Is web scraping worth learning? Absolutely! Here’s why…
Why Web Scraping Is a Valuable Skill in Today’s Data-Driven World
Data is everywhere, and businesses worldwide rely on it to make well-informed decisions. But for most business owners, extracting data relevant to their field can be challenging.
With over 1.13 billion websites in 2023, the internet has rapidly grown as an extensive reserve of information. Sifting through all of this available data is challenging. This is where web scraping enters the picture.
Web scraping is a technique used to automate the extraction of information across web pages. With billions of data sets scattered across the internet, it’s no secret that web scraping experts are generously compensated for collecting and arranging this data.
In this day and age, web scraping experts are highly sought-after professionals and are considered valuable assets for any successful company.
This article will discuss web scraping, why it’s important, its applications, and why it is a skill worth learning.
What is Web Scraping and How Does it Work?
Web scraping is the process of extracting data from multiple websites and organizing this information into distinct data sets. Although data scraping typically relies on web scraping tools, it can also be done manually.
Web scraping tools make HTTP requests to target websites and then automate data extraction from the websites’ HTML code. The extracted data is then organized into a structured output (like a CSV or JSON file) that can be used for further analysis.
Web scrapers are essential tools for quickly providing companies with reliable and accurate information. Scraped data is used by businesses to monitor prices, track products and trends, generate leads, and conduct market research.
Some of the best web scrapers in the market include Scrapy, Beautiful Soup, and ParseHub.
Why is Web Scraping Important?
In today’s world of digitalization, the importance of web scraping cannot be emphasized enough. With businesses relying on data for making accurate decisions and developing successful marketing strategies, it is more crucial than ever to have access to quick, reliable information.
With web scraping tools, business owners can scrape websites and easily extract important data to fuel successful decision-making leading to a company’s overall success.
The demand for web scraping tools is rising across different industries like IT, Software Engineering, and Sales & Account Management.
According to OctoParse, 33% of jobs dealing with computer software require the candidate to have web scraping skills. This is followed by 21% for IT Services and 12% for Financial Services. These statistics are a good yardstick to gauge the high demand for web scraping and shed light on why learning web scraping can be incredibly beneficial.
Where is Web Scraping Used?
Now that we have established what web scraping is and why it is important, let’s look at the numerous applications of data scraping.
Customer trends are changing rapidly. This is evident everywhere you look. For example, customers want to be able to choose to shop in person or online from the same brands at any time. Another example stems from the fact that more people are working from home, and their shopping habits reflect that.
To stay ahead of the curve, web scraping experts use data scrapers to extract valuable data related to the market they are operating in. This data can include changes in customer tastes, market trends, popular items, changes in customer tastes, and details regarding competitor products.
Companies depend on a scraping tool to collect data to identify customer needs and predict market trends, leading to smarter decisions and successful product development.
As the business world becomes increasingly cut-throat, companies need all the data they can get to maintain a competitive edge in their industry. This data includes monitoring their rival businesses’ performance to stay well-informed regarding current pricing trends and strategies.
Businesses can get an umbrella view of their competitors’ product offerings, services, promotions, and pricing strategies by scraping through their different websites.
Data scientists then analyze this extracted data to quickly identify market gaps and create products that fill those market gaps. This enables businesses to get a significant market share and increase their competitiveness.
Popular web scraping APIs, such as Scraping Bee and Screaming Frog, have made it possible to scrape data across multiple web pages in minutes.
Web scraping tools make HTTP requests to a web page, extract data, and store it in a readable output database that is easy for business owners to interpret.
Using a web scraping tool allows companies to automate some parts of the research process and streamline research and development for new product development (NPD).
Social listening refers to a business being in touch with how customers talk about their company – whether it’s about their product offerings, brand image, or recent promotions. Businesses aware of customer reactions to their brand tend to understand their target audience better.
Businesses often use web scraping tools for social listening. By extracting data from web pages containing reviews, comments, and posts about a brand, web scrapers provide business owners with a viewpoint of customers talking about their brand online.
This crucial data can be used in decision-making to help companies tailor their products to their customers’ needs.
Businesses use web scraping to reduce the cost of lead generation by extracting data from sites like Google Maps and Linkedin to discover information about local businesses in a specific area.
Web scraping is also used by businesses to test a company website’s internal links to spot broken or dead links to ascertain a website’s quality.
From large-scale enterprises to B2B businesses, all sorts of companies use web scraping to collect information about competitor businesses and potential clients.
Real Estate Research
Real estate agents rely on web scrapers to build a database of properties for rent or sale. Web scraping is used in real estate to gather data on property locations, prices, agents, etc.
Real estate agents also use scraped data to stay current on new properties, housing trends, and property appraisals.
Is Learning How to Web Scrape Worth it?
In short, yes, learning how to web scrape is definitely worth it.
In this era of information technology, where everything is data-centric, web scraping skills that cater to dealing with this data are especially invaluable.
As we have already discussed, web scraping is applicable across different industries, meaning proficiency in data scraping opens your door to a wide range of job opportunities. As a web scraping expert, you can earn a high-paying job or work flexibly as a freelancer.
As the demand for web scraping increases, with all sorts of businesses looking for experts to extract valuable data to fuel their decision-making process, now is the perfect time to invest in your web scraping skills.
Is Web Scraping Hard to Learn?
Web scraping is a valuable skill that may be challenging to learn. Extracting large data sets from the internet and analyzing them to make data-driven decisions is difficult.
Thanks to the prevalence of online courses and web scraping tools, learning web scraping has become significantly easier. Popular web scraping tools have made it possible to automate web scraping and arrange scraped data from a web page into easy-to-read formats.
Tools like Sheets Genie can be integrated into spreadsheets to quickly arrange the scraped information into a structured format, allowing you to automate web scraping further.
The time it takes to learn web scraping varies according to your knowledge of Python. It can take one to seven months to learn the basics of Python, and depending on the time and effort you invest in this, you can master web scraping in under a year.
Although having basic coding and programming knowledge is strongly recommended by web scraping experts, the lack of these skills does not pose a barrier to learning web scraping.
What Skills Do You Need for Web Scraping?
With the advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence, web development has been modernized, and automated web scraping tools are becoming increasingly popular.
With automated web scraping tools, users are not required to be proficient in coding or programming languages like Python.
Most web scraping experts recommend being well-versed in the following skills before you learn web scraping.
Knowing the fundamentals of these programming languages and understanding the essential elements, tags, scripts, etc., will help you better understand and analyze code.
Having basic coding knowledge and being well-versed in a programming language makes web scraping easier, as you can identify any problems and fulfill data scraping requests more efficiently.
Understanding of Popular Programming Languages
Being proficient in a programming language is a great skill to have if you plan to learn web scraping. Python and Ruby are two popular programming languages used for web scraping.
Web scraping experts recommend learning Python, which helps in data extraction and encapsulates many other web and app development aspects that could complement your web scraping skills.
Ability to Identify and Analyze Web Elements
Going through a website to identify relevant information and extract data is the first stage of web scraping. Web scraping often entails going through multiple websites and extracting information that can be used for data analysis.
For example, if your manager wants you to analyze a competitor’s product offerings, how would you know what data to go after? Where do you get started, what do you extract, and how does gaining that information help you achieve your goal?
Effective web scraping requires identifying and analyzing web elements to request relevant data from a web scraping tool or feed it to your web scraper/parser.
In line with the above example of scraping a competitor site’s product titles and descriptions, we need to identify the heading and meta-description elements. After identifying and extracting this information, we can analyze them for competitive research.
What are Some of the Best Web Scraping Practices?
Follow a Website’s Robots.txt
Websites have a Robots.txt, a text file that gives instructions on scraping a website’s data. Web administrators set it up, and it contains details regarding which web pages can be scraped, what crawling rates are permitted, and how often data scraping is allowed on that website.
Robots.txt is located in the root directory of a website. It is advised to check it out before you begin web scraping to avoid any legality issues with your data extraction.
Use Proxies for IP Rotation
Proxies enable you to scrape data without facing any restrictions. Websites generally record the number and type of scraping requests they receive. After reaching a certain amount of requests from a single IP address, the website will block that IP.
Using proxies allows you to rotate your IP addresses, meaning you can send multiple scraping requests and scrape several URLs.
Work at Slower Scraping Rates
Web scraping without tools can be tedious because you have to copy and paste data from multiple web pages manually. This is why data scraping by hand generally takes longer than a web scraping tool would.
Based on the speed of your scraping, websites can identify whether web scrapers are being used and block your scraping activity if any bots are detected.
Adjusting the speed and scraping patterns of your data scraping tools is recommended so that you can scrape undetected from a website’s anti-scraping technology.
Invest in CAPTCHA-Solving Services
Web developers often use CAPTCHA to block bots and prevent web scraping. Modern web scrapers often have in-built CAPTCHA-solving services that can overcome these obstacles and give you a smooth web scraping experience.
Work at Off-Peak Hours
Data scraping at off-peak hours is another way to practice effective web scraping. During peak hours, when there are more user requests to websites, it is not uncommon for servers to slow down and decrease the efficiency of data extraction.
As companies start making more data-driven decisions, they need people with web scraping skills to extract and arrange large data sets from the internet. Due to this rise in demand, web scraping is a skill worth learning.
Before you start learning web scraping, it is recommended to learn a few primary programming languages like Python and be able to identify and analyze web elements. You can then learn web scraping skills by enrolling in a course, reading books, or watching tutorials.
After going through this article, you should understand how web scraping works, why it is an essential skill in today’s world of data science, and why learning how to scrape is a great investment of your time and effort.
With this, you have all the information you need to take the first steps to learn web scraping. Good luck!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you Need to Know Coding to Learn Web Scraping?
Although programming languages like Python are primarily used for web scraping, knowing how to code isn’t necessary due to automated web scraping tools that collect and structure this data. That said, coding knowledge is undoubtedly helpful in learning web scraping.
How Much Do Web Scrapers Make?
According to ZipRecruiter, web scrapers make an average of $83,086 annually (around $40 per hour) in the U.S.
Is Web Scraping Legal?
It is legal to use web scraping tools as long as you aren’t violating the terms of service of the website you are scraping. In general, the legality of web scraping depends on the data being collected, the source of this data, and how you intend to use it.
Can websites Detect Web Scraping?
Yes, websites can detect web scraping by monitoring IP address requests, analyzing traffic patterns, and recognizing a repeated user agent. Website administrators may also use CAPTCHAs or IP blocks to prevent web scraping.