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Web scraping, sometimes also called data scraping or just plain scraping, is the technological art of mining other company’s information in order to collect data. Business owners can also use it to gather information from social media sites and online publications.

The data that is collected can be used for nefarious purposes, but it can also be used to help your own company in a number of ways. Explained below you will find how data scraping is performed, the types of data that can be collected, some of the benefits to your own company, and how your company can ethically scrape for itself.

How it’s Done

Data scraping is done through the use of code, commonly called a scraper. It’s initially embedded and then a query is performed, and in the world of technology this is called a GET query. The code is sent out to websites that the user defines and bounced back in the form of an HTML document. The program then searches through this document for all the specified information. Once the predetermined information has been found, it is then organized and an overall document is generated in the final format that has been designated by the user.

Types of Information

All types of information can be gathered through the process of data scraping; it just all depends on what you, the user, tell the code to look for. Generally speaking, scraping can be done on any website that has not been secured with a block for scraping. The most common types of information that can be collected from a thorough data scrape include videos, audio, text, pictures, products and descriptions, and personal customer information. This information could include customer names, addresses, telephone numbers, and other types of personal information stored on the website.

Benefits of Scraping

The most beneficial way that scraping can benefit your company is lead generation. Rather than manually searching websites for key information regarding your target audience, the scraper program or bot can peruse thousands of sites all at one time and gather this information in minutes instead of spending hours upon hours doing it yourself.

Another benefit of using scraping is to understand your customers, competition, and the way customers are reacting in the market. Data scraping can help you determine things such as price adjustments, products you should offer, and products that have the most positive feedback, among other things. Web scraping just keeps you up to date in a quick way as to how your customer base is responding to the competition, and aids you in being more competitive in the market.

The last benefit of data scraping is potentially allowing you to find partners—companies selling or marketing products or services similar to your own or that pair well with your own so that you can generate more profit for one another.

Sources for Scraping

To benefit from data scraping, your company can get started in a number of different ways. If you have the benefit of a tech department, you could purchase a scraping program that does everything on its own. If your company does not have a tech department, you could buy a program and learn how to code and use it yourself. A third alternative is to outsource any scraping you plan to do. This can be done through any number of freelance scrapers that advertise their services on the internet. If you are outsourcing, however, make sure you are hiring someone who is reputable and you can depend on not to use the information collected for negative purposes.

Even though data scraping has received a bad reputation, it is not illegal or unethical as some might have you believe. It can actually be extremely beneficial to companies, especially small startups. If you want to build your business to be successful and profitable, scraping is definitely a project you will want to consider.

About the author

Kevin Faber is the CEO of Silver Summit Capital. He graduated from UC Davis with a B.A. in Business/Managerial Economics. In his free time, Kevin is usually watching basketball or kicking back and reading a good book.

Follow him on Twitter: @faber28kevin

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