Web scraping has become a popular way for companies and individuals to acquire structured data from the internet. Scrapable data sets include product information, text, images, customer reviews, and pricing comparisons. Because companies scrape data to remain competitive in their industry, a strong data extraction tool has become a necessary part of doing business and customer retention.
This article will explain:
- What is website scraping?
- Why is scraping web data so important?
- Factors to consider when choosing web scraping tools
- Top web scraping tools
What is website scraping?
Web scraping is simply automating the collection of structured data sets from the internet. Web scraping may also be known as web data extraction or data extraction. Companies utilize web scraping techniques as a way to keep an eye on the competition in important business brackets like:
- Market research
- Lead generation
- Price intelligence and price monitoring
- News monitoring
However, it’s crucial to note that web scraping only applies to the legal acquisition of public information freely available on the internet. It doesn’t encompass the selling of private information by individuals or businesses. Companies that choose to employ web scraping as a business tool generally do so to inform their own decisions. Web scraping retrieves large amounts of data in one go that would take untold hours and days if attempted manually.
Why is scraping web data so important?
Companies and individuals may need to extract data via automation for several reasons. The following represent just a few major reasons it’s become crucial to scrape websites to stay competitive:
- Time: The time saved by acquiring such vast data sets provided by web scraping allows any business to increase productivity, as that time can then be used for other tasks. Data collection and parsing in this way then shortens the learning curve companies face with regard to aligning themselves with market trends.
- Price wars: Web data extraction gives any business real-time access to competitor pricing. Companies involved in e-commerce can then update their social media sites to reflect coupons or discounts that keep their customers engaged.
- Trend tracking: Whether launching a startup or solidifying an established business, knowing what customers want and are already buying is critical. Scraping data allows companies to track trends and stay ahead of the game regarding customer preferences.
- Artificial intelligence: The world of AI is ever-expanding and changing rapidly. Being able to extract data for machine learning will continue to be a major part of any successful company.
- Accuracy: Using web scraping software allows for a much higher degree of accuracy in collecting usable information than would be possible if the same search was conducted via human personnel. With that heightened accuracy comes the ability to tailor company webpages, social media, and products to greater customer satisfaction and overall market success.
Factors to consider when choosing web scraping tools
Data scraping tools come in a wide variety of styles and with differing strengths. For example, while programs like Scrapy focus on the collaborative element, Import.io centers on data at scale. The best web scraping tools are those that serve an individual user’s distinct data extraction needs in an interactive and user-friendly manner.
But before you choose which extraction tool is best for your business, there are a few key factors to consider first.
Easy to use
While most extraction tools feature tutorials for easy usage, not everyone desires the same scraping tasks or even uses the same web browser. Some users may want a scraping tool that pairs well with Windows, while others may prefer a web crawler designed to work in tandem with Mac OS. The user interface for any given web crawler needs to be one that the user feels comfortable and confident to engage in without spending a great deal of time learning the program.
Transparency in pricing
Many users want to choose a web scraping service based on affordability. Some programs even offer free plans with limited functionality. Paid plans typically come with more ability to monitor and control the data extraction itself. Also, paid plans generally allow for a much deeper level of data extraction, at a larger volume, than free web scrapers. Many web scraping tools come with free trial periods in which users can find out firsthand if the tool works for the use cases they have in mind.
Data formats supported
Most web crawling makes use of one of a few popular kinds of data formats. The most common of these data formats is a comma-separated values (CSV). As this value is commonly recognized among frequent users of Microsoft Excel, the best web scraping tools for your business should be able to manage CSV files.
Performance and speed
A good web scraping tool should be able to set up an application programming interface (API) with any website and across as many proxies as possible. Ideally, your extractor should come as a browser extension and be able to facilitate rotating proxies. Likewise, choosing an open-source web crawler allows for customizable scraping tasks and greater flexibility.
No matter what kind of web scraping tool you choose, it’s always a good idea to choose one with strong customer service support. Many of the best web scraping tools come with 24/7 customer service included in the standard pricing.
Top web scraping tools
With so many web scraper tools on the market, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Every web crawler tool is different, as is every user and use case idea. The following list explores 10 of the best web scraping tools your business can use.
1. Bright Data (Luminati Networks)
With its customizable dashboard and the capability to structure data sets of any size, Bright Data provides fully compliant and risk-free access to robust data. Bright Data web scrapers are geared toward any type of customer or use case and come with the following features:
- Proxy API
- Browser extension
- Data unblocker
- Search engine crawler
- Poxy management (no code and open source)
Bright Data plans vary in cost by the selected solution—such as Proxy Infrastructure or Data Collector—but most plans can be tailored with sub-features.
Designed to lend easy web scraping to developers and non-developers alike, Scrapingdog offers HTML data from any website in a single API call. Handling browsers, proxies, and CAPTCHAs with ease, Scrapingdog also comes with the bonus of a LinkedIn API. Other important features native to the Scrapingdog web tool include:
- Headless Chrome
- IP rotation
Scrapingdog plans range from $20 per month for the Lite service to $200 per month for the Pro plan. However, custom plans are available by contacting Scrapingdog.
Aimed primarily at agencies and developers, AvesAPI provides a highly focused extraction of structured data from Google Search. Because it works via a distributed system with the capability to easily extract millions of keywords, AvesAPI is best suited for SEO purposes. Marketing professionals may likewise get a lot out of this tool.
AvesAPI users can enjoy the following features:
- Geo-targeted results
- Parsed shopping product data
- Top 100 results from anywhere
Offering a free trial service, AvesAPI paid plans start at $50 for 25,000 searches and go all the way to $3,500 for 1 million searches.
Arriving in a convenient downloadable app format, ParseHub is not just popular but also free. Allowing for the acquisition of both JSON and CSV files, it’s also one of the more versatile web scrapers on the market today. ParseHub users can access data that lives behind a login and even scrape from maps and tables. It’s targeted at practically anyone who wants to mess around with data.
Here are a few other features that come with choosing ParseHub:
- Infinite scroll
- REST API
- Ability to schedule data collection
- Automatic cloud-based storage
- IP rotation and regular expressions
ParseHub’s free plan is good for up to five public projects lasting 40 minutes and covering 200 pages of data. Many of ParseHub’s best features, however, are not available in its free plan. Paid plans for ParseHub start at $149 per month.
Complete with a handy “Analyze API” feature that allows for automatically identifying pages, Diffbot comes with a fully hosted software as a service (SaaS) and visual processing for non-English web scraping. Diffbot is also known for providing clean text and HTML and highly selective structured searches. Additional benefits of the Diffbot web scraping tool include:
- Customized crawling controls
- APIs for images, videos, discussions, products, and articles
- CSV or JSON data formatting
With Diffbot’s 14-day free trial, potential users can get a feel for the program before committing to a paid plan. Priced plans begin at $299 per month and can effectively serve developers and tech companies that need intensive web scraping capabilities.
For the non-developers out there looking for an easy, usable web scraping tool that requires no code, Octoparse might fit the bill. In addition to desirable features like IP rotation and cloud storage services, Octoparse users can enjoy:
- Scheduled scraping any time
- Infinite scrolling
- Data results offered in Excel, API, or CSV formats
Octoparse offers a free plan that comes with limited capability. Priced plans begin at $75 per month.
Other helpful ScrapingBee features include:
- Growth hacking
- Search engine results pages (SERPs) scraping
- Proxy rotation
With paid plans starting at just $49 per month, ScrapingBee is one of the more affordable web scraping tools on the market today.
Scrape.do stands out from many competitors because this scalable web scraping tool doesn’t charge additional fees for difficult-to-scrape sites like Google, making it great for just about anyone. Scrape.do also boasts a gateway speed that is approximately four times faster than its nearest competitor and is able to collect anonymous data from sites like Instagram in three seconds or less. Other highlights of the Scrape.do tool include:
- Geotargeting for multiple countries
- Customers are only charged for successful extractions
- No limits on bandwidth with any plan
Scrape.do plans can be obtained for as little as $29 per month, and the pro plan is $99 per month for 1.25 million successful API calls.
9. Scraper API
Here are a few more of Scraper API’s attractions:
- High reliability and fast speeds
- Manages CAPTCHAs, proxies, and browsers
- Geolocated proxy rotation
Offering 5,000 free API calls as a free trial for services, Scraper API then provides plans starting as low as $29 per month for ten concurrent threads and 250,000 API calls.
- Can be integrated in five minutes
- Handles concurrent API requests and CAPTCHA solving
- Close to 100% uptime rate
Scrapestack users can get 100 requests per month absolutely free. For higher-traffic needs, a basic plan is $19.99 per month for 200,000 requests.
Which one should you use?
Choosing the extraction tool that works best for your needs is a matter of assessing your skill level with programs like Python, as well as the type of scraping tasks you have at hand.
Web developers, programmers, and data scientists may require a more robust tool than a small business looking to keep a competitive edge. If you’re looking to hire web scrapers, look no further than the global pool of talent available on Upwork. Upwork also allows job seekers to find web scraping jobs with ease and reliability.