Web Scraping: Improving Your Security and Business

What Is Web Scraping?

For some years now, businesses have been very data-driven. Whether it’s to gain insight into potential customers or data for a future product, they can make better decisions with more data.

This information can take many forms. It could be personal data that social media users have made publicly visible, or it could be related to a specific product or service. For example, if you’re building a website that aggregates flight prices, you want to crawl the websites of as many airlines as possible.  Web scraping is the process of extracting this data.

Isn’t Web Scraping Illegal?

No, it’s perfectly legal. All you’re doing is collecting information that’s already in the public domain. It’s not to be confused with hacking, which is when someone breaks into a website’s server to steal unpublished data or create other problems.

Web scraping can be used for entirely positive purposes.

What Are the Benefits Of Web Scraping?

There are many benefits for companies who use web scraping to obtain market data. Here, we’re going to outline the main ones and explain the advantages to your company.

Better Decision Making

Only taking a small data sample won’t give you enough information to recognize or even skew the data.

By scraping data from all across the internet, you can get a more accurate view of averages, trends, and other patterns.

If you’re carrying out targeted marketing within the United States, you can use a high-quality US proxy, so even if you’re outside the USA, you can still access American websites. You can find out more about it here:

Saving time

A web scraping program can obtain data from a vast number of websites in a fraction of the time it takes a human. To get enough data for a company to make good decisions, there would never be enough time for a person to do this job.

Your employees’ time is much better spent analyzing the data and making decisions with it. It’s all about maximizing resources and improving decision-making.

Keeping your data organized

After the enormous task of obtaining data, you have to figure out how to store it in an easily manageable format.

Web scraping programs can automatically collate the data they’ve obtained into an Excel spreadsheet or a CSV file, which can then be imported into Excel for analysis.

What Do I Need for Web Scraping?

In addition to a web scraping program, you also need to get a proxy to ensure that you can access whatever websites you need to get data from and avoid falling foul of individual websites’ rules.

At the website level, and sometimes even at a national level, restrictions can be applied. A typical example of this is online casinos. Because each country has its regulations on gambling, the operators of online casinos may have to restrict access to users in their respective countries.

What’s a Proxy?

A proxy is a service that supplies an alternative IP address, concealing your own. It sits between the equipment you are using and the World Wide Web.

The average domestic user would use a proxy in the form of a Virtual Personal Network (VPN). However, for extra efficient web scraping, you’ll probably want to set up a network of proxies. This would serve two purposes.

  • It can avoid getting blocked by a website due to sending too many connection requests from a sole source.
  • It gives you the flexibility to scrape multiple sites simultaneously.

How Can I Make Money Using Web Scraping?

The most obvious way would be to set up a data aggregation website. Our earlier example of a flight price comparison website is precisely the type of site based on web scraping.

No matter the data you’re presenting on your website, the path to success ensures that you have the most accurate and up-to-date information for your users. As always, a well-designed, trendy website always has a better chance of appearing higher up in search results.

Summing Up

Although all reputable websites do everything possible to protect your data, you still have to take responsibility and consider carefully how much personal data you make publicly available. This is particularly true on social media websites.

Recently, the social media industry has come under intense public and government scrutiny concerning how they manage user data. For example, it’s well known that Facebook utilizes user data for marketing purposes. However, you at least have control over how much of your information is in the public domain.

From a commercial perspective, the enormous amount of publicly available data is an essential tool for making economic or marketing decisions.

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