A brief introduction to web scraping

Efficient information transmission is the driving force of the internet and information technology. The convenient transfer of large packets of data opens up incredible means of communication with people all around the world. While a picture is worth a thousand words, and a video is worth a million pictures, we push the limits of transmission by transforming the signals of zeros and ones into the world of digital communication and entertainment.

The abundance of information on the web opens up a world of seemingly endless ideas and possibilities. One person with access to the internet and its most powerful search engines can easily reach the necessary information to pursue greater education, ideas for a business, or indulge in the world of addictive digital entertainment.

Everything that makes the internet so enjoyable would not be possible with the incredible accumulation of data and its transmission speed. The technical assistance that helps us store and retrieve information creates a digital world where no human could process and analyze its contents, even in multiple lifetimes.

Still, we humans always find creative solutions to outperform our peers and competitors. Data extraction is an essential part of a modern business environment, and companies use automated bots to collect and analyze information at a far greater rate to get an advantage.

No matter what your goals are, web scraping – an automated collection of public data is a very valuable skill for both your personal needs as well as a great addition to your skillset for a career in computer science. In this article, we will guide you through the process of web scraping and the customizability of tools that make data extraction fast and comfortable. Proxy servers are an important part of the web scraping experience so we will also address their role in the process. However, for business-related tasks, we recommend reaching out to a business-oriented proxy provider. While a regular chrome proxy extension might be enough to protect your IP in browsing, web scraping is a more delicate process, sometimes requiring rotating IP addresses to ensure safety and continuity. If you want to learn more about controlling and diversifying your internet connection without a chrome proxy extension, check out Smartproxy – a great server provider with plenty of knowledge about proper server use and good deals for both businesses and individual users. For now, let’s dive into the process of web scraping and how you can learn it!

Speeding up monotonous tasks

Web scraping is the initial step of the data extraction process that snatches the HTML code of targeted websites. At first, the process seems silly and counterproductive: why would we download a code version of a page if it is already rendered on our website?

Scraping is all about scalability. A human brain can turn raw data into knowledge just by reading the website’s contents on a browser. However, when the amount of analyzed information increases or changes, relying on manual multitasking capabilities is a slow process. Instead, we segment data aggregation into several steps to get analyzed results faster.

Web scraping is the easiest part of the equation that is simple enough to be susceptible to automation. The real problems start to arise when extracted code has to be parsed into an understandable format. For parsing, no solution fits every website. The slightest changes in the page can throw off the parsing process, requiring a lot of intervention and adjustments, usually done by junior programmers.

Start learning web scraping today!

Web scraping is a very useful skill that anyone can pick up with little programming knowledge. To give more insight into the entire process of data aggregation, we will discuss both the scraping and parsing as inseparable parts of the learning experience.

Python is the easiest and most popular programming language that you can use for web scraping. You can use great open-source parsing tools, such as Parsehub and Octoparse to organize extracted data and make it understandable.

Wikipedia is a great example of a website where you can test your web scraping skills without web server intervention. It contains tons of information on various subjects, you can test and improve your abilities by implementing filters to extract the information necessary for your goals. There are plenty of tutorials on the matter online, and creating personal projects based around web scraping will encourage problem-solving that will speed up your learning experience.

Why modern businesses are obsessed with web scraping?

In a digital business environment, competitors constantly spy on each other for the slightest advantages. Data extraction opens up opportunities for businesses to improve or reorganize their strategy.

Well-organized data aggregation systems can determine how a retailer performs against the competition. Due to web scraping, the price sensitivity of online shops has never been higher. Companies automate price adjustments based on decisions made by competitors and vice-versa.

Web scraping often helps companies rethink and improve their marketing strategies. Modern advertisement revolves around creating personalized connections with the client base. Businesses can find influencers and other important figures on social media networks with audiences that might be interested in their product or service. Reaching out to internet users that are more likely to become long-term clients is much more effective than advertisements on TV or Radio.

There is no reason not to start web scraping today. It is a great skill that is useful for both personal tasks, as well as a further pursuit of a computer science career. Try to extract information from your favorite websites to make the learning process more exciting, and you will be a great data analyst in no time!

Written by Adam Eaton