Crawling and Scraping: What’s the Difference?

Data collection is not a new concept, especially to business owners and marketers. With the increase in the amount of data available, entrepreneurs can make better decisions and develop better strategies in several areas. Read here for more on data scraping.

1) Pricing

Pricing intelligence is the collection of data from competitors’ websites such as prices of the products, offers, and discounts provided. It makes it possible to set more competitive prices.

2) Customer Service

Customer satisfaction determines a business’s success. By collecting data from review websites and social media, a business owner can identify the customers’ pain points.

3) Marketing Campaigns

You can carry out a successful marketing campaign by collecting data on what customers respond to and following the current trends in advertising.

4) Product Creation

Extensive market research on customers’ needs and tastes can shed light on the best features to incorporate in your product creation. This way, you can have customer-responsive products.

5) Keyword research

SEO is necessary to keep a brand visible on search engines. It involves the use of the right keywords, which requires intensive keyword research from competitor websites and search engines.

Through the data available on the web and other sources, a business can stay ahead of the competition and make decisions that keep them competitive.

However, there is a common misconception that data scraping and crawling refer to the same thing. While the two terms mainly apply to processes used while dealing with web data and are often used interchangeably, they differ.

Crawling refers to the use of crawlers or bots to crawl web pages by following hyperlinks. Its primary purpose is to index web pages and create entries for search engines. Web crawling is the reason every time you search a term on the internet, a list of websites with the right information appears. These websites are arranged from the most relevant to the least relevant.

Scraping refers to the collection of data with a specific goal in mind and from targeted sources. For instance, you can scrape prices from e-commerce websites or customer feedback from review websites.

Difference between Crawlers and Scrapers

1) Tools Needed

Web crawling makes use of a spider bot or automatic indexer. Web scraping, on the other hand, uses a scraper to extract data and a parser to change the data format from HTML to a semi-structured or structured form.

It is possible to manually scrape data from websites using the copy and paste method or the Save As command. But web crawling is not possible manually.

2) Nature of the Process

Web crawling tends to be too generic compared to web scraping. A crawler will go through the pages of a site and use the links on these pages to discover other pages.

A scraper is more specific. It works on targeted websites and the pages within it. It may follow links on the site, but only in search of relevant information.

3) Collection of Data

Web scraping involves downloading the data collected. The scraping software extracts and stores the data locally in the computer, either in a database or spreadsheet.

A crawler does not download the data. It gets to the deepest parts of the web to discover new websites and information. It then records the links and indexes the content discovered.

4) Scope of Work

Web crawling is mostly carried out by search engines such as Bing and Yahoo. With more than 351.8 million registered domain names in the world, discovering new content and indexing it is a humongous piece of task.

Web scraping can happen on any scale. It can be as easy as extracting data from one or two websites or collecting real-time data from the targeted sites.

5) Data Cleaning

Websites often repost content on other sites. For instance, an article that appears on a business website may be reposted in an online publishing platform such as Medium. For this reason, both web crawling and web scraping are likely to result in repeated content.

However, a crawler applies filters to deduplicate the data. But in the case of web scraping, you will need to carry out data cleansing to make the information relevant and understandable.

The Interrelation between Web Scraping and Web Crawling

A web crawler is a common tool for search engines, but it does not mean that you cannot use it for your business. By crawling your site, you can discover broken links and assess if your content is discoverable by search engines. The more your website is discoverable, the more organic traffic you will draw to your site.

You can also make use of a web crawler in your business research project to discover more data. The web crawler will get into the deepest parts of the web while your scraper will download this data into your computer.

Winding up, scraping and crawling are both processes that deal with web data. But crawlers find information and organize it for better visibility to online visitors while scrapers download data from targeted websites and store it for further analysis.

But it is possible to combine both processes for more thorough market research. It will help your brand develop better business strategies and dominate the industry.

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