely important in web harvesting, although it often goes unnoticed. Commercial web scrapers already have a built-in parser, which is why it’s easy to forget what they do. The parser is the program that takes the coded language the websites use and converts it into a language that users can understand. When your web scraper collects data, it’s in the form of code snippets (computer language). This code on its own won’t make any sense to the user. The parser takes these code snippets and ‘translates’ them into human language. Without a parser, the data you collect won’t make any sense.

What Can Be Done With Web Scraping?

There are quite a few things that can be done with a web scraper. The data that you collect and how you use it is limited only by your imagination. If you’re a business, you can use a web scraper to help with market research and make important decisions. Individuals can also benefit from web harvesting and can use it to find the best deals on products or even use it to find the perfect investment opportunity.

Some of the ways that web scraping can be used includes:

  • Price monitoring
  • Monitoring market trends
  • Enriching machine learning
  • Financial data aggregation
  • Monitoring consumer sentiment
  • Tracking news
  • Discovering investment opportunities
  • Lead generation
  • Competitor monitoring
  • Academic research
  • Improve SEO and SERP

Tools Required For Web Scraping

There are two essential tools required for effective web harvesting. The first is the web scraping tool. While you can collect data yourself by browsing websites and manually recording your findings – this is not efficient, and you’ll end up wasting a lot of time. Instead, a tool can automate the process and collect all the data you need. There are many web scraping tools available for users to choose from, ranging from free to paid options.

The next tool that you require is a residential proxy. These proxies will help you bypass any geo-restrictions so you can collect more data. You can use location-specific proxies such as UK proxies to target certain countries and collect local data. These UK proxies (and other residential proxies) also hide your IP address, ensuring online anonymity. The IP they replace yours with is linked to a real device which makes it look like a living user. Using this alongside your web scraper will ensure that it’s not banned. Getting banned will lead to incomplete and inaccurate data.

Final Thoughts

Web scraping is a very beneficial process for both businesses and individuals. However, when it comes to using web harvesting effectively, legally and efficiently, there are a few things to remember. The first is to only ever scrape public data and not collect personal details. You also have to respect the data you collect and treat it accordingly. Finally, when you use a web scraping tool, pair it with a reliable residential proxy to prevent your efforts from getting banned.

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