There has been an exponential rise in the amount of data in Our lives. With this increase, data analytics has become a crucial part of how businesses are run and managed. Although there are many sources of data, the web remains the most extensive repository. With the growth of fields like Artificial intelligence, Machine learning, and big data, web scraping has become necessary, and companies are hiring data scientists to scrape and interpret the collected data. However, the attackers copy content from other people and post it on their websites. The effects of such an action are dire. Today, we will look at what web scraping is.
What is web scraping?
Website scraping refers to a technique through which they collect content and data from the internet. The process can be manual or automatic using software or using bots. For easy analysis and manipulation, they store the collected data in a local file. Have you ever copied information from a website into an excel spreadsheet? That is web scraping on a small scale.
However, when we talk of website scrappers, we refer to the software applications that do this. The web scraping applications to visit, grab, and extract useful information are programmed or automated.
Therefore, the bots can scrape lots of data swiftly. In the digital age, this is a benefit because constant changes and updates play a significant role.
Types of content that a scrapper can scrape from your website
Does your website have some valuable information? Have you optimized the content for SEO properly? Practically, any content on the web is scrapable. There can be videos, customer reviews, product information, images, and other types of data within a website. Essentially, the data being scrapped depends on the scraper; are they malicious or a person doing their research. A malicious actor can scrape any data so long as they can monetize it. A legitimate scrapper selects the information they need without harming your website.
What are the uses of web scraping?
Within data analytics, there are countless applications of website scraping. We will look at how various people and organizations use web scraping. Depending on the intentions of the scrapper, the following are the various uses of scraping.
This is figuring out and analyzing what customer intentions and sentiments were from the reviews and comments. Is the customer willing to buy again? Can they recommend the product to another customer? In what way does a customer think we can improve our product? Scrapping to understand a customer’s sentiments is a common application within various market research corporations. The data, in this case, is pulled from the review pages, comments, social media, and blog posts. To support competitor analysis, other people and companies scrape data from eBay and Amazon.
Ranking web content
The other application of website scraping is by the search engines. They use scraping to rank, analyze and index the various contents from different websites. It allows the search engines to extract data from third-party web applications before redirecting the website to their own. For example, Google uses scraping of online shopping sites to populate google shopping.
Another reason the company scrapes the data is to get contact details. They then use this information for marketing. Have you ever exchanged your information with a company after using their service or product? You just permitted them to use your details for marketing.
People question the legality of scrapping. Few restrictions exist on the use of web scraping. Thus, it is left to our creativity and what our end goal is. You can use it in real estate listings, comparing prices, auditing SEO, and other uses you may deem necessary.
Malicious actors use scrapping for financial gain. They scrape your content and take your AdWords and keywords. Hence, the traffic to your website diminishes as they redirect the users to the site where the attacker posted the content. It denies you organic traffic that lowers the income from ad views and page views. Ultimately, you rank lowly on the search engine results page. Therefore, your SEO efforts bear no fruits.
The attackers also use web scraping to get data like banking details and other personal information to conduct scams and fraudulent actions, extortions, and intellectual property theft. Hence you should know such nefarious acts before you scrape or host a website. Ensure that you have web scraping and crawling prevention implemented on your website. If you are a scrapper, get permission before scraping content from an organization’s or an individual’s website.
What are the tools of the trade-in scrapping?
Having seen the reasons scraping is done, let us now turn our attention to the various tools that a hacker can use to effect scrapping. In most cases, a scrapper needs to know to program. Python is the most popular that is used in scraping. It is because it comes with several libraries that make scrapping easier. The good thing is that all the libraries are open source. They include:
This is a multi-purpose library that is useful in indexing and manipulation. Together with beautiful soup, you can use pandas for scrapping. Using panda is helpful because they can entirely perform all the data analytics on this platform.
Beautiful soup parser data from XML and HTML documents. It parses the content into parse trees. This makes it easy to navigate and search through large data swathes. It is among the most favored data tools for scraping.
The other scraping tool is scrappy. It crawls and extracts the structured data online. People commonly use scrapy for information processing, data mining, and making archives of historical content. It was designed for scrapping specifically but can also be used as a general-purpose crawler and data extraction through APIs.
For an inexperienced programmer, Parse hub should be the go-to tool. It is freely available online. Parse hub is not a python tool. The catch is that it does not provide all functionalities free. For advanced functionalities, you would have to pay to get access.
Web scraping is necessary in today’s world. Because of data-driven decisions in a business, data analytics is even more required than ever. Unfortunately, malicious actors have monetized stolen content. It is easier to scrape content nowadays because of the availability of tools through python and online.