Web scraping is essentially a process that numerous companies implement to extract meaningful information and data from third-party websites. Think of it as a tool that makes data collection automatic instead of manual, thus carrying out the data collection process quickly and efficiently.
If you had to collect data manually, it would take you ages, plus it would be a very daunting task. Leading and branded companies use web scraping software that sends requests to third-party websites from which they want to collect valuable information and data.
After that, the software will read and translate each HTML code from our target website and send it back. Scraping data in the pandemic years presented companies with numerous challenges, as they had to carry out the whole process remotely.
In this text, we’ll try to present you with all the benefits and challenges of web scraping, explain web scraping in greater detail, and offer a solution to all the problems web scraping can face. This solution will lead us to enter the world of APIs, which have become a stepping stone for web scraping nowadays.
Why Is Scraping Becoming So Important?
In mundane terms, web scraping collects, organizes, and stores significant amounts of valuable web data in a designated space on your server. This way, a web scraping process allows you to access the information you can use later for your purposes. Web scraping is an important notion because companies can use it in numerous instances to thrive, such as:
- Tracking news and trends, job listings, brand strategies, and more;
- Following all the price changes of your competitors;
- Observation of weather data to develop research.
Benefits Of Scraping
Numerous prominent industries use web scraping, and it is highly beneficial to all of them in the following ways:
- Finance – collecting valuable data about investors’ finances;
- E-commerce – collecting information about the market’s competitors such as their strategies and intentions;
- Law – collecting data about cases from the past;
- Website developers – collecting articles from competitors’ websites to better their own;
- Tourism – collecting data on the hottest and most popular destinations tourists love.
Challenges Of Web Scraping
Without implementing an API (which we’ll further explain), the main challenges and dangers of web scraping can be:
- No protection between your server and the outside traffic while scraping data that could lead to someone hacking your server;
- Visible IP to websites you collect data from;
- Nothing to balance your traffic, which could crash your servers;
- No control over who’s entering your network.
How To Overcome These Problems?
Implementing an API (Application Programming Interface) would be the solution to all your web scraping problems.
So, what is API, exactly? There are different approaches to what is API. API acts as an intermediary between your software and the software you’re scraping data from, primarily establishing communication between the two.
An API will deliver the query you send to the provider, after which it will send the response back to you. Therefore, an API strategy is a business requirement, not just a technological solution. It’s, without a doubt, an integral part of our digital world because it acts as a software middleman saving a lot of time for leading developers.
To better understand API, think of it as a tool that allows two software components to share and exchange data. It’s like a code that manages all the access points on your server and frees the end-user from noticing any exchanges done on their website.
For secure web scraping, an API is essential, and most websites use them. For a more explicit example of an API, think about listening to music on your mobile phone’s app. Thanks to the API, your website’s server directly communicates to the app’s server that’s streaming music.
You can integrate a personalized playlist directly on your music app rather than collecting music manually from, say, the biggest playlists in the world. As you can see, APIs are everywhere, and they make our digital lives where data collecting is integral easier.
With the recurring advancement of our digital world, companies had to develop the best possible strategies for collecting data about their customers. Web scraping with an API armor played the most significant role in this process, and we can take this as a fact.
If you are a branded company looking to collect data from tried-party websites to build profiles about customers and understand their needs to target them better, web scraping with an API is your oasis. Embrace intermediary tools in your web scraping process such as an API and scrape away!