A Guide To Online Data Gathering Tools

Scraping Robot
August 23, 2023

Like many other companies, your business may use online data-gathering tools to improve sales, attract and retain customers, and refine products and services. Unfortunately, cybercriminals also use these tools to gather data for malicious purposes.

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According to Statista, over six million data records were exposed globally during the first quarter of 2023. These statistics may cause potential clients and stakeholders to be suspicious of your data-gathering methods. Some businesses may even refuse to work with you due to your decision to use online data-gathering tools.

If you want to maximize your revenue and improve your reputation, you must first understand data-gathering techniques from online servers. Once you know the advantages and disadvantages of online tools in gathering data, you can make an informed decision about whether to use them or not.

How to Use Online Data Gathering Tools

learn how to use online data gathering

Companies can use online data-gathering tools in various ways to achieve different goals. But the two primary data-gathering techniques include the following:

Primary data collection

Primary data collection involves collecting data directly from sources or interacting with survey respondents. Researchers usually use this method when they need accurate results about a specific topic. For example, an eCommerce company can use an online data-gathering survey to learn more about customers’ shopping preferences.

You can use the following techniques for primary data collection:

  • Questionnaires and surveys: Researchers create questionnaires and surveys to collect data from groups or individuals. They conduct them via telephone, online conferences, face-to-face interviews, or mail.
  • Observations: Researchers watch and record actions, behaviors, or events in their natural settings. They use their observations to gather data on human interactions, behaviors, or events without direct intervention. For example, researchers can observe clients interact with user interfaces in real time to determine the most popular website design elements. The design team can then use these elements to attract more viewers.
  • Interviews: These involve direct interaction between the respondent and the researcher. Professionals can conduct them via telephone, video conferencing, or in person. Interviews can be conversational or come with predefined questions.
  • Experiments: Experiments refute or support a hypothesis. They require researchers to manipulate variables and make conclusions about cause-and-effect relationships.
  • Focus groups: These are demographically diverse groups that participate in guided discussions about a topic, product, or service. Teams can use focus groups to understand perceptions, opinions, and experiences.

Secondary data collection

Secondary data collection uses existing data collected by another company or person for a different intent. Researchers often prefer using secondary data since it is inexpensive and readily available.

The most common sources of secondary data include:

  • Online databases
  • Published sources such as newspapers, academic journals, books, and government reports
  • Government records
  • Publicly available data shared by social media, organizations, communities, and individuals

Types of Online Data Gathering Tools

types of online data gathering

Now that you know the primary methods for obtaining data, let’s look at some online data-gathering tools you can use. Depending on your needs, preferences, and budget, you may want to use some or all of the following.

General search engines

Companies can use search engines to gather data. Once researchers enter a keyword, the search engine will collect information from various sources on the internet, organize the results based on their relevance, and display them in easily digestible snippets.

Specialty search engines

Researchers requiring access to specific types of content can use specialty online data-gathering tools for patents, images, and financial information. For example, researchers looking for legal information can use HeinOnline, a commercial internet database service for legal materials.

SEO tools

Website owners and marketers interested in search engine optimization (SEO) have various tools for gathering data on site visitors. Website and third-party SEO tools provide website analytics showing how many people visit a website page, how long they stay on each page, and how they found your site.


A survey is a list of questions for extracting specific data from a certain group of people, such as stakeholders or customers. Teams can conduct surveys by mail, phone, Internet, or in person.


Users can use online data-gathering tools called queries to retrieve data from online databases. Queries are requests for data from databases.

Examples of well-known databases include the Census Bureau’s American Fact Finder, the data resource pages of the World Bank, and USAJOBS.

Web scrapers

Also known as web scraping bots, web scrapers are code or tools for extracting data from web pages. They can fetch data from sources and save it as a data file.

Companies can use web scrapers to gather online data about online reviews, product pricing, brand sentiment, competitors, and much more in just a few seconds or minutes. In contrast, manual data collection involving surveys or copying and pasting from sites can take weeks or months.

However, not every site or business allows scraping. To retain stakeholder and client trust, you must respect each website’s rules and follow web scraping ethics. You can do so by:

  1. Identifying the type of data your source websites carry: Some websites, such as social media sites, contain loads of personal information, such as emails, phone numbers, and addresses. Check the website’s Privacy Policy and Terms of Service (ToS) to see if you can extract this information and whether the law protects it. You can also contact the website owners directly to better understand what you can and can’t do.
  2. Reading robots.txt files: A robots.txt file is a document in a website’s root directory containing instructions for web crawlers and web scraping bots. Read this file to see whether you can use web scrapers on a website. You may be accused of unauthorized access if you scrape a website against the source site’s robots.txt file.
  3. Using ethical web scrapers: Checking each website’s robots.txt, ToS, and Privacy Policy can take significant time. To save yourself the trouble, get an ethical web scraping tool to follow each source’s specific guidelines instead of you.
  4. Giving credit and respecting copyright: Not all websites require data collectors to provide credit. But you may want to do so as a common courtesy.

Scraping application programming interfaces (APIs)

A scraping API is a communication protocol that provides access to a website or application’s data. Unlike web scrapers, which pull data from an entire website or webpage, scraping APIs only get the data website owners want you to access. Users can pull data manually on demand or on an automated schedule.

Organizations create APIs to grant the public access to specific data sets. As such, users have fewer ethical concerns when utilizing them. Just remember to read the API’s agreement and policy and follow the rules.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Tools in Gathering Data

prons and cons of online tools

Companies can glean many advantages from using online data-gathering tools, including:

  • Accuracy: Researchers can easily make mistakes from manually extracting data from websites. For example, they may type “$200” instead of “$20.” These mistakes can lead to inaccurate insights and unwise business decisions.
  • Better business decisions: Accurate data inspires better business and marketing decisions, leading to higher revenues. For example, accurate data about customer sentiments can lead to better marketing campaigns. As a result, your business can attract and retain more customers and achieve better sales figures.
  • Efficiency: Online data-gathering tools are usually much more efficient than manually copying and pasting information from source websites.
  • Real-time data: Online data-gathering tools, such as web scrapers and scraping APIs, provide access to real-time data that humans can’t extract. Examples of real-time data include stock market and weather data.

As with all things, however, there are several disadvantages of online data-gathering tools. Keep the following in mind before you decide to use an online data-gathering tool:

  • Legal and ethical concerns: Some online data-gathering tools, such as web scrapers, can be misused. For instance, if you don’t read the source website’s robots.txt, Privacy Policy, and ToS before scraping, owners may accuse you of unauthorized scraping or private information leaking. You can also get in trouble for scraping the social media profiles of minors.
  • Dependence on third parties: When using scraping APIs, you may become dependent on their reliability and availability. You may experience data-gathering difficulties or interruptions if an API goes offline.
  • Expertise required: Some online data-gathering tools, such as databases and web scrapers, require coding and technical expertise. Users may need several months of training before using these tools, leading to increased training costs and downtime.
  • Constant monitoring required: When web pages change, scrapers may stop working. For instance, if the source’s content has moved to another page, your scraper may give you inaccurate or no results at all. You must regularly monitor and fix your scrapers to prevent this from happening.

Final Thoughts

conclusion on online data collection

Most companies use online data-gathering tools such as databases, web scrapers, and scraping APIs to get a better understanding of their stakeholders, clients, and competitors. These tools provide access to real-time data, increase efficiency and accuracy, and fuel better business decisions. However, you may misuse online data-gathering tools if you aren’t careful and get serious accusations of private information leaking and authorized scraping.

Fortunately, there’s a way to use online data-gathering tools without jeopardizing your reputation. Scraping Robot’s ethical web scraper is code-free and follows source websites’ robots.txt, Tos, and Privacy Policy. It also includes powerful features such as metadata parsing, JavaScript rendering, server management, browser scalability, and proxy management and rotation for a headache-free data-gathering experience.

Sign up with Scraping Robot today to get 5,000 free scrapes per month for online data collection projects.

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