Web scraping is somewhat complicated – from the definitions to the possible applications in businesses, as well as the power it has to shape the future of businesses. And, of course, there is another commonly heard term – web crawling. You may have heard that these terms are used as if they have the same meaning, so it’s important to understand the differences between web scraping vs. web crawling. Here’s a quick rundown before we get more in-depth:
Web crawling gathers pages to create indices or collections. On the other hand, web scraping downloads pages to extract a specific set of data for analysis purposes, for example, product details, pricing information, SEO data, or any other data sets.
In this article, we’ll go over both step by step, so let’s get started.
Simply put, web scraping is data extraction from a website, while web crawling is the discovery of target URLs (links).
It might sound the same, however, there are some key differences between scraping vs. crawling. Nevertheless, these two terms are closely intertwined. Both scraping and crawling go hand in hand in the whole process of data gathering, so usually, when one is done, the other follows.
Data scraping definition, often mixed up with web scraping, is when you take any publicly available data, whether it is on the web or your computer, and import the found information into any local file on your computer. This data can sometimes also be channeled to another website. Data scraping is one of the most effective ways to get data from the web, and it does not require the internet to be conducted.
Web scraping is when you take any publicly available online data and import the found information into any local file on your computer. The main difference here to data scraping is that web scraping definition requires the internet to be conducted. It is also often done through a Python scraper.
These definitions also work for crawling too. If it has the word web in it – it involves the internet. If it consists of the word data – it does not necessarily need to include the internet in the crawling actions.
Web crawling (or data crawling) is used for data extraction and refers to collecting data from either the world wide web or, in data crawling cases – any document, file, etc. Traditionally, it is done in large quantities. Therefore, usually done with a crawler agent.
According to our Python developer Bernardas Alisauskas, a crawler is “a program that connects web pages and downloads their contents.”
He explains that a crawler program simply goes online to look for two things:
Data the user is searching for
More targets to crawl
So if we tried to crawl a real web page, the process would look something like this:
The crawler goes to your predefined target – http://example.com
Discovers product pages
Then finds the product data (price, title, description, etc.)
The product data found by a crawler will then be downloaded – this part becomes web/data scraping.
In this article, you’ll see us using data/web terminologies interchangeably to keep in sync with the examples and outside studies. Just keep in mind that in most of these instances, it will mean web scraping/crawling rather than data scraping/crawling, turning a blind eye to their precise definitions.
Web crawling vs. web scraping
The question arises: what's the difference between web scraping and web crawling?
To generally understand the main scraping vs. crawling differences, you need to notice that crawling means going through and clicking on different targets, scraping is the part where you take the found data and download it into your computer, etc. Data scraping means you know what you want to take and then take it (e.g., in web crawling/scraping cases, usually what can be scraped are product data, prices, titles, descriptions, etc.).
It’s important to understand the main web crawling vs. web scraping differences, but also, in most cases, crawling goes hand in hand with scraping. When web crawling, you download readily available information online. Crawling is used for data extraction from search engines and e-commerce websites, and afterward, you filter out unnecessary information and pick only the one you require by scraping it.
However, web scraping can be done manually without the help of a crawler (especially if you need to gather a small amount of data). In contrast, a web crawler is usually accompanied by scraping to filter out unnecessary information.
So, scraping vs. crawling (or web scraping vs. web crawling) – let’s sort out all of the significant differences between these two to see a clearer picture of both:
|Web scraping||Web crawling|
|Movement||Only scrapes data (takes the selected data and downloads it).||Only crawls data (goes through the selected targets).|
|Labor||Can be done manually by hand.||Can be done only with a crawling agent (a spider bot).|
|Deduplication||Deduplication is not always necessary as it can be done manually, hence on a smaller scale.||A lot of content online gets duplicated, and in order to not gather excess information, a crawler will filter out such data.|
Or, you can check out our video in the simplified version of the differences between crawling vs. scraping:
Data scraping has become the ultimate tool for business development over the last decade. According to Mckinsey Global Institute, data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers. They are also six times more likely to retain customers and 19 times more likely to be profitable. Leveraging this data enables enterprises to make more informed decisions and improve customer experience.
As the internet and its usability expands, the number of data-driven companies only keeps on growing. According to Forrester, the average growth of such businesses is around 30% each year. It is estimated that by 2021, they will overtake their less-informed industry competitors by $1.8 trillion annually.
Data-driven and, consequently, insight-driven businesses outperform their peers. By tracking consumer interaction and gaining an in-depth understanding of their behaviors, companies can improve their customer experience. This, likewise, impacts lifetime value and increases brand loyalty.
It’s evident that data scraping has an influence in almost any business area. As data increasingly becomes the primary source of competition, acquiring the data becomes especially important. There are many business areas where data scraping has a strong influence on performance and helps make business more insight-driven:
Competitor analysis and pricing: for a reliable pricing strategy, web scraping could help you extract the pricing intel of your competitors. You can also track their further pricing tactics, discounts, and online behavior. Also, a company could scrape yellow pages for certain business information.
Marketing and sales: data scraping can help you with conducting market research on your competitors, gathering additional leads, analyzing people’s interests, and monitoring consumer opinion by regularly extracting customer ratings from different platforms. For example, web scraping real estate data helps to remain competitive in the market. Also, automotive industry data supports the predictive analysis of the market.
Product development: web scraping of e-commerce websites can be done to find product descriptions or to check your stock status across thousands of marketplaces and retailers’ sites.
PR, brand, and risk management: with data scraping, you’ll be able to detect ad fraud, improve ad performance, and check advertisers’ landing pages, as well as monitor your brand mentions and take appropriate actions for brand protection.
Strategy development: for a strong strategy, you require substantial facts. Data scraping allows you to carry out an analysis of the latest trends in the industry, allowing you to monitor SEO and the latest news.
On the other hand, you could boost your business by tailoring your adherence to other businesses that perform web crawling. The importance of appearing on top of the search engine results pages (SERPs) is paramount. The question you should ask is how to make your website more crawlable?
Search engines find and index your website based on algorithms that have very specific search parameters. A webmaster and SEO specialists should take care of the optimization process that would result in growing rankings and increasing traffic, augmenting your website and, in turn, your business.
We have prepared an e-book covering web scraping and its best practices. Download it now and learn more:
The definitions of data scraping, data crawling, web scraping, and web crawling have become more transparent. To recap, the main web crawling vs. web scraping difference is that crawling means going through data and clicking on it, and scraping means downloading the said data. As for the words web or data – if it has the word web in it, it involves the internet. If it consists of the word data, it does not necessarily need to include the internet in the crawling actions.
It is now clear that data scraping is essential to a business, whether it is for customer acquisition or business and revenue growth. The future of data scraping also looks busy – as the internet becomes the main starting point for businesses to collect intelligence, more and more publicly available data will be required to scrape in order to get business insights and stay above the competition.
If you want to find out more about data gathering solutions, or you are already interested in web scraping and want to come up with web scraping project ideas, check out other blog posts and try our own general-purpose web scraper for free. You will find answers to all of your questions on proxies, web data gathering, and more!
Is web scraping legal?
There is no simple answer to the question “is web scraping legal?” as one must answer whether the scraping done does not breach any laws surrounding the said data.
What is the point of web scraping?
If you need to gather a small or large amount of data, you can use web scraping in a fast and convenient way. In many cases, it’s used to perform the data gathering process and help extract data from the web in an efficient way.
What is web scraping good for?
Web scraping is used in many businesses in order to acquire large amounts of data. There are many ways to use the acquired data: customer sentiment analysis, SEO monitoring, market research, etc. Nearly any data-driven business can benefit from web scraping.
What is the meaning of data crawling on the Internet?
A web crawler (or a spider tool) is an automated script that helps you browse and gather publicly available data on the web. Many websites use data crawling to get up-to-date data.
About the author
Lead Product Marketing Manager
Gabija Fatenaite is a Lead Product Marketing Manager at Oxylabs. Having grown up on video games and the internet, she grew to find the tech side of things more and more interesting over the years. So if you ever find yourself wanting to learn more about proxies (or video games), feel free to contact her - she’ll be more than happy to answer you.
All information on Oxylabs Blog is provided on an "as is" basis and for informational purposes only. We make no representation and disclaim all liability with respect to your use of any information contained on Oxylabs Blog or any third-party websites that may be linked therein. Before engaging in scraping activities of any kind you should consult your legal advisors and carefully read the particular website's terms of service or receive a scraping license.
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