Web scraping, web harvesting, or web extracting has become an essential tool today for extracting data from websites. This article gives a complete guide to web scraping and suggests a decent web scraper for you. We also answer the seven common FAQs on this subject. Sit back and enjoy the ride.
What is web scraping?
Web scraping is extracting content and data from a website using bots. Web scraping, instead of screen scraping, which scrapes pixels seen on screen, extracts underlying HTML code and data saved in a database. Afterward, the web scraper can reproduce the entire website's content elsewhere.
Web scraping is utilized in a wide range of data-driven digital enterprises. Among the legitimate use cases are:
- Search engine bots crawl a website, analyze its content, and rank it.
- Price comparison websites use bots to obtain prices and product information from affiliated vendor websites.
- Market research firms use scrapers to get data from forums and social media (e.g., sentiment analysis).
Web Scraper tools and bots
Web scraping tools are pieces of software (i.e., bots) that are programmed to search through databases and extract data. A multitude of bots are employed, many of which are entirely customizable to:
- Recognize distinctive HTML site structures
- Content extraction and transformation
- Save scraped information
- Data extraction from APIs
Because all scraping bots have the same goal—accessing site data—it can be difficult to tell the difference between legitimate and malicious bots. Having said that, there are a few fundamental differences between the two.
- Legitimate bots are associated with the organization for whom they scrape. Googlebot, for example, declares itself as belonging to Google in its HTTP header. Malicious bots, on the other hand, imitate legal traffic by generating a bogus HTTP user agent.
- Legitimate bots follow a site's robot.txt file, which outlines which sites a bot may and cannot access. In contrast, malicious scrapers crawl the website regardless of the site operator's permission.
The resources required to run web scraper bots are significant—so much so that reputable scraping bot owners invest substantially in servers to process the massive volume of data.
Without such funds, a criminal may utilize a botnet—a network of geographically scattered computers infected with the same virus and managed from a central place.
Individual botnet computer owners are entirely ignorant of their involvement. The culprit can scrape numerous websites using the infected systems' combined power.
Malicious web scraping examples
When data is taken without the permission of website owners, price scraping and content theft are the two most typical use cases.
A perpetrator in price scraping often employs a botnet from which to launch scraper bots to scan competitor business databases. The purpose is to gain access to pricing information, undercut competitors, and increase sales.
Attacks are common in areas where items are easily compared, and pricing influences purchasing decisions. Travel agencies, ticket sellers, and online electronics vendors can all be victims of price scraping.
Smartphone e-traders, for example, who sell comparable products at generally regular pricing, are common targets. Customers typically choose the lowest-cost option. Therefore they are motivated to offer the most outstanding pricing to remain competitive.
A merchant can get an advantage by using a bot to continuously scrape his competitors' websites and instantaneously change his prices.
Successful price scraping can result in criminals' offers being prominently highlighted on comparison websites, which buyers utilize for research and purchasing. Meanwhile, scraped websites frequently suffer client and income losses.
Content scraping is the large-scale theft of content from a particular website. Online product catalogs and websites that rely on digital material to generate revenue are common targets. A content scraping attack can be detrimental to these businesses.
Online local business directories, for example, spend a significant amount of time, money, and energy developing their database information. Scraping can result in all of your data being exposed to the wild, utilized in spam operations, or resold to competitors. These events will likely impact a company's bottom line and everyday operations.
The following is an excerpt from a Craigslist complaint documenting its experience with content scraping. It emphasizes how harmful the behavior may be:
"[The content scraping business] would send an army of digital robots to Craigslist regularly to copy and extract the whole text of millions of Craigslist user ads." [The service] then made those misappropriated listings available to any company that wanted to use them, for any reason, via its so-called "data feed." Some of these 'clients' paid up to $20,000 per month for that stuff..."
Scraped data, according to the lawsuit, was used for spam and email fraud, among other things:
"[The defendants] then extract craigslist users' contact information from that database and send out hundreds of thousands of electronic mail messages daily to addresses harvested from craigslist servers...The messages [include] false subject lines and material in the body of the spam mails, which are intended to fool Craigslist users into switching from utilizing Craigslist's services to using [the defenders'] service..."
7 Most Common Web Scraping FAQs
Let’s quickly look at the common FAQs about web scraping and our web scraper (Spylead).
1. Why should I scrape data from online websites?
Data scraping is the solution if you want to save time, energy, and resources for yourself or your team. Simply said, scraping data allows you to speed up the time it takes to complete activities manually.
2. How does Spylead function?
Spylead can help you generate targeted leads.
Here are some examples of things that Spylead can automate:
- Automate your LinkedIn and Sales Navigator outreach.
- On autopilot, enrich and refresh data in your CRM.
- Repeatedly extract leads
- Make your social media postings more automated.
This only scratches the surface. Many companies promote Spylead as a web scraping resource to help marketers and sales teams get ahead.
3. Is it safe to scrape with Spylead?
Data scraping on LinkedIn with Spylead is not prohibited if users follow best practices rules. Spylead dynamically scrapes existing public and verified data from platform users' digital footprints.
4. What are rate limits, and why are they in place?
Rate limitations are implemented to limit network traffic and maximize online reliability. They prohibit users from performing the same activity repeatedly within a given time frame, such as liking and unliking a post 500 times per hour. Spylead suggests rate restrictions so that our users can scrape safely while being undetected.
5. What is the price of Spylead?
Spylead provides a variety of plans to meet your needs. Paid subscriptions begin at $39 per month. We also offer a 20% annual discount.
You can check various subscription plans by going to Spylead Pricing. Signing up is simple and quick. Without a credit card, you can accomplish it in seconds.
6. Where can I get support with Spylead?
We offer a dedicated Help Center chock-full of valuable articles and instructions. You can contact our support team directly using this form.
7. What exactly is Spylead?
Spylead is an email finder that allows users to find emails and scrape data from LinkedIn, Google maps, and search engine results pages (SERPs). Other functions offered with bulk actions include email finder and email verification.