Web Scraping for Newbies
Nowadays, data has become immensely important for making business-related decisions, and one of the best ways to collect data is through web scraping.
Web scraping is a process of extracting data from websites. It can be done manually, but it is usually done using specialized software. Below, we explain how to extract data from a website, especially if you’re a beginner who is not familiar with the remarkable mechanism that is web scraping.
What Is Web Scraping?
Web scraping refers to gathering data from open sources through automated means. It is a type of data mining that focuses on gathering structured data from sources on the web.
Data scraping is usually done by writing an automated program that queries a web server, requests specific information, and then parses the data to extract the desired information. Simply put, the web scraper sends a request to a target website’s server.
When granted access, the scraper extracts information from that website. Then, you can export this information in any file format you want, such as PDF or. CSV.
How Does Web Scraping Work?
Basically, web scraping works in the following steps:
Step 1: Send an HTTP request to the URL of the website you want to scrape using your web scraper
First off, you need to send an HTTP request to the website you want to scrape. The purpose of this request is to fetch the HTML code that contains the data you’re looking for.
Your web scraper will send this request on your behalf and return the HTML code to you. This process is also known as making a GET request.
Step 2: The server responds to your request by returning the HTML code
The server of the website you’re scraping will then respond to your scraper’s HTTP request. Usually, it will return an HTML code that contains the data you need.
Step 3: The web scraper parses the returned HTML code and extracts structured data
Now, it’s time for your web scraper to parse the HTML code that was returned in the previous step. The scraper will extract the data you need and store it in a format of your choices, such as CSV or JSON.
What Is Parsing?
Parsing means analyzing a text or other data to understand its structure and meaning. For example, in computing, parsing is usually defined as analyzing text input to determine its parts of speech and how they are related to one another.
In web scraping, parsing is extracting data from HTML or XML documents so that it can be further processed.
There are different types of parsers, each with its strengths and weaknesses. The most common parser used in web scraping is the regular expression parser. It is very fast and efficient but can be difficult to use.
Using Proxies for Web Scraping
When you scrape the web, there’s a risk of the target website detecting that you’re not a regular user and blocking your IP address. This is why you need to use proxies, which route your web scraping requests through multiple IP addresses, giving the appearance that each request is coming from a different user.
A proxy is an intermediary server between your computer and the internet. When you use a proxy server, your request is sent to the proxy server, which then sends it to the desired website/server.
The response from the website/server is also routed through the proxy server before being sent back to you. In this way, your real IP address is hidden from the website you are trying to scrape.
There are many types of proxies. Some common types include:
- Residential proxies
- ISP proxies
- Datacenter proxies
How to Extract Data From Website?
Businesses have two options if they want to scrape websites for price monitoring, consumer sentiment analysis, competitor analysis, or other purposes.
The first choice is to build your scraper. For this, you must have some basic coding skills and knowledge of HTML. The advantage of this method is that you can tailor the scraper to your specific needs.
The second choice is to use an off-the-shelf web scraping tool. These tools don’t require any coding skills and are easy to use.
When choosing scraping and proxy providers, make sure you only opt for reliable and reputable services. These services must provide ethically-sourced proxies with 24/7 dedicated support so that you can scrape data with peace of mind.
Keep in mind that although free proxies may be enticing, you should opt for paid options since they are more reliable and efficient. Plus, they are often less likely to be blocked.
Summing up, web scraping is a helpful method to obtain data that can be used to make better decisions. There are different ways to do web scraping, but the most common is to use a web scraping tool or library.
When choosing a ready-made web scraping tool or proxy service provider, always prioritize reliability since you do not want to be blacklisted or blocked when scraping the web.