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Hackernoon logoWeb scraping: why small business should take this opportunity? by@miriam11

Web scraping: why small business should take this opportunity?

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The business world is a very cold and hard place where only the best find their way to succeed. The market — each market — has its own limits and even if it’s pretty easy to get into the market, the most difficult part comes when you have to find a way to stay in that market and grow your business when the competition is always growing.

The big business already made its way to be on top of the market and makes most of the rules on how that market works, but even the big business meets lots of obstacles in this fast-changing business environment and has to be ready for all the possible changes and challenges even before they occur.

How are they able to do that? And how can a small business keep up with those giants?

To be on the top of the game for taking a bigger slice of the market, the most important component is information. Knowledge is power and this kind of power is necessary while growing the business. You have to be aware of your competitors, the demand, public opinion, where do you stand in the market and much more.

Big businesses have various advantages, a great number of people that are working with market research, they have the finances and a lot of possibilities that most of the time are not available for a small business that works in the same market.

Also, big businesses take a chance to use all the possible opportunities to always stay on top of the market where small businesses often lack this confidence and miss their chances.

The value of business data is nothing new, but the demands on any business relying on internet marketing and data go far beyond the limited human capacity to collect that information from thousands of relevant websites, and that’s where you need some additional help — the automated web scraping technique.

What is web scraping and why should you use it?

Web scraping is the general term for the various automated methods applied for collecting information from the internet. To be effective, this is accomplished by software which simulates human web browsing, or web surfing, to collect information from websites.

Web scraping isn’t something new in today's world and all the big players in the market are using this technique so they could be always informed about everything they see relevant for their business.

Since nowadays web scraping is such a common action, there is no wonder why the market is full of various web scraping tools that are used for this process. Here is the list of several web scraping tools that are on the top of the market in these days:

  1. Scrapy;
  2. BeautifulSoup;
  3. Real-Time Crawler;
  4. Octoparse;
  5. Scrapinghub.

From the first look, web scraping might look like a tricky process but when you’re working with the professional tools it comes really easy. Web scraping tools made this process very effective because by using these tools in no time at all you are able to get all the necessary information for your business and make the analysis.

And this is where small businesses are missing they chance — they are not willing (or don’t see the importance) to invest in such tools and use it to their advantage.

So what web scraping gives to the business and why small business shouldn’t miss their opportunities using such technique?

Businesses extract information from a website for a number of reasons, two of the most common being to grow the business by establishing a sales pipeline and to discover where competitors are setting their prices.

But web scraping can add much more value to your business in a way that sometimes is forgotten. Here are some other reasons why a business needs web scraping:

  1. An online presence can be tracked. That’s also an important aspect of web scraping where business profiles and reviews on websites can be scrapped. This can be used to see the performance of the product, the user behavior, and reaction.
  2. Custom Analysis and curation. This one is basically for the new websites/ channels wherein the scraped data can be helpful for the channels in knowing the viewer behavior. This is done with the goal of providing targeted news to the audience. Thus what you watch online gives the behavioral pattern to the website so the business knows their audience and can offer what the audience actually likes.
  3. Online Reputation. When business plan its ORM strategy the scraped data helps to understand which audiences business most hope to impact and what areas of liability can most open the brand up to reputation damage. By understanding these areas of vulnerability, the business can use them to its greatest advantage.
  4. To provide better-targeted ads to customers. The scrapping not only gives numbers but also the sentiments and behavioral analytic thus the business can know the audience types and the choice of ads they would want to see.
  5. To gather public opinion. Monitor specific company pages from social networks to gather updates for what people are saying about certain companies and their products. Data collection is always useful for the product’s growth.
  6. Search engine results for SEO tracking. By scraping organic search results you can quickly find out your SEO competitors for a particular search term. You can determine the title tags and the keywords they are targeting. Thus you get an idea of which keywords are driving traffic to a website, which content categories are attracting links and user engagement, what kind of resources will it take to rank your site.
  7. Scrape leads. This is another important use for the sales-driven organization wherein lead generation is done. Sales teams are always hungry for data and with the help of the web scraping technique, you can scrape leads from many directories and then contact them to make a sales introduction. The data can be taken out in the desired format and can be used for lead generation, brand building or other purposes.
  8. To build vertical-specific search engines. Even if this is a new thing that is popular in the market but it also requires a lot of data hence web scraping is done for as much public data as possible because this volume of data is practically impossible to gather.

These are just several uses of web scraping and the list is growing every day. Here lies plenty of opportunities that can be used to grow business and that is particularly important for small and medium businesses that want to be strong and compete in the market for its own slice as equal to equal.

But when we are talking about web scraping we should keep in mind that we need not only professional tools, but also some extra services that are very important — proxy services. Proxies are very useful while working with web scraping tools since they prevent you from being detected by the website you’re scraping and also protects your own data from being stolen.

Here are several more reasons why you shouldn’t overlook the importance of proxy services while web scraping:

  1. Using a proxy allows you to scrape a website much more reliably. It also significantly reduces the chances that your spider will get banned or blocked.
  2. Using a proxy enables you to make your request from a specific geographical region or device (mobile IPs for example) which enable you to see the specific content that the website displays for that given location or device. This is extremely valuable when scraping product data from online retailers.
  3. Using a proxy pool allows you to make a higher volume of requests to a target website without being banned.
  4. Using a proxy allows you to get around blanket IP bans some websites impose.
  5. Using proxies enables you to make unlimited concurrent sessions to the same or different websites.

Because of the various uses and great demand for proxies, nowadays the market is full of providers that can offer you such services. I highly recommend looking into paid services, since it is always more reliable and can offer you more benefits. Here are my top 3 suggestions for trustworthy proxy services that work perfectly with web scraping tools:

  1. Smartproxy. Smartproxy offers you highest quality residential IP addresses of real devices in the US, EU, and 195+ other locations. You can use their entire network of 10+ million proxies and use them together with your web scraping tool. Besides, Smartproxy has 24/7 customer support which is very useful feature since you never know when some problems can occur, but by using this provider services you’ll be sure to get the help at any time. Smartproxy offers its customers several various plans so you can choose which one would meet your needs the best and try them out. Also, now with the code “SMARTPRO” all new users get 20% discount for their first purchase.
  2. GeoSurf. GeoSurf offer over 2 million clean residential IPs that are mostly used for web scraping/web crawling. They have a combination of proxy masking & residential IPs that gives them the ability to stay undetectable and has 130 geo-locations, so the pool of IPs is pretty big. They also offer their customers quick and friendly premium support from a designated customer success manager via phone, email or Skype if they require any assistance or have some problems with proxies that they bought. Besides, you’ll get detailed usage statistics for your account which will allow you to monitor and optimize your data collection process.
  3. Luminati. Luminati proxies are offered with users requirements in mind and have a country, city, ASN and mobile carrier targeting. So you can use their residential or mobile networks with static or rotating IPs based on your needs. With Luminati, you can scale up as needed and have an unlimited number of connections around the globe. Luminati offers great services for its customers but also are one of the most expensive proxy service providers in the market. On the other hand, if you want a quality of the services and reliable product you must take it into account that you’ll have to pay for it.

Each business has competition in the present world, so companies scrape their competitor information regularly to monitor the movements. In the era of big data, applications of web scraping are endless. Depending on your business, you can find a lot of areas where web data can be of great use. Web scraping is thus an art which is used to make data gathering automated and fast — you just need to invest in professional web scraping tools and proxy services and see for yourself what value it would add to your daily business life.


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