Web scraping is happening every second of every day, and it can be a powerful tool for those who are willing to use it.
Of course, while this procedure sounds slightly clinical and potentially problematic, it is actually entirely legitimate and an option for anyone who wants to make the most of the data that is freely available from a variety of sites.
Here is a look at what it involves, who might want to use it and why it is still so commonplace even in the age of alternative analytical options.
In its simplest terms, web scraping describes the act of automatically harvesting data contained within web pages.
You can do this manually while on the page itself using any modern web browser, although this is a time-consuming way of getting the information you need.
With the use of the right software, web scraping allows you to get together pertinent information, format it so it can be stored and then used as necessary to give you actionable insights.
Who can do it
While almost anyone can make use of web scraping solutions to start leveraging the data that lurks beneath the user-facing elements of web pages, it takes skill and experience to actually put this information to use.
You can find out more about the specialist capabilities you will need here, but the short answer is that you will get the most out of this if you are proficient in HTML and a programming language like Python, as well as having the necessary abilities when it comes to managing a database.
Of course, if you are a non-programmer then you can either outsource these duties to someone who is trained in web scraping and the related technical areas or go through the process of building up your own knowledge and experience if you have the time.
Why it is worth pursuing
Web scraping delivers a host of advantages for businesses that are eager to accelerate their online growth and generally excel in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
For example, you can make use of web scraping if you want to see how customers are using pages and build up a picture of their behaviours which can be used to inform any changes you make to your own website.
Furthermore, you can benefit from the reputation management capabilities that web scraping drops into your lap. You should be able to track how your business is perceived, pinpoint potential vulnerabilities and do your best to shore up your organization from problems further down the line. Scavenging data from social media platforms can be particularly useful in this context.
SEO improvements can be made using web scraping since you can check up on how rivals are performing across targeted keywords and see whether there are improvements to be made to your own site that could help you appear higher up on SERPs in the future.
There are lots of other aspects of digital marketing and site-building that can benefit from web scraping, including lead generation and ad-targeting. The only thing left to do is get out there and make use of it yourself!