To gain a competitive edge with your business, you sometimes have to dig a bit deeper in the tech world. There are lots of ways to boost your performance and obtain a deeper insight into your market, but some of them require strong technological aptitude. Scraping data is a good example of that. Some entrepreneurs consider it something too heavily technical and never bother to explore it in detail. This is a huge mistake because not only can scraping be hugely beneficial to your business intelligence, it’s actually not that hard to do when you know what is required. In this article, you’ll learn how to scrape data like a modern business owner.
Resources You’ll Need
You don’t need much to get started with scraping data. Essentially, the process involves writing a small bot/script that will visit specific pages, collect data from them, parse that data, and pick out the pieces you’re interested in. You can build on this idea and make it more advanced in various ways, for example, by giving the bot the ability to discover pages to scrape on its own (as opposed to going through a predefined list).
If you want to make money with web scraping and aren’t just doing it for fun, you’ll also need a proxy from a reliable provider, like Smartproxy. While you may be able to obtain good data with just your own IP address(es) in the beginning, you’re going to need to rely on proxies sooner or later. This is especially true if you’re interested in geographically restricted data.
A proxy service can provide you with a large number of IP addresses to pick from, giving you full freedom to extract as much data as you need without having to worry about regional restrictions or rate limitations. There are millions of IP addresses in residential proxy networks, so although your speeds might be slower, the data gathering potential is huge.
Scraping Is Almost Inevitable at Some Point
Some people may raise an eyebrow at the suggestion to scrape data, but the truth is that it’s a normal part of the business at this point. You’re practically expected to be scraping the sites of your competitors and other services if you want to see the full picture at all times. And if you keep your activities within reasonable bounds (more on that below), it’s not dishonest or anything like that. Think of it as running a restaurant and visiting a competitor’s place to read their menu from start to finish. Not only is there nothing unethical about that but it’s actually expected if you want to have a chance at competing in the same market.
Be Respectful at All Times to Scrape Data Like a Modern Business Owner
Make sure that your scraping never interferes with normal operations though. Yes, it can be a time-consuming process. But that doesn’t make it okay to attack a competitor’s site with hundreds of simultaneous connections to speed things up. Not only is that a breach of ethics but it can actually land you in legal trouble, depending on where you’re located and how severely your actions impact the site’s operations. Make sure to respect settings like robots.txt, and if you accidentally come across data that you obviously shouldn’t be seeing, it’s never okay to use it.
How to Ensure Your Scraping Operations Are Easy to Scale Up
The more you get into scraping, the more you’ll want to do it. You’ll start seeing attractive opportunities for extracting valuable data everywhere. But at some point, running a single bot from your own computer is not going to do the job. You’re going to want to scale up. And to do that as smoothly as possible, you’ll need the right underlying setup. Try to code your bot to be as modular as possible. That way, you can eventually deploy multiple versions of it, each tasked with a specific set of data.
Look into a professional hosting solution as early as possible too. The bandwidth generated by scraping will barely be noticeable at first. But if you continue to scale up and add more bots, you’re going to bottleneck your internet connection eventually. Plus, a residential internet connection is usually not enough to keep up with the growing demands of typical scraping operations. Because of this, you should explore your hosting options and know which companies you can turn to when the time comes.
Keep Your Tools to Yourself to Scrape Data Like a Modern Business Owner
The scraping market is very competitive. There are some pre-made solutions out there that work out of the box. But in the end, your potential is when using them. Ideally, you’re going to want to code your own scraping system from scratch. And you’re going to notice that there aren’t many examples of that, beyond basic tutorials that show a simple setup.
You should take the hint and avoid sharing too much about what you’re doing.
It is a shame because scraping can be a very interesting field from a programmer’s perspective, and you might produce code that you’re proud of. However, sharing is a bad idea because it just gives your competitors an advantage over what you’re doing. Try to restrain yourself and remember that your main goal is to profit.
Watch Out for New Developments
There is a lot of information to be from online discussion boards. If you’re in digging deeper into the topic. You may not find other scrapers’ systems publicly. But you can still learn a lot about the trade by following discussions. “Help needed” topics can be especially useful for solving some of your own problems. And these forums can provide you with an invaluable source of information. About new developments in the field, allowing you to stay up to date on what other scrapers are doing. Definitely keep an eye on a bunch of those places and subscribe to them when it’s an option.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t work out the way you expect it to right from the start. Scraping is a skill like any other, and it’s going to take some time to learn to do it properly. Even if you consider yourself a good programmer. It can be a humbling experience when you face some of the classic problems in the field. It’s going to be a huge eye-opener about many aspects of modern tech though. So if you’re the curious kind, you have a great journey ahead of you.