The internet is ‘a gold mine’ when it comes to information. Whether you need data for your business, education, or personal use, you can find all kinds of worthy data by researching sources through the web.
WebHarvy defines web scraping (also known as screen scraping, web data extraction, web harvesting, and similar) as a technique employed to extract large amounts of data from websites whereby the data is extracted and saved to a local file in your computer or to a database in table (spreadsheet) format.
Web scraping is a very powerful thing and it allows you to collect information from various websites, website pages, and web directories.
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This type of extraction data is relatively new, but because of its benefits and opportunities, more and more people and businesses are beginning to use it.
However, many myths have been created that make many people think whether or not web scraping is a good solution at all.
That is why we will uncover the biggest myths and outline the most important facts about web scraping below.
Let’s start right away.
Myth 1: Web scraping is illegal.
This is probably the most spread myth about web scraping. And it is okay if you have this type of concern because whenever you are in a position where you need to know a lot about a certain topic but you know nothing, you surely should google it and find all the important information.
There are many tutorials on web scraping that can encourage you to extract data for your needs, but you should not trust everyone. Web scraping is a great way to create valuable resources for important information for your needs, but you have to get it right to avoid bad experiences.
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If you want to scrape someone’s website, you should ask for their written permission or look for TOS (Terms of Service). If you are scraping a couple of websites, read and explore TOS of each of them.
It may look like a lot of work, but if the information you are looking for is important to you then you should get it right. Violating TOS can bring you a lot of problems and you surely do not want that to happen to you.
Using someone else’s work can be illegal. Representing that work as your own always sounds bad. Crediting the author is a necessity.
Another wrong thing to do is finding data that is not open to publicity and making it available to others.
Fact: Web scraping by itself is not an illegal method. If you use web scraping while respecting the rules, there will be no problems or any illegal issues. If you find yourself in some specific situation and you do not know what should you do, the smartest thing would be to contact your lawyer and ask for advice that would provide you with a risk-free solution.
Myth 2: Coding skills are essential for web scraping.
Many people think that they have to possess the knowledge of experienced developers to get around when it comes to the online world. However, that opinion stays in the myth group if we talk about web scraping.
There are numerous tools and software available today that can allow you to extract data from the web in a much shorter time and without any hassle. You can scrape large amounts of data using tools such as Limeproxies, for example.
Fact: You do not have to be highly skilled or to have any other level of developer knowledge to do web scraping. Find the best solution possible by taking proxies or even a company that will extract valuable data for you.
Myth 3: All data from web scraping is usable.
Although web scraping is an extremely useful method for finding important data, it must inevitably include some unnecessary data. It may contain various unwanted parts as well as duplicated information.
But, when you clean extracted data, you will get valuable information that will be enormously useful to you.
Fact: Not every piece of information you get is ‘gold’. You have to come to terms with the fact that web scraping also collects irrelevant data so you need to separate the useful from the useless every time.
Myth 4: Web scraped raw data is a waste of time.
No way! If you give up arranging the data just because you realized that you also extracted something you did not need, you will make a big mistake.
If you hear from other people who have tried using web scraping and decided that they still do not want to deal with the separation of the essential from the irrelevant, do not follow their example.
Fact: Although not all of the data is usable and of extreme importance, some of it will surely be. Allowing yourself to ignore information that can be of great help to you will only prevent your business from progressing faster than you intended.
Myth 5: Web crawling is a synonym for web scraping.
For the sake of similarity, the terms web scraping and web crawling are often mixed.
Pro Web Scraping defines web crawling as the process of locating information on the World Wide Web (WWW), indexing all the words in a document, adding them to a database, then following all hyperlinks and indexes and also adding that information to the database.
Web crawlers are the software used by the biggest sites like Google, Yahoo, and the like. When you search through some of these sites, thanks to web crawlers, they manage to find all relevant information that fits your query.
Interesting Read : How web scraping can help in Automobiles?
Web scraping is, conditionally speaking, a ‘narrower’ process because it affects only certain sites. Web Scraping is essentially targeted at specific websites for specific data, e.g. for stock market data, business leads, supplier products, etc.
The differences between web scraping and web crawling will be even easier to understand if we put them this way:
Source: Power Web Scraping
If you make a list of URL sites from which you need specific information, you will be able to do web scraping without using web crawling.
Fact: Web scraping and web crawling are not the same processes. You must know these differences whether you are doing web scraping yourself or hiring a company to do it for you.
Myth 6: Web scraping and APIs are the same things.
There is often a big misunderstanding when it comes to web scraping and APIs – in fact, they are not the same thing.
As PromptCloud explains, APIs or Application Programming Interfaces is an intermediary that allows one software to talk to another. In simple terms, you can pass a JSON to an API and in return, it will also give you a JSON.
APIs have their limitations. For example, using them will not enable you to access many of the important data that you want. Sometimes you have to send a very large number of queries before what you’re looking for comes up.
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Also, APIs do not have as many customization options when it comes to requests as web scraping which can get you all sorts of information e.g. information that is geo-restricted.
Facts: Web scraping brings many more benefits than using APIs which can often be pretty expensive. The data that APIs collect can sometimes be quite old data while what you collect with web scraping is always up-to-date.
Myth 7: You can scrape data from any website.
We don’t want to ruin your happiness by reminding you that, even though in today’s digital world it has become much easier to gain priceless information than ever before, you still have to be aware that every website or web directory is not available for web scraping.
Proxy servers such as Limeproxies or scraping services can bring you more data than you can gather on your own. So, if you do not want to miss anything, you can use them as a means to help you reach your goal.
If you find that web scraping violates the TOS of a particular website, then you better not do it. Also, if the site has many places where captcha, traps for scrapers, or any kind of defenses that serve as barriers to web scraping appear, you should take this as a warning sign.
Fact: There are numerous resources where you can do web scraping. Even from the websites that contain defense mechanisms from scrapers, it is probably possible to extract data, but that doesn’t mean that web scraping should be done at all costs as you can get into serious legal issues.
Myth 8: Web scraping is simply extracting data from HTML.
This is another myth you will often encounter. Being able to access HTML sites does not mean that you can extract all important and necessary data.
Web scraping is still a more complex process. All duplicated content and unnecessary files ready for use should be removed.
Fact: Web scraping is much more than HTML data extraction. Utilizing this method, you are ‘transforming’ all the unstructured data into structured files that contain important information for you.
Myth 9: Web scraping is an automated process.
This myth is partly true. Web scraping is an automated process when it comes to scraping and extracting data, but, as we already mentioned, you still need to separate relevant data from the data that just makes the whole process much more complicated and represents duplicated or irrelevant information. Also, potential errors that can occur during web scraping are important to remove.
Interesting Read : How can web scraping help in efficient growth hacking?
Fact: To extract relevant information that will be of use to you, the human factor plays an important role. People working at web scraping companies can do web scraping for you if you do not want to deal with it.
Myth 10: Scraped data can be used for any purpose.
Actually, no. This is absolutely a myth and it is important to know that it is not a case. Be careful with what you are using extracted data for.
Many business people use web scraping to create an advantage over the competition which is completely understandable. It can also be a part of a recommended business strategy if used properly by following the rules outlined in the first myth section at the beginning of the text.
Websites designed for public consumption have information that you can use in your analysis and that would be perfectly fine.
However, you may not share other people’s information to obtain your profit. Collecting someone else’s private information and selling it to a third party or company can be a serious crime.
Indeed, web scraping does provide many options and a database of information that can be more than useful, but do not be careless and exploit the data for the wrong purposes.
Fact: Scraped data can’t be used for any purpose you want because it is not something that is made for you especially. Taking someone’s private information without written permission is unethical and can bring you more disadvantages than benefits. Failing to name the author is also not a good idea as it can even lead to lawsuits.
Myth 11: Web scraping is only important for businesses.
Absolutely no. Web scraping is useful for many different areas. However, using web scraping for business purposes can indeed lead to the creation of significantly better business strategies.. Knowing what and how your competitors are using something can help you make plans that will take you many steps ahead of them.
One of the best practices is not to copy someone else’s practices and techniques blindly, but to try to further refine them with your ideas and then apply them to your work.
Also, using web scraping for students or educational purposes generally can be a great move. You can enrich your research with new information that you would not be able to obtain by using Google and similar search engine websites.
Fact: Web scraping is the ideal solution for finding more resources for your paper research, exam, or a presentation. You will encounter positive reactions about the effort you have made and the conclusions you have drawn with the help of these analyzes.
Myth 12: Web scrapers are completely resilient.
Although web scrapers can do a lot for you, they are not perfect tools that will be versatile and resilient at all times.
Changes and updates are constantly being made to websites and this is understandable given that the owners of those websites recognize the importance of creating the best possible experience for visitors and keeping the website from falling due to the high number of visits or third party attacks.
Formerly, web scrapers were programmed for the previous versions of the websites.
Fact: Web scrapers can sometimes fail if an obstacle they can’t overcome get in their way. So, choose reliable scraping services or proxies like Limeproxies that enable high performances. Those behind these services must constantly work to improve them and keep them up-to-date and therefore modify them.
Myth 13: Web scraping can cover the entire web.
This sounds great, but it is still one of the myths. In practice, this is almost impossible.
First of all, it would be such a huge amount of information that you would never be able to sort it out and have insight into everything that the web scrapers have gathered for you. Even if you hired several trustworthy service companies, extracting those data would completely lose its meaning.
Also, a great deal of new information is appearing on the internet at all times. More specifically, as you read this sentence, new ones have probably already appeared. As you can imagine, it would be a continuous process from which you could not possibly get the best possible outcome.
Fact: Web scrapers can collect and extract a huge amount of data which is one of their biggest strengths. It is also important to keep in mind that not all websites have the same structure, which makes it impossible to write universal codes that can be applied to any resource at any time.
Myth 14: Web scraping will help you create an amazing email campaign.
In theory, and even in practice, it may be true that you can collect email addresses and contacts to build your mailing list.
But, let’s pause for a second. First, the collection of personal information again leads one to think about legal issues as one of the items that can represent a serious breach of privacy. The fact that a person allowed a certain company to include their contact in their database does not imply that he or she allowed the same to you.
On the other hand, if you can easily access this kind of information, the question is whether that particular company has obtained such contacts legally at all.
It should also be borne in mind that sending a large number of emails can often be recognized as spam, so not only can it cause you problems regarding the correctness of this decision, but it will also waste your time and money on something that will not bring the desired results.
Also, no one can guarantee you the correctness of those email addresses or phone numbers as they may be there for a long time or they may be false information.
Fact: Web scraping can serve you much better on some other occasions rather than when you need to collect contacts. Spending your precious time on the wrong audience will not bring you success. If you want to build your business on a solid foundation, you must build your community of people who will want newsletters and messages from you because they value your content and valuable information you provide them with constantly through your website and social media channels.
Myth 15: Proxies are not the right web scraping tools.
This is wrong on so many levels. Before starting with web scraping, you should do research and find out what exactly can be done and what cannot.
Let’s see why proxies can be the perfect solution for web scraping.
1 . You can mask your IP address
Many people want to cover up their IP addresses. Not because they are doing something illegal, but for security reasons. By using proxy servers, you are hiding your IP address, which is why websites are prevented from following your requests.
On the other hand, some websites may ban you when the IP address is visible. Even though you do not violate the rules of the website, there is a certain possibility that something like that might happen.
If you do not hide the address, hackers can see your country, city, or other information that you rather want to stay private for your safety.
By using proxies, you can surf the Internet anonymously for as long as you want.
2. You can access geo-restricted or some other type of restricted content
You may have already tried to access a certain website, but, for some reason, you failed. Certain content may be blocked for some countries which prevent you from doing web scraping.
By using proxies that prevent your real IP address from being seen, you gain access to content you might not otherwise be able to access.
3. You can avoid dangerous websites
Proxies can detect which websites have malware or phishing links while keeping your security intact.
4. You can save your valuable time
Once they access a particular site, proxies store it in their memory so when you re-request access to that site, it will take much less time.
Fact: Proxies are great tools for web scraping. By using proxy servers for web scraping, you will be able to access more content than you would be able otherwise. Also, sending multiple requests from the same IP address can be another reason for blocking, and with proxies, you can successfully avoid that.
The bottom line
We should now be able to say that we resolved and unravelled all the great myths that have been created around web scraping. If you follow the tips you read in this article, web scraping should not be a problem for you.
If you are unsure about something and it seems like a bad idea, be sure to consult a scraping service or your lawyer. It is a much better and easier solution to prevent any potential problem than trying to solve it when it’s already too late.
If you need a reliable and high-quality web scraping tool to help you take full advantage of the data you can find on the web, try Limeproxies.
You can refresh your IP address at any time. Choose over 40 geo-locations and ask for 24/7 support to help you with any concerns and to answer your questions.
Information is everything in today’s world and web scraping is a great technique to get to it.
Let us know in the comments what myths kept you from getting into the whole web scraping process.