In today’s world, information is the key to everything. Much of today’s markets have shifted to the online medium, due to which customer databases have become a valuable commodity. Every bit of information on the World Wide Web can help a company better structure their product or target a particular customer base.
What is website scraping?
Web scraping, in simple terms, is a process by which parties collect data from different websites on the internet and keep it stored for further use down the road. The critical component of web scraping is the collection of data that is of the textual type. You can opt for manual and selective web scraping for particular texts from different websites. Alternatively, you can contact web scraping companies and go for automated web scraping software that churns out textual pieces from various sources that meet predetermined criteria. A web scraping tool also allows you to structure the data that you collect in a definite pattern. This makes for easier use in the future. The most common utility of this is the conversion of full-sized texts into relevant spreadsheets. This is a big boon if you’re web scraping for research purposes. This is because organized data is much easier to process than raw data.
Scraping for Market Research
Web scraping has multiple applications across various fields that affect our day-to-day lives. Apart from web scraping for research purposes, other necessary areas include real estate businesses and weather channels, to name a few. The companies involved in these fields use the data generated by different websites to optimize their services and streamline their content for selected customer bases.
Social media are a core part of web scraping for market research. Usually, analysts gather information from popular social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook about the topic of research and use the consumer data obtained to create their research report. Social media sites provide a gold mine of textual data, as you can access user information about a relevant topic from across the globe with a single web scraping tool. Apart from social media research, many research agencies also need a web scraping tool to collect and process large amounts of data about the relevant research topic, and it can be real estate data scraping, procurement data scraping, or just collecting HR data. As any high-quality research project requires many data, web scraping tools can be a tremendous boon for researchers.
Market Data Scraping
Market data scraping is a little bit overwhelming since determining useful data sources is critical, and sometimes even can be the most challenging part because the internet is full of dummy data. Every website on the internet is composed of raw text data. The data can be in the form of pure text, tables, spreadsheets, or databases. Whatever it may be in its structure, textual data is a mine of information that can help researchers and companies meet their own needs. A vast majority of this text content is unstructured. But when we open a web page, we see it in a definite pattern. This is because all of this data gets linked with particular HTML coding. This ensures that the embedded code instructs the website to display the text content in a definite pattern when we open a web page. A web scraping tool’s function is to go through this unstructured text and find the parts that meet the criteria set by you. The amount and type of data collected are entirely under your control, thus giving you leverage over market data insights, especially if you are looking for financial industry data.
Web Scraping Tools for Research Purposes
When you start web scraping for your project, the first step is to identify your project’s right web scraping tool for research purposes. There are tons of different options to choose from when it comes to scraping tools. Each of them has distinct advantages and disadvantages. From manual scraping plugins to completely built-in purpose libraries, the list of web scraping tools is extensive. Let us take a look at some of the commonly used ones.
Plugin tools for your browser
The simplest type of web scraping tool is the plugin type. These are simple plugins that you can install on your internet browser and search for particular texts on websites. It is most commonly of the manual type, and you have to select the text content you need to store manually. Plugin tools are a good option for small-scale research projects that require precise data on a particular topic. Plugin web scraping tools are preferred due to their simplicity and the fact that manual use lets you precisely control what data you are collecting.
Web crawling programs
While manual plugins are great for small-scale projects and collecting precise information from a website, they lack scalability in large-scale projects. Thus, using various programming languages, web crawling programs can be created that go through large amounts of text data to identify the parts that meet the set criteria. It is an excellent option for more significant research projects that require sample data from multiple sources, all relevant specific unique criteria.
Web crawling programming languages require an initial setup time for creating the program with the necessary selection criteria for collecting the relevant data. But once you have set up the program successfully, it runs on its own. It continues to churn out processed data from different websites. It becomes an entirely automated process that requires slight manual handling once you have set it up. There are also many tutorials available to set up a web crawling program on your own.
Desktop applications are programs that function the same as any web-crawling program. They are polished and compiled web crawling programs that are easier to use for a layperson.
API or Application Programming Interface
APIs allow you to interact with the data stored in particular websites. While there are many generalized APIs, larger websites such as Google and Amazon have APIs that you can use to collect and process data from the respective websites.
To Sum It Up
While web scraping improves data collection by leaps and bounds, it does come with certain ethical grey areas. By this process, you are collecting user data stored on different websites. So the privacy and careful handling of data are necessary points that you need to address before you embark on your web scraping journey. To effectively use web scraping for any research project, you need to balance the effective collection and processing of data with the safe handling of sensitive user information. With the help of the points covered here, you can easily find the right web scraping tool for your next big research project.