web data scraping Archives | Outsource Bigdata Blog

10 Best Practices for Implementing Automated Web Data Mining using BOTS

A famous manufacturer of household products, working with a number of retailers across the globe, wanted to  capture product reviews from retail websites. The objective was to understand consumer satisfaction levels and identify retailers violating the MAP (Minimum Advertised Policy) policy. The manufacturer partnered with a web scraping and distributed server technology expert to get an accurate, comprehensive and real-time overview of their requirements. It took them no time to get complete control over the retailers and pre-empt competitors with a continuous sneak peek into their activities. This example underscores the importance of web scraping as a strategic business planning tool.

 

Web scraping is the process of extracting unique, rich, proprietary and time sensitive data from websites for meeting specific business objectives such as data mining, price change monitoring contact scrapping, product review scrapping and so on. The data to be extracted is primarily contained in a PDF or a table format which renders it unavailable for reuse. While there are many ways to accomplish web data scraping, most of them are manual, and so, tedious and time-consuming. However, in the age of automation, automated web data mining has replaced the obsolete methods of data extraction and transformed it into a time saving and effortless process.

How is Web Data Scraping Done

 

Web data scraping is done either by using a software or writing codes. The software used to scrap can be locally installed in the targeted computer  or run in Cloud. Yet another technique is hiring a developer to build highly customized data extraction software to execute specific requirements. The most common technologies used for scraping are Wget, cURL, HTTrack, Selenium, Scrapy, PhantomJS and Node.js.

Best Practice for Web Data Mining

 

1) Begin With Website Analysis and Background Check

 

To start with, it is very important to develop an understanding about the structure and scale of the target website. Extensive background check helps check robot.txt and minimize the chance of getting detected and blocked; examine the sitemap for well-defined and detailed crawling; estimate the size of the website to understand the effort and time required; identify the technology used to build the website for seamless crawling and more. 

 

2) Treat Robot.txt -Terms and Conditions

 

The robots.txt file is a valuable resource that helps the web crawler eliminate the chances of being spotted, as well as uncover the structure of a website. It’s important to understand and follow the protocol of robot.txt files to avoid legal ramifications. Complying with access rules, visit times, crawl rate limiting, request rate helps to adhere to the best crawling practices and carry out ethical scrapping. Web scraping bots studiously read and follow all the terms and conditions.

 

3) Use Rotating IPs and Minimize the Loads

 

More number of requests from a single IP address, alerts a site and induces it to block the IP address. To escape this possibility, it’s important to create a pool of IP addresses and route requests randomly through the pool of IP addresses. As requests on the target website come through different IPs, the load of requests from a single IP gets minimized, thereby minimizing the chances of being spotted and blacklisted. With automated data mining, however, this problem stands completely eliminated.

 

4) Set Right Frequency to Hit Servers

 

In a bid to fetch data as fast as possible most web scraping activities send more number of requests to the host server than normal. This triggers suspicion about unhuman-like activity leading to being blocked. Sometimes it even leads to server overloads causing the server to fail. This can be avoided by having random time delay between requests and limit page access requests to 1-2 pages every time.

 

5) Use Dynamic Crawling Pattern

 

Web data scraping activities usually follow a pattern. The anti-crawling mechanisms of sites can detect such patterns without much effort because the patterns keep repeating at a particular speed. Changing the regular design of extracting information helps to escape a crawler from being detected by the site. Therefore, having a dynamic web data crawling pattern for extracting information makes the site’s anti-crawling mechanism believe that the activity is being performed by humans. Automated web data scraping ensures patterns are repeatedly changed.

 

6) Avoid Web Scraping During Peak Hours

 

Scheduling web crawling during off-peak hours is always a good practice. It ensures data collection without overwhelming the website’s server and triggering any suspicion. Besides, off-peak scrapping also helps to improve the speed of data extraction. Even though waiting for off-peak hours slows down the overall data collection process, it’s a practice worth implementing.

 

7) Leverage Right Tools Libraries and Framework

 

There are many types of web scraping tools. But it’s important to pick the right software, based upon technical ability and specific use case. For instance, web scraping browser extensions have less advanced features compared to open-source programming technologies. Likewise smaller web data scraping tools can be run effectively from within a browser, whereas large suites of web scraping tools are more effective and economical as standalone programs.

 

8) Treat Canonical URLs

 

Sometimes, a single website can have multiple URLs with the same data. Scraping data from these websites leads to collection of duplicate data from duplicate URLs. This leads to a waste of time and efforts. The duplicate URL, however, will have a canonical URL mentioned. The canonical URL points the web crawler to the original URL. Giving due importance to canonical URLs during the scrapping process ensures there is no scraping of duplicate contents. 

 

9) Set a Monitoring Mechanism

 

An important aspect of web scraping bots is to find the right and most reliable websites to crawl. The right kind of monitoring mechanism helps to identify the most reliable website. A robust monitoring mechanism helps to identify sites with too many broken links, spot sites with fast changing coding practices and discover sites with fresh and top-quality data.

 

10) Respect the Law

 

Web scraping should be carried out in ethical ways. It’s never right to misrepresent the purpose of scrapping. Likewise it’s wrong to use deceptive methods to gain access. Always request data at a reasonable rate and seek data that is absolutely needed. Similarly, never reproduce copyrighted web content and instead strive to create new value from it. Yet another important requirement is to respond in a timely fashion to any targeted websites outreach and work amicably towards a resolution.

 

Conclusion

 

While the scope of web data scraping is immense for any business, it needs to be borne in mind that data scraping is an expert activity and has to be done mindfully. The above mentioned practices will ensure the right game plan to scrap irrespective of the scale and challenges involved.

 

 
WEB SCRAPING FOR SMALL BUSINESS

Web Scraping for Small Business

10 Reasons Why Small Businesses Explore Automated Web Data Scraping

In a competitive business world big businesses always find the going a lot easier than small businesses. Being on top they determine and set the rules of the market. Besides, they have various other advantages at their command such as huge finances for adopting evolving technologies, a great number of people working with market research, and endless possibilities to innovate. Small businesses have to compete with large businesses without any of these which is why surviving in the market becomes an endless struggle for them. 

However, there is one lever which small businesses can always use to their advantage – the lever of information. In a fiercely competitive landscape the power of insider information is unbeatable. Knowing what the high and mighty are up to and how they are planning their next moves can give the right direction to  your strategy. As small businesses pre-empt the moves of big businesses and realign their strategy accordingly they stand a chance of seizing the early bird advantage. The process of gathering this insider information is called web scraping.

 

What is Web Data Scraping?

Web scraping is the general term for  automated web mining carried out to scoop information from competitors. It is done with the help of a software which simulates human web browsing to collect information from webs without letting them know the intent. Web scraping for small businesses can keep them informed in real time about everything relevant to their business. The two most competitive information they can procure are establishing a sales pipeline and finding how competitors are setting their prices. There are hosts of other benefits as well.

 

Digitization & Robotic Process Automation

Digitization entails integrating underlying processes in order to transform the workflow of an organization. And it’s here that automation is key. Automation helps to make fundamental changes to how the organizations process flows thus making it more streamlined and efficient. It eliminates redundancies and helps businesses build on their full potential. 

 

How Small business can Explore and Benefit from Web Data Scraping

1) Monitor competitors

Web scraping BOTs helps a business understand what the competition is doing very right and what it is doing wrong. This insight can help them alter service or sales strategies and better combat potential losses. For instance if a streaming platform finds there are few takers for its funny videos, it can scrap competitor sites on funny video titles  with over 1 million views to understand what kind of titles are working well. Likewise, businesses can scrape for particular keywords to understand why and when people are using that keyword.

2) Sales leads

Gathering the right leads is a painstaking as well as a time taking job. By the time a small business has a list ready the opportunity might get lost or the scenario might change. As time matters more than anything else in a competitive set up, getting the right information in the shortest possible time is critical to steal a lead. Web scraping ensures you have the right leads before you are ready with your strategy. For instance, let’s take the example of email address gathering. Having them on a platter can give small businesses a head start.  

3) Price optimization

If you are a small ecommerce business it’s imperative you stay on top and set competitive prices against your competition. For example, if you raise prices in September to match your competitors, and see a fall in sales in October, it must be because they have lowered their cost. But how do you know? Is it possible to manually analyze 250 competitors? However you can gather all this information almost in no time by scraping their sites. An automated web scraper helps you get the information real time and strategize accordingly.

4) Product Portfolio Optimization

Automated web data scraping helps you optimize your products and brace for competition. Manufacturers like Tesla, Rolls Royce, and Aerospace are using this technique to collect data on various parameters and identify features that will help them improve on their process or revamp it to their advantage. for instance, teams in the semiconductor industry can get advanced information about how adding a certain type of material in IC chips can be a game changer and even the performance of the chip when simulated for different real-world scenarios.

5) Smarter investment decisions

Goldman Sachs Asset Management team scrapped information from Alexa.com to know that there was a sudden and significant increase in visits to the HomeDepot.com website. The asset manager was quick to procure the stock before the company increased its outlook and reap the benefits when its stock appreciated. Like Goldman Sachs, small hedge fund businesses too can leverage web data crawling to bring to light, precise trading signals to identify profitable investment opportunities. Likewise, analysts can scrap financial statements to evaluate the health of a company and advise clients on whether or not to invest in a company.

6) Marketing automation

A web crawler makes a marketers jobs a lot easier than before. It helps marketers generate qualified leads in as good as no time and establish the right touch points at lightning speed.  Once they get this information on a platter they can take things to the next level by automating and personalizing the outreach sequence. Automated web scraping also helps marketers automate the process of content gathering; understand customer perspective of competitors through social media discussions and get valuable insights form competitor reports. 

7) Increase Customer Engagement

One of the top ways in which small businesses can engage with customers is by offering them personalized engagement. This means delivering only relevant, targeted content and offers based on the history of their engagement with different brands. Web scraping and  engagement automation lets you gather information about your customers throughout a conversation across channels, so that you can personalize the experience along the way. This way, you can wean them away from your competitors.

8) Drive Digital Initiatives

Automation helps small businesses drive digital initiatives. For instance, for a marketer, digital is all about getting rid of cold calling and making way for social selling. Your customers are already active in social media and you want to engage with them on platforms, reviews sites, forums, and communities. Automation helps you identify who your prospects are and what is keeping then dissatisfied and then make a personalized offer. Besides, it also helps you reduce expenses on marketing activities, such as billboards, direct mail and television advertisements. With automation small businesses do not have to wait for the phone to ring. They can get proactive and provide a resolution even before the call comes.

9) Cost savings

If you are a start-up financial institution, you may need to employ several staff to verify applications and carry out background checks. Automating the process helps them eliminate the expenditure incurred in maintaining the staff.  For instance, automation helps small businesses build a rule-based program to check for common errors and data inconsistencies and save on costs. Similarly having beforehand knowledge of pattern changes can provide a huge advantage to small businesses. Scraping data from a lot of websites can help them understand the change faster and in a cost saving way. 

10) Productivity

Automation helps small businesses improve productivity levels by several notches. It frees up time for the marketer, the operations team, and the service team, and provides them with all the time needed to focus on core business activities or strategize better. For instance, Freedom Mortgage, a leading mortgage lender automated its loan origination process to validate borrowers within a few seconds. This equipped them with the capability of analysing several thousand applications in a day and cut down on loan closing pipelines. 

Conclusion

Web data crawling can be an invaluable asset for small businesses  only if they know how to leverage it to the hilt. Given that data scraping is both an art and science that requires expert programming skills, innovative methodologies, adequate mathematical expertise and scientific ingenuity, small businesses need to choose a proven expert to get the most out of this advanced data mining technique. 

7 Tips to choose the right Web Data Scraping Service Provider?

Outsource partners are experts in leveraging their collective experience to help overcome difficult and complex web data scraping requirements. As outsourcing service providers frequently work with many companies on a variety of projects with various levels of complexity, these data partners can quickly build critical skills and expertise to any web scraping requirement.
(more…)