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What Is Web Scraping (And What Is a Web Scraping API?)

Saheed Opeyemi
April 1, 2021
Community

Automation software connects all the different pieces of the internet and digital processes together in an easy-to-use way. Web scraping and API technology combine to make automation more efficient with big returns when it comes to data. What is web scraping? Think about that college dissertation that you had to spend hours in the library compiling materials for. What if you could have just sent a bot to get all that data for you, and even collate it? That is web scraping. Now, imagine if there was another bot working with the first one that helps you send the materials to your professor’s mail so you don’t have to go to his office? That is a web scraping API.

In business, personal, professional, and even academic activities, there are a lot of applications for a piece of software that can source data, compile it, and then integrate it directly into another piece of software. In fact, such software is invaluable. The world revolves around data now and the faster and easier you can get data, the better you will most likely perform in any number of fields–especially digital enterprises.

In this article, we’ll discuss the components of web scraping, a web scraping API, its applications, and why you should consider investing in a web scraping API. Feel free to explore the article with the table of contents below.

Table of Contents

What Is Web Scraping?

what is web scraping

So you ask again, what is web scraping? Humans scrape data from the web all the time, usually without even realizing it. When you copy and paste certain information from another site (citing it appropriately, of course), that’s scraping.

When you conduct research by recording the number of posts and followers on your competitors’ social media accounts, that’s scraping. This process of deciding what information you need from a website and recording it is exactly what web scraping bots do. The main difference is that they can do it much more quickly and efficiently, which saves you a whole lot of time and money.

But why are web scrapers able to do this? Web pages are built with something called HTML, or hypertext markup language. Web developers use this programming language to create, change and edit page features and functions. HTML contains all the useful information about a website’s content, which is why web scrapers are built to extract data from HTML. As the scraper interacts with a page’s HTML elements, it “parses” through the data on the page to give you the exact data you’re looking for. The scraper gathers this information and organizes it into an easy-to-read document for your own use.

What Is a Web Scraping API?

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A web scraping interface makes this whole process much easier. Some web scraping tools only allow you to manually submit pages you want to scrape. This is obviously still very useful since you can submit many pages at a time and get accurate data much more quickly than you would if you tried to shuffle through the information without a bot. But this means you can’t scrape real-time data. An API, or Application Programming Interface, is the tool that makes this possible.

How does an API network with data?

For instance, if you wanted to scrape the web for product research, you could easily instruct our API to scrape relevant pages every 60 seconds throughout the day. Since we handle the technical side of this process, you don’t have to worry about keeping up with the requests. This process happens very quickly, so you can check the results whenever you want.

But that is not all a web scraping API does. Like it says in the name, an API is an interface that allows pieces of software to communicate. When you forget the password to your Facebook account and then you login directly with your Google account, that is Facebook’s API communicating with Google’s API to extract your details.

API, app, and software possibilities

When you log in to your favorite travel app and you get the travel details and prices of your favorite airline, that is the travel app’s API collecting data from the airline’s database. And when you order an Uber and watch the driver move closer to you on the map, that is Uber’s API communicating with Google’s maps to deliver real-time location data. Essentially, an API also serves the function of creating a data pipeline that can exist without manual input.

With a web scraping API, you can set up a data collection funnel that scrapes the data you want and then integrates it directly into your database or analytics software. This is the real value of a web scraping API. APIs allow you to collect data on-demand.

What Is Web Data Scraping Used For?

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Our customers are constantly discovering new reasons to scrape the web, which is one of the reasons we think web scraping is so awesome–the opportunities are endless! With a few simple input instructions to a web scraper, you can find valuable information about your competitors, customers, product market, and more. This information can help you identify and understand better ways to reach your personal and professional goals. Here are a few of the main reasons people might use web scraping:

Product research

If you’re an individual looking to find the best prices for a certain product, you could use a web scraper to gather information from websites that sell that product to find out more about the brand, price, customer reviews, and more. If you want to find data for an organization or business, this information can help you understand your product market and competitors and help you build a more targeted and effective marketing plan.

Not only can you see what other products are going for, but you can also see what people are saying about those products. With the right web scraping tools, you can even collect this data in real-time, meaning that you don’t have to run multiple scrapes throughout the day, hoping to catch a change or update on a product. As an individual, this real-time data can help you figure out what products are the most affordable. And with a web scraping API, you can set up a funnel to scrape for these datasets at specific intervals and forward the data collected to your database. So you don’t even have to keep an eye on the web scraping tool.

Consumer sentiment analysis

Not only is it important to gather data about product pricing, but it’s also important to gather data about what people are saying about those products. Again, this data can help individuals purchase products more confidently and efficiently, since you won’t have to sift through irrelevant comments about the product they want to buy. After web scraping for this data, you can see all the comments in a clean, easy-to-read document that only shows the data you want to see.

As an organization, this data can be even more useful, since it can not only shed light on what consumers are saying about your product but also help you understand your competition, target market and opportunities for growth. By scraping data from comments sections, you can determine what customers like about you and where you need to improve.

Social media

Using a web scraper to collect data from social media platforms and individual accounts is also very valuable. Gathering data about your customers can be incredibly valuable since this can give you a more accurate picture of your target market. Who follows you and why? Who should be following you, and why aren’t they already? These are some questions that can be answered when you scrape social media.

You also conduct data research on your competitors’ social media pages to find these answers. By analyzing their followers and target markets, you can gain a broader list of people you should be following and engaging on social media. But, as I said before, the opportunities are endless when it comes to web scraping.

Digital marketing

Individuals can definitely benefit from scraping the web, but as I said, organizations and businesses have plenty to gain from this practice, too. With real-life data to back up your decisions, you can identify exactly where your organization could improve. It’s easy to base decisions on our own assumptions about our customers and the market, but these decisions seldom lead to valuable results.

Web scraping can help with product research, social media analysis and so much more. I’ll risk sounding like a broken record here, but…the opportunities are endless!

What Is the Cost of a Web Scraping Program?

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At this point, I’m sure you can answer the question of “what is web scraping?” All that’s left is for you to get started. Web scraping is not only easy but also incredibly affordable. Of course, the actual cost of a web scraping program depends on what service you decide to use and how many scrapes you need to run for your purposes. Some web scraping services charge you monthly, while others charge you per scrape.

If you’re not sure how many scrapes you need, then you’ll want to research what web scraping programs offer custom solutions. If you are investing in a web scraping API, you want a service that will cost you the least in implementation efforts, financial and technical. In other words, you should pick the easiest to use.

Get started

Scraping Robot is the best scraping program for limitless jobs and projects. One of the biggest reasons is that we offer the most affordable scraping solutions, and with 5000 free scrapes per month, you can easily discover what options work best for you.

When you’re ready to tackle bigger projects after you’ve used up your free scrapes, check out our pricing page to find out exactly how much your scraping projects will cost with our program. You’ll quickly find out that other companies simply cannot compare to our pricing and quality. That’s because other companies have to buy proxies, which are necessary for scraping, from third-party companies.  But thanks to Blazing SEO (our partner company), Scraping Robot gets these proxies for free, which means we can offer you the cheapest scraping solutions. Our public API is really well documented and requires very little technical know-how to implement. To get started, check out our API page here.

Final Thoughts

web scraping defineSo what is web scraping? Once you start to see the utility and payoff, it isn’t so complicated. Think about how your business or software can approach data in the most efficient ways and consider making web scraping part of your web-based strategy. Digital success is all about knowing how to connect, and understanding how API technology works can uncover a world of efficient processing. Explore Scraping Robot’s API modules and web scraping tech to get a sense of what’s available and how you can design your own API pieces to fit with the data you want.