Why You Should Consider Scraping Content Online

By Frank Coutinho | May 07, 2018
Photo by: Pexels Web Scraping

Pulling data from a third-party website can be a long, tiring process if you do not know what you are doing. Fortunately, scraping tools can make your life much easier when it comes to scraping. Before you could rely on looking for APIs or RSS feeds, but there are many advantages scraping has over these more traditional methods. There are even scraping tools that can scrape PDF documents.  This works by converting a target PDF document into HTML which then allows the web scraper to scrape it normally. Further to the user interface improvements and PDF parsing. It also now scrapes using multiple IP addresses to appear more natural and can scrape multiple parts of a website at the same time. Scraping is not restricted to websites and online usage but also for documents, contrary to popular belief. I am sure that anyone who works with large documents daily know how challenging it can be locating and using information that is located “somewhere” in these massive and unwieldy documents.


Several web scrapers enable structured data to be extracted from page metadata, HTML elements, attributes, text contained within images, and can automatically download whole files such as images or PDF documents. However, they also allow unstructured data that is contained within text to be extracted, such as automatically identifying organisations or people's names, by using natural language processing techniques. Once the scrape is complete the data is converted into the format or formats you requested, examples range from CSV and Excel to SQL scripts. The data is then sent using one of the following technologies: Amazon S3, API callback, email notification, FTP, Dropbox and WebDav. Scraping is a lot easier than you think for the following reasons below.


1. Rate-limiting is virtually non-existent for public websites

Aside from the occasional captchas you can find on sign up pages, or pages where you must input information, most businesses generally don’t build a lot of defenses against automated access. Unless you’re making concurrent requests, you probably won’t be viewed as a DDOS attack, you’ll just show up as a super-avid visitor in the logs, in the off chance that someone’s watching your behavior.


2. Anonymous and Private Access

There are also only a few ways website administrators can track your behavior, which can be useful if you want gather data more privately. With APIs, you often must register to get a key and then send along that key with every request. But with simple HTTP requests, you are essentially anonymous besides your IP address and cookies, which can be easily spoofed.


3. The website’s appearance is more important than APIs

Site owners generally care a lot more about maintaining their public-facing visitor website than they do about their structured data feeds. In many cases, if their structured date goes offline or is formatted incorrectly, no one really notices. Whereas if the entire website goes down, that issue will get dealt with immediately.


With scraping so easy and readily available there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider using these tools. Many scrapers offer a trial period where you can test their scraper at no cost to yourself. Whether your dealing with large documents at work or at home, scraping can help you use and access the information you require much faster.

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