Web scraping and web crawling are two different yet related approaches to gathering data from the internet.
Web scraping is a process of extracting specific pieces of information from a website, while web crawling is an automated bot system that regularly browses the World Wide Web to analyze and index large amounts of data on the resources.
You can use both processes to collect data from websites, but they have distinct features that make them suited for different tasks. This article on web scraping vs. web crawling will explain their key differences and how you can use them to work with data from websites, so keep reading to learn more.
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is the process of extracting data from websites using automated scripts. It involves parsing through HTML code and retrieving specific pieces of content, such as text, images, and other data. The scripts used for web scraping can be programmed to extract necessary information from the entire website or a particular page.
Web scraping is often used to gather large amounts of data that would normally be too time-consuming or difficult to collect manually. It is also applied for price comparison, content aggregation, data mining, web analytics, and other vital business and marketing purposes.
How does web scraping work?
Web scraping is performed by specialized web scrapers like ScrapingAnt, which use an automated script to extract specific data from websites. The web scraping tool sends an HTTP request to a web page and receives the response in HTML or XML code. Then it parses through this code and extracts the desired information, such as text or images.
You can also program the scraper to follow links across multiple web pages and collect data from various sources. This allows for the quick gathering of large amounts of data that is being saved or used for further analysis.
Web Scraping Features & Use Cases
Web scraping can be used in a variety of ways, from collecting data for web analytics to monitoring prices and more — below are some of the most common use cases for data extraction.
1. Website testing
You can use web scraping to test a website by allowing developers to automatically go through different pages and collect important data. This data can then be used to identify any errors or problems on the website.
For example, web scraping can help you examine how a website responds to different requests, how long it takes to load different pages and components, or if any elements are missing or broken. Based on these insights, developers improve the website's usability and performance.
2. Lead generation
One of the most common web scraping applications is lead generation. Web scrapers allow you to automatically extract contact information from corporate websites and social media profiles, such as names, phone numbers, and email addresses. This information can be further used for marketing campaigns or to build a database of potential customers.
For example, you could scrape LinkedIn profiles to get detailed data about potential leads, such as job titles, company names, and contact information. Then you just use this data to target specific individuals with tailored marketing messages or bulk cold emails.
3. Competitor monitoring
Web scraping can help with competitor monitoring by extracting and analyzing data from their websites. This allows companies to gain insights into the strategies and tactics used by their competitors, such as pricing strategies or product offerings. In addition to price monitoring, web scraping can monitor changes on competitor websites, such as new products or services or added web pages.
You can then use this information to make winning business decisions and develop competitive strategies. Additionally, you can use data extraction to monitor changes in customer reviews and feedback to identify areas where they need to improve and how you can fill their gaps.
4. Retail and e-commerce marketing
Web scraping can be valuable for boosting e-commerce sales by allowing companies to collect and analyze essential consumer data from different sources automatically. This can provide insight into customer behavior and preferences, which you can use to optimize marketing campaigns and create targeted promotions.
For example, you could use web scraping to monitor customers’ online reviews or track changes in product prices across different retailers. This data can be applied to develop promotional strategies that target the right customers and maximize ROI.
Web scraping can also help with price comparison, allowing companies to monitor changes in competitors’ rates and adjust their pricing strategies accordingly. This can help them stay competitive and remain profitable in the market.
5. Stock market analysis
You can use web scraping to analyze the stock market by collecting and analyzing data from various sources. This can include financial news, stock prices, company fundamentals, and historical market data. The obtained insights will help you make winning decisions about investing in stocks and trading strategies.
For example, web scraping can monitor stock price changes and identify patterns or trends. Investors can then use this data for trend and technical analysis to identify potential profit opportunities. Additionally, web scraping can analyze financial news and other sources of information related to stocks to make better investment decisions.
What is Website Crawling?
Website crawling scans data on websites by ‘crawling’ through their pages, links, and content. It is used to browse the web, index websites, and collect data from them, which might be helpful for data analysis or automated testing.
In addition, website crawling can be used for competitor monitoring, retail marketing, and stock market analysis. It involves reading the HTML source code of a website and following links in the sitemap to explore all web pages. In other words, website crawling is typically designed to scan a single website or crawl the entire web.
Website crawlers often use different algorithms, such as breadth-first search and depth-first search, to explore websites. They can also be programmed to extract specific data from websites, such as keywords, product prices, or customer reviews.
How does website crawling work?
Website crawling is an automated process that uses algorithms to search, explore, and index websites. It works by reading the HTML source code of a website and following internal and external links to discover related resources. The crawler analyzes the HTML source code to identify the website's structure, such as titles, headings, links, and other content.
You can analyze data provided by web crawlers to identify trends, patterns, or insights that you can use for various purposes, such as optimizing marketing campaigns and tracking changes in competitors’ prices.
Web Crawling Features & Use Cases
Web crawling can be used for various purposes, from gathering competitive intelligence to tracking customer reviews. This section will outline some most common applications.
1. Search engine indexing
Search engines use web crawling to index websites, which then serves to help users find the information they are looking for more quickly.
The crawler reads the HTML source code of web pages, analyzes the content, and stores this data in a search engine index. This makes it easier for users to find relevant websites when they use specific queries in a search tab.
2. Price monitoring
Web crawling helps you monitor competitors’ prices, identify new market trends, and make informed business decisions. Marketers usually use web crawling to collect data from their competitors’ sites and compare prices and offers to adjust their strategies accordingly.
Moreover, web crawling can be used to track customer reviews, which can help businesses improve their products and services.
3. Gathering business intelligence
Web crawling gathers business intelligence by collecting data from different sources, such as websites, databases, and online forums. This data can then be used to identify consumer trends and gain insights into the market. With this information, businesses can significantly improve their marketing and pricing strategies.
Web crawling is also used to monitor online conversations and identify potential customer leads, which you can use to drive sales.
4. Content creation
Web crawling is a widely used tool for content creation, as it allows you to collect the best-performing pages and most popular topics from multiple sources. You can use this data to generate new content ideas or improve existing content.
In addition, web crawling can help collect data from social media platforms such as tweets and posts. These insights can be used to create engaging content tailored to the target audience.
Web crawling can also track market trends and help you create content relevant to the current market situation. This helps businesses stay up to date with the latest developments and create in-demand materials.
5. Automated testing
Web crawling has enabled automated testing, which helps businesses quickly test the performance of websites and applications. Automated testing is conducted by a web crawler, which simulates user interactions with a website or application and records the responses. This helps businesses identify potential issues that may negatively impact the user experience.
In addition, web crawling can be used to automate the testing of websites across multiple devices and browsers. This allows businesses to quickly detect any issues that may arise when a website is accessed from different devices or browsers.
Automated testing help owners ensure their websites and applications are working properly across all devices and browsers.
Key Differences Between Web Scraping and Web Crawling
Web scraping and web crawling are used to collect data from websites, but each method has distinctive features. Let’s define the key differences between web scraping and web crawling.
Purpose: The main purpose of web scraping is to extract data from a website or web page, while the primary objective of web crawling is to index and categorize a website or web page.
Scope: Web scraping focuses on targeting specific data from a website, while web crawling covers the entire World Wide Web.
Process: Web scraping uses a program or script to extract the information, while web crawling uses automated bots or spiders to collect and index the data.
Outcome: Web scraping results in structured data, while web crawling results in an organized hierarchy of content within the web.
Final Thoughts on Web Scraping vs. Web Crawling
Web scraping and web crawling are powerful tools used to collect data from websites. However, each technique differs in purpose, scope, process, and outcome. What’s more, their areas of application also vary.
Understanding the key differences between these two techniques and knowing your needs will help you make the most out of their capabilities. Leverage the power of web scraping to gain a competitive advantage across the entire World Wide Web with ScrapingAnt!