As the years have gone by, it has become increasingly important for businesses, both large and small, to effectively utilize data to continually grow, gain a competitive advantage, and increase their profits. In the years to come, it’s highly likely that this will continue to be the case, especially as the amount of data generated across the web continues to increase at a rapid rate.
IDC all but confirmed this in their recent study, which discovered that data creation will grow to an incredible 163 zettabytes (ZB) by 2025. When you take this into account, you might just be wondering to yourself – can scraping such vast amounts of data be beneficial for my small business? The short answer is yes, it definitely can.
As something that has become progressively utilized in recent years, web scraping has enabled a countless number of businesses to reach the top in their industry. With that in mind, the following article will take a closer look into exactly what web scraping is and how it can help you in more ways than one. Here’s everything that you need to know.
What is web scraping?
In simplest terms, web scraping can be defined as a data-gathering technique in which unorganized web data is extracted before being made accessible in a manageable format. Historically, this technique has long been used as an effective strategy for allowing businesses to remain up-to-date with information that is relevant to them.
However, an important thing to remember is that data should only ever be scraped legally and ethically. If you fail to do so, you run the risk of ending up on the wrong side of the law, which we’re pretty sure you’ll want to avoid.
Thankfully, a US court recently ruled that it is not necessary to obtain prior permission to scrape data from public websites. Therefore, you should be good to go as long as you only download data that is necessary, run your scraper without slowing down the server, and do not scrape information that the owner never intended to be available in the public domain.
Benefits of web scraping
Obtain better SEO results
If you’re looking to boost your online rankings and appear as high up in the search results as possible, you’ll need a practical approach to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). With web scraping, you’ll have the ability to identify the keywords that your competitors are using to rank, and can then use them yourself to gain more customers.
Keeping tabs on your competitors will undoubtedly go a long way in the current day and age. After all, it will mean that you’ll easily be able to stay ahead of the game and continually gain more customers. Not only that, but you’ll also have the ability to act quickly should your competitors change their marketing tactics in the future.
Targeted advertising becomes easier
Thanks to web scraping, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the behavior of your potential customers. With this knowledge, you’ll then have the ability to optimize your advertising campaigns much more effectively and push the right kind of adverts to the right people. Over time, this will give you the potential to obtain far better results and gain more customers as a result.
Automate the process
Manual data extraction is something that takes an incredible amount of time, money, and effort. For that reason, it’s highly recommended that you use one of many web scraping tools that are available. If you do just that, you’ll be able to set it to run per your needs. Plus, it will be far more efficient and cost-effective too.
How to use web scraping
As we mentioned earlier in the article, conducting web scraping in an ethical and legal manner is of paramount importance. Otherwise, you run the risk of ending up on the wrong side of the law. Either that or you could cause direct harm to your competitors. If you are looking to avoid this, then you’ll need to remain clear of websites that clearly state in their terms of service that web scraping isn’t allowed.
Once you have taken this into account, you then have multiple options at your disposal to get started with web scraping. For example, anyone who has programming knowledge can build a scraper themselves to keep the costs down.
Failing that, you could always have a scraper built on your behalf. Should you choose this option, you may then simply run it on your computer or using a server. Finally, there is the option of utilizing a web-based data scraping service. This is usually the most expensive out of the three, but it may well be the best option depending on your particular needs and budget.
Web scraping and online anonymity
Remaining anonymous is something that you’ll need to factor in when using a web scraper. Otherwise, your IP address could be exposed for all to see, which may eventually lead to it being blocked by certain websites.
Thankfully, a proxy service will enable you to gather all the data that you need without running the risk of having your IP banned. Plus, it will also allow you to bypass certain restrictions such as geo-blocking practices.
Throughout this article, we’ve taken a closer look at whether web scraping can help your small business. By this point, you should be aware that when it is used legally and ethically, it most definitely can be beneficial. It won’t cost you much to gain the information, and it will be incredibly valuable to you as the years go by.
So, if you’re looking to gain a competitive advantage over other businesses in your industry or target your advertising campaigns more effectively, web scraping can be incredibly useful in either regard, plus for many other reasons. It may seem complicated, but when you factor in that there are many automated web scraping tools available on the market, the whole process is far more straightforward than you may have thought.