What is Web Scraping? A Special Guide.

Oleg Kulyk

Oleg Kulyk

Co-Founder @ ScrapingAnt

What is web scraping?

Web Scraping, also known as web data extraction, is the process of retrieving or “scraping” data from a website. Data displayed by most websites can only be viewed using a web browser. Most websites do not provide the option to save the data which they display to your local storage, or to your own website. This is where a Web Scraping software like ScrapingAnt comes in handy.

Web scraping is the technique of automating this process so that instead of manually copying the data from websites, web scraping software performs action by a predefined algorithm. Unlike screen scraping, which only copies pixels displayed onscreen, web scraping extracts underlying HTML code and, with it, data stored in a database. In a non-automation world, this kind of data retrieving can be performed as a common text copy-pasting action. A web scraping software can automatically load, extract, and process any type of data from multiple pages of websites based on your needs. It is either custom-built for a specific website or is one that can be set up to work with any website.

Web Scraping Use Cases#

  1. Retrieving of business contacts (email, name, website, address, phone, etc). A pretty common technique for creating a lead generation database or marketing lists. Scraping targets for this case can be the following: Google Maps, Yandex Maps, Yellow Pages, ZoomInfo, Linkedin, etc.
  2. Retrieving of product details (price, images, reviews, etc). The product data allows companies to compare market competitors, create marketing strategies, make growth decisions, and many other eCommerce related cases.
  3. Common sites for scraping: Aliexpress, Amazon, Alibaba, eBay, a lot of Shopify stores, and the whole world of online stores.
  4. Collecting all types of data for Machine Learning. For the proper ML model training and validation data engineers need a lot of structured and quality input information. Pretty often the best way to collect the needed information is to employ web scraping specialists to get it.
  5. Odds scraping. Most gambling companies can not rely just on their mathematical models to propagate different events market chances directly to users, so instead, they also include data in their models from many different sources to spread understanding of probability.
  6. Search engines output scraping. Search engines operate with data that already retrieved by crawling a lot of sites, so when multi-site data harvesting is needed, sites like Google, Yandex, Bing, and Baidu can be very handy to get exact links for scraping by interested keywords.

There are a lot of different niches and specific scraping usage scenarios, but we can track the global pattern:

  1. Find data source
  2. Get data from a source
  3. Analyze data

So web scraping is all about data.

How do Web Scrapers work?#

  1. The Web Scraper will be given one or more URLs to load before scraping. The scraper then loads the entire HTML code for the page in question. More advanced scrapers, like those based on the ScrapingAnt API, will render the entire website, including CSS and Javascript elements.
  2. Then the scraper will either extract all the data on the page or specific data selected by the user before the project is run.
  3. Lastly, the web scraper will output all the data that has been collected into a format that is more useful to the user. Most web scrapers will output data to a CSV or Excel spreadsheet, while more advanced scrapers will support other formats such as JSON which can be used for an API.

How can ScrapingAnt resolve scraping problems?#

There are a lot of sites that are trying to prevent getting data from them with automated software usage. As per our scraping experience, the most annoying part of web harvesting finding an exact blocking technique to avoid it. ScrapingAnt resolves the different data securing mechanisms:

  • Blocking by IP after reaching the request limit. Our scraping API includes the rotating proxies service, so each request to the needed site will be sent from one of thousands elite proxies around the world.
  • Lazy load of content with JS. ScrapingAnt is based on a headless Chrome browser which executes all the site code, so the API user will be able to retrieve rendered data from SPA based on AngularJS, ReactJS, VueJS or any other JavaScript framework.
  • CAPTCHA, CloudFlare, CloudFront. The securing mechanisms are based on a user scoring and consume a lot of factors like a browser fingerprint, client IP trust score, user agent, and many more. And we have the unique receipt based on machine learning, that allows our automation software to pretend to be a real user.

So, with ScrapingAnt you don't have to worry about being blocked from the data and can enjoy the best part of scraping - data analysis.