With data becoming more and more valuable nowadays, it is also an important tool, not just a commodity.
With the knowledge of how to collect and use it, the chances of becoming a more successful business rise exponentially. As we are currently in an Information Age, the usage of data to gain an advantage in the market is becoming more and more frequent.
Building Block of Business
The Internet is a gigantic database for information, but only valuable for those who know which part of it to use in their endeavors.
How can a small startup business compete with large companies that have been gathering data for years?
A method called Web Scraping can be used to quickly gather data. This is necessary to gain traction in the market and be on the path of building a successful business. Web scraping can be set to gather specific data for your needs, whether it is information on prices of your competitors’ businesses or list of items sold in your local market. The uses are endless. As long as the filter for the data can be specified, it can be gathered.
All websites contain a large quantity of code and text. What web scraping does is extract the text out from the code. It then segments it in a user-friendly manner so that there is no clutter of information, but a well-structured format that can be ready to use.
Extracting information from websites can also be done manually, but copy-pasting whole websites is quite time-consuming and a waste of resources that could be allocated elsewhere for your growing business.
When it comes to collecting big data, one might think how is this different from Cambridge Analytica and is such a method even legal ?
The answer is simple. Web Scraping uses the data already available on websites for all users beforehand. It does adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and is not considered illegal if used for legal purposes.
However, there are some ethical boundaries for this. You would not take things from your neighbor’s lawn without him knowing, even though you are friends, right?
A simple way of knowing whether you can scrape a website is by checking the Terms and Conditions page. Most websites post their stance on gathering data from their website using web scraping, which may or may not be positive.
Another possibility, for more advanced users, is to check the Robots.txt file. The file is a guideline for web scrapers to see how much of the data website holders allow or disallow to scrape.
Respect other people’s work and stay safe.
Examples of Web Scraping
Now that you know the tool to work with, you might ask Yourself a question – what should I use it on ?
Web scraping primarily depends on what type of information you want to search for. For example, a shop that specializes in selling car parts and other car accessories wants to expand its business selling car paints but lacks the information on what type of paints are available for makes and models to they specialize in. Using web scraping, you can gather information on all paints the official manufacturer provides.
Another example: HR specialists are searching for specialists for their business. Yet, they do not know what they should do to gain an advantage over competitors. Using web scraping on job listing websites can quickly guarantee you the upper hand in making the correct decision that will land the company the specialists you need and for the right price.
It all depends on the filter you want to use while searching for information. If you can specify it, it can be done.
With technology constantly changing and the world changing with it, it is important to move with it. Otherwise, you can find yourself out of step and out of business. Knowing the tools to use can give you and your businesses the boost and stability to maintain a better position in the market.
Some things worth mentioning:
- Adhere to rules and guidelines of websites you want to scrape information from
- Web scraping is a valuable addition to standard business practice
- The more data you have, the higher the chances of you making the right call in the future
According to a study by Lexis Business Insight, web scraping services will see growth in the upcoming five years due to the high demand for quality data. The means for others using data to grow their businesses is there. Ask yourself this question – why not be the first?
Each year, the methods and practices used for having a better business model change. To keep up with these changes, it doesn’t hurt to invest some time in making those changes yourself.