So, you're planning a web scraping project and don't know where to start? Or maybe you're looking for a solution best suited for your web scraping projects? Whatever your case is, we can help you out here a little bit.
This article goes over how to start a web scraping project and choose the right proxy type for your website scraping projects. We'll also discuss the pros and cons of in-house web scrapers for the more seasoned businesses. If you want to get straight to building a simple web scraping tool, watch our tutorial video!
Web scraping has many use cases. Companies gather public data from various web pages, for example, they web scrape e-commerce sites in order to monitor different prices. Other companies use web scraping to ensure their brand protection and monitor reviews that appear on the web.
If you're wondering what might be an excellent way to start with, here are some common web scraping project ideas that can be incorporated into your business strategy:
Travel fare aggregation
Before delving deeper into the most common data gathering projects, you should understand that these aren't the only business use cases of web scraping. For example, companies collect sports data, gather information from a job portal, and more.
Constantly collecting public market data and conducting proper research can help companies get ahead of the competition. It allows businesses to be aware of the latest trends and follow the best-performing competitors and their actions. With this information, companies can build their marketing, sales or other strategies and base their decisions on relevant data. However, geo-restrictions, IP blocks, and CAPTCHAs are the worst enemies of large-scale data collection. If you're considering starting a market research project for your company or want to improve your current processes, you must think of efficient web scraping tools.
Tracking a company's rankings and general brand strength on the most popular search engines is necessary to become more visible and get more traffic to the website. SEO monitoring allows businesses to oversee their results in search engine result page (SERP) rankings. Of course, to analyze SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategies or gain insight into search engine algorithms, companies need to access vast amounts of public SERP data. With the help of web scraping, companies can efficiently collect the required public data without frustrating manual work or wasting the company's resources. Of course, search engine scraping comes with challenges, such as IP blocks, CAPTCHAs, or different information based on location. Advanced data gathering tools are necessary when considering search engine scraping.
If you own an e-commerce business or work in this field, keeping track of pricing information or product data will help you oversee the ever-changing pricing trends and growing consumer price sensitivity. Simply put, price monitoring allows businesses to adjust their product prices according to market trends or new requirements. It’s not a secret that pricing can be impacted by many processes, some of which are out of your control. Collecting real-time pricing data can help you take control and prepare pricing strategies based on valid arguments and a market situation. Of course, with the help of web scraping, companies can effortlessly gather public pricing data and conduct price comparison.
An in-depth study shows that four out of five people think of the internet as a trustworthy source to check information about any product or business. Another research claimed that about 85% of internet users think of online reviews as personal recommendations. This is why responding to customer reviews on time helps companies improve their online reputation and even their rankings on search engines. With review monitoring, you can control online conversations about your company. You can monitor your brand mentions and customer feedback on various review web pages. Companies also rely on the collected feedback and perform sentiment analysis to identify opinions towards a brand, product, or service. If you need a review monitoring solution, depending on web scraping and choosing advanced public data gathering tools will help boost your business.
Counterfeiting, copyright infringement, and social media impersonation are the most common ways offenders earn money by taking advantage of brand awareness. Web scraping is an irreplaceable process of brand protection from the very first step, as finding and validating potential threats without it is almost impossible. With the help of web scraping, you can collect the data from publicly available data sources, such as online marketplaces, various databases, social media channels, websites, and apps, to search for any previously mentioned illegal activity.
The travel industry also benefits from web scraping, so if you work in this field or are thinking of starting something new, this information will be helpful for you. More and more travelers browse various websites that help them decide when choosing a vacation destination. These websites allow customers to compare prices, reviews and all the other information that helps them select their travel.
Web scraping is crucial to efficiently provide this information in real-time, especially time-sensitive data such as flight pricing. However, collecting public data for travel fare aggregation on a large scale is hard because you can quickly get banned from your targets. With the help of machine learning, advanced web scraping tools can help you avoid this issue.
Alright, so you're planning a web scraping project. Of course, in the beginning, you should think of web scraping project ideas. As a business, you should find out what sort of data you'll need to extract. That can be anything: pricing data, SERP data from search engines, etc. For the sake of an example, let's say you need the latter – SERP data for SEO monitoring. Now what?
For any web scraping project, you will need a vast amount of proxies (in other words, IPs) to successfully connect to the desired data source through your automated web scraping script. Then proxy servers will gather your required data from the web server, without reaching implemented requests limit, and slip under anti-scraping measures.
For any project idea based on web scraping you'll need to use proxies
Before jumping to look for a proxy provider, first, you need to know how much data you'll be needing. In other words – how many requests you'll be making per day etc. Based on data points (or request volumes) and traffic you'll be needing, it will be easier for you to choose the right proxy type for the job.
But what if you're not sure how many requests you'll be making and what traffic you'll be generating on your web scraping project? Well, there are a few solutions for this issue: you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss more on your web scraping project ideas, and our team will gladly help you figure out all the numbers you need. Or you can choose a web scraping solution that does not require you to know the exact numbers, and allows you just to do the job you need.
Once you have the numbers or at least have a rough idea on what targets you need to scrape, you'll find it a lot easier to choose the right tools for your web scraping project.
There are two main types: residential and datacenter proxies. However, there's a lot of misconception going around that “residential proxy” is the best as it provides ultimate anonymity. Actually, all of them provide anonymity online. What type of a proxy you need to buy depends solely on what web scraping project you will be doing.
If you need a proxy for, let's say, a web scraping project like market research – a datacenter proxy will be more than enough for you. In fact, you might even go for semi-dedicated proxies. They're fast, stable, and most of all – a lot cheaper than residential proxies. However, if you want to scrape more challenging targets, let's say for sales intelligence – a residential proxy will be a better choice, as most websites are aware of such data gathering projects and getting blocked on such websites is a lot easier. With residential proxies, however, it will be harder to get blocked, due to their nature of looking like real IPs.
To make things a little clearer, here's a table of possible use-cases and best proxy solutions for each business case:
Let's talk a bit more about three other use-cases. These include the earlier-mentioned projects based on web scraping like sales intelligence, SEO monitoring, and product page intelligence. Even though you can use proxies for these particular use cases, you'll find yourself struggling with one of the most common bottlenecks found in web scraping. It's time. Or not enough of it. Let's jump into another topic – the pros and cons of using in-house web scrapers with proxies.
There are two approaches to web scraping: maintaining and working with an in-house web scraper or outsourcing a web scraper from third-party providers. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of in-house web scraping. It will help you decide whether you want to build your own infrastructure or outsource a third-party tool for your web scraping project.
Some advantages of running the web scraping process in-house include more control, faster setup speed, and quicker resolution of issues.
Having an in-house solution for your web scraping project ideas gives you full control over the process. You can customize the scraping process to suit your company's needs better. Thus, companies with a team of experienced developers often choose to manage their web scraping needs in-house.
Getting an in-house web scraper up and running can be a faster process than outsourcing from third-party providers. An in-house team may better understand the company's requirements and set up the web scraper faster.
Working with an in-house team makes it easier to resolve issues that may surface quickly. With a third-party web scraping tool, you'll have to raise a support ticket and wait for some time before the issue gets attended to.
While in-house web scraping has its benefits, it also comes with a couple of drawbacks. Some of these include higher costs, maintenance hurdles, and greater exposure to the associated risks.
Setting up an in-house web scraper can be quite expensive. Server costs, proxy costs, as well as maintenance costs, can add up pretty quickly. You will also have to hire and train skilled web scraping developers to manage the process. As a result, outsourcing web scraping tools from third-party providers is often a cheaper option.
Maintaining an in-house web scraping setup can be a real challenge. Servers need to be kept in optimal conditions, and the web scraping program must be constantly updated to keep up with changes to the websites being scraped.
There are certain legal risks associated with web scraping if not done properly. Many websites often place restrictions on web scraping activity. An in-house team may not be experienced enough to get around these issues safely. A third-party provider with an experienced team of developers will be better able to follow the best practices to scrape websites safely.
Before getting started on a web scraping project, it's important to determine beforehand which strategy will better serve your needs. For most businesses, a third-party tool such as the Oxylabs' Scraper API is a more feasible option. We offer three different Scraper APIs: SERP Scraper API, E-Commerce Scraper API, and Web Scraper API.
“Choosing what tool to use for you web scraping tasks depends on your target sites. Our Scraper APIs are the best option for a big search engine or any e-commerce site. This way you’ll have the highest chance to successfully gather data from multiple targets without having to worry about managing proxies, avoiding captchas, and scaling your whole infrastructure.”
– Advises our Product Owner, Aleksandras Šulženko
If you decide to build an in-house web scraper, check out the most common Python libraries that will be helpful when thinking of the first web scraping project:
Selenium, a tool that helps automate web browser interactions;
Beautiful soup, a Python package used for parsing HTML and XML documents;
lxml, one of the fastest and feature-rich libraries for processing XML and HTML in Python;
Requests, a library that is widely used to send HTTP requests.
We also have a detailed Python web scraping tutorial, so check it out if you want to learn the technical basics of web scraping.
We hope this article has helped with your web scraping project planning and answered proxy related questions a bit more thoroughly.
Want to find out more information about web scraping? We have other blog posts that will answer all of your questions! The most common challenge for web scraping is how to get around web page blocks when scraping large e-commerce sites. Also, if you have web scraping project ideas, you should learn more about data gathering methods for e-commerce.
If you are planning to start your web scraping project, you should know that web scraping is only responsible for taking the selected data and downloading it. It doesn't involve any data analysis. Data mining is a process when raw data is turned into useful information for businesses. Check out our blog for more details: Data Mining and Machine Learning: What's the Difference?
By understanding how e-commerce websites protect themselves, web blocks can be avoided. There are very particular practices that can help you scrape data off e-commerce websites without getting banned. Alternatively, you can use an AI-powered proxy solution, such as Web Unblocker, to deal with complex anti-bot systems.
It all depends on whether you need high security and legitimacy, or faster proxies who will hide your IP. Speed, safety, and legality are the main differences between residential and datacenter proxies. If you need more information, read more in our blog post: Datacenter Proxies vs. Residential Proxies.
The legality of web scraping is a widely-debated topic among specialists working in the data gathering field. However, there’s no simple answer to whether it’s legal to scrape any website because it depends on whether the web scraping project doesn’t breach any laws surrounding the required public data. We suggest you get professional legal advice before starting to use proxies for your web scraping projects.
You can also check our article on the topic: Is web scraping legal?
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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