Smartproxy
  • Smartproxy >
  • Scraping

Everything You Need To Know About Web Scraping

Everyone’s on the web scraping train these days. Businesses seek to scale digital marketing efforts and be at the forefront of SEO. Individuals see it as a relatively easy side hustle that requires only a computer, some patience, and, obviously, brainpower.

Stick around and you’ll find out what web scraping is, why it’s essential, and how to do it right.

Everything You Need To Know About Web Scraping

So what’s web scraping, exactly? 

Data or web scraping is an automated process of gathering publicly accessible data for marketing, e-commerce, and research purposes.

Peeps scrape the web for a variety of reasons but, in the end, it’s all about using automation for business. Web scraping is attracting many favorable vibes from SMBs and freelancers who seek to make some money faster.

The whole process of scraping the web is meant for people who like to work smart, not hard.

Scraper

How does web scraping work?

  1. It all starts with a script for your project. No matter which tool or scraper you wish to employ. 
  2. Once the script is done, your scraper is ready to scan your target website and select the relevant information. In this case, selecting equals collecting data. 
  3. When all the needed data has been collected, the scraper will parse it and then export it in one of your chosen formats (e.g. JSON, CSV, or XLSX).
Scanning the script

Three things to keep in mind before scraping the web

No 1 – Use rotating residential proxies

Proxies are just as important as a scraper. We recommend scraping with rotating residential proxies because each residential IP is a real mobile or desktop device that pinpoints a certain physical location. 

To any website, traffic from residential proxies looks like a request from an ordinary person residing in any corner of the globe. This way, you can avoid IP bans and flagging, solve CAPTCHAs, etc.

Use rotating residential proxies for web scraping

No 2 – Mind your browser fingerprinting

While proxies do wonders for hiding your IP address, they can’t mask browser fingerprinting. It’s a technique that identifies internet users by gathering information about their devices and operating system. This includes the type of your browser and device, language settings, screen resolution, and the like.

Although you can’t really stop browser fingerprinting, you can spoof your browser attributes, thus elevating privacy. (Note that an anti-detect browser can also give you unique fingerprints but, surely, you won’t be able to scrape the web with such a browser.)

Last but not least, try blocking Flash and/or Javascript.

Mind your browser fingerprinting when scraping the web

No 3 – Respect the site policy

There are many different tools and softwares for web scraping. No matter how advanced your coding skills are (or even if they’re non-existent), there’s a tool for you. And if you’d rather avoid the hassle, you can hire a data broker to do the job for you (yep, it’s a real career).

In essence, web scraping is just the collection of public data. What happens with that data later is a whole different story, and it’s not all sunshines and rainbows. Some collect data for wrongful purposes such as email spam. That’s how those “I’m a Nigerian prince and I want to give you money” emails end up in your inbox… 

For lawful and successful web scraping, we recommend:

  • Reading the Terms & Conditions of your target websites.
  • Referring to the robots.txt files of your targets (these tell crawlers which pages or files a crawler can or can’t request from a site).
terms and conditions

What is web scraping used for?

Review and sentiment analysis

Keep an eye on what your competitors are good and bad (!) at so that you could improve your services accordingly. Besides, it’s a great way to find out what your customers’ needs are.

Email lead generation

Old-fashioned for some, the best for others. Whichever side you take, reaching new audiences via email marketing (by sending bulk emails) is still alive. Heads up, though! Email lead generation may be perceived as either tasteful advertising or annoying spam.

Use cases of web scraping

Competitor site check

Sneak a peek at your competitors to figure out how they market their products and what seems to be working for them and what’s not.

Real-time price comparison

Web scraping will let you compare literally anything from product pricing on Amazon to flight fares on airline sites.

Make money from web scraping

Social media management

Scraping social sites will let you see what’s trending so appropriate, effective, and the best performing content could be produced. But that’s not all! For example, recruiters scrape LinkedIn to dig out more facts about potential employees.

Gathering stats

Most research companies scrape government websites and other big data sites to get statistics. Note though that we block some.gov sites.

smartproxy

SEO improvements

Web scraping comes in handy when tracking your website’s position on Google or another search engine. Scrape the web to watch your website go up in ranks or react to drops promptly.

And let us just remind you that SERP scraping also means gathering priceless info about your competitors to see the dos and don’ts of multiple players in your niche.

Friendly advice: you may wanna crawl using Screaming Frog, an SEO tool that performs site audits, looks for broken URLs and links, and helps with technical and onsite SEO.

Web scraping can help get better SEO rankings

What are the best tools for web scraping?

No one can beat a scraper that you build yourself, but there are a good few fully-built tools that can be pretty handy, too. Everything depends on your coding skills and what projects you’re working on. The best news is that there are tools for those with no coding skills at all!

No-Code Scraper

Effortless data scraping is here! Meet No-Code Scraper, our latest no-code tool with smart selectors that’ll let you identify and choose multiple fields of the same value with a single click.

  • Free 3 days trial
  • Single-click set-up
  • Task scheduling
  • Data export in JSON or CSV
  • Pre-made scraping templates
  • Scraping dynamic websites with images
  • Free Chrome extension
No-Code Scraper

SERP Scraping API

All-in-one solution for scraping major search engines and more. Smartproxy's SERP Scraping API combines a huge proxy network, a web scraper, and a parser. You'll only need to send a request, and our API will deliver you top-notch results in a comfortable format.

  • 3-day free trial
  • 40M+ proxy pool, web scraper, and data parser in one product
  • 100% success rate
  • Global location coverage (any country, any city)
  • Results in raw HTML or JSON
  • Unlimited connections and threads
  • No blocks and CAPTCHAs

Loading video...

ParseHub

ParseHub is ideal for beginners as there’s no need to code. Simply launch a project, specify which information you need to collect, and let ParseHub do the rest. You’ll be able to export the collected data in JSON or Excel.

Octoparse

It’s another powerful tool for beginners that doesn’t require any coding. Like ParseHub, Octoparse is based on the click-and-scrape method. It allows you to scrape login and fill-in forms, render JavaScript, and more. If that’s not enough, it also lets you build up to 10 web crawlers for free. Fancy, isn’t it?

Using ParseHub and Octoparse for web scraping

Scrapy

This one is for Python developers. Scrapy has been a free open-source Python library for years, and it still remains one of the most popular tools for new apps. Even if Python isn’t your cup of tea, it shouldn’t scare the bejesus out of you. There are plenty of tutorials and videos on how to get a grip on Scrapy.

Beautiful Soup

Another one for Python lovers, just a simpler one. Beautiful Soup is renowned for its user-friendly interface to parse HTML. For Python developers, Beautiful Soup is the same as Cheerio for Node.js fans.

Using Scrapy and Beautiful Soup for web scraping

Cheerio

If you have no soft spot for Python, try Cheerio. It’s perfect for Node.js developers with a get-to-the-point approach to parsing HTML. Lightning fast and super reliable; the most popular HTML library written in Node.js.

Puppeteer

It’s a great open-source tool for those who get a buzz from coding in Node.js. Its API is supported by the Google Chrome team and is quickly replacing Selenium and PhantomJS.

ScrapeBox

ScrapeBox is a powerful SEO tool that boasts over 30 free addons, numerous support videos, and 24/7 tech support.

Using Cheerio, Puppeteer, and ScrapeBox for web scraping

Frequently Asked Questions

Is web scraping legal?

Scraping publicly accessible data is legal, but don’t forget to read and follow the terms of use and robots.txt file of your target websites. Note that this information is just a recommendation and doesn’t confer legal advice, so you should always consult with a lawyer before embarking on a scraping journey.

How is web scraping used in business?

The sky’s the limit here. Web scraping will prove handy in analyzing reviews, generating email leads, checking competitor sites, comparing prices across different providers, managing social media, gathering statistics, and improving SEO rankings.

What’s the best web scraping tool?

There are many different tools out there. Which one to choose depends on how advanced your coding skills are and what projects you’re working on. If you can’t code, go with No-Code Scraper, ParseHub, or Octoparse. If you prefer Python, try Scrapy or Beautiful Soup. And if you’re more of a Node.js kinda person, try Cheerio or Puppeteer.

Does Smartproxy have any tools for web scraping?

Yes, we do! We’ve developed No-Code Scraper, a no-code tool with smart selectors that’ll let you identify and choose multiple fields of the same value with a single click. No-Code Scraper allows you to use pre-made scraping templates, extracts data from any website, including dynamic ones, scrapes images, exports data in JSON or CSV, and conveniently schedules data delivery. Last but not least, No-Code Scraper comes with a free 3-day trial and also has a free version called No-Code Scraper extension. You can get it on the Chrome store!

In addition to No-Code Scraper, we have a tutorial for a Python scraper or a library for Scrapy to help with Smartproxy residential proxy authentication.

Should I use proxies for web scraping?

Not should, but you must! Proxies are as important as a scraper. We recommend rotating residential proxies because each residential IP is a real mobile or desktop device. So, to any website, traffic from residential proxies looks like a request from an ordinary person. That’s why a constant supply of IP addresses that belong to real devices is a must.

What are some interesting web scraping projects?

Scraping the web is truly creative so let your imagination run riot. For example, how about creating something useful for your community or friends? Let’s say your friends are looking for a new flat. You could make a scraper that tracks the prices of flats in a specific location and gives alerts when prices drop or a new offer appears. This way, your friends will get the best offers first.

For more web scraping project ideas for fun and profit, check out this blog post