Large businesses scrape the web for useful data and reap great benefits from it. Web scraping is nevertheless not a preserve of large businesses alone. Neither is data mining reserved for large technology companies with powerful computing power, large budgets, and research teams.
Today any business big or small can perform web scraping and enjoy the benefits of the Big Data age as well. One of the common data scraping applications is in the retail and marketing sectors. As an illustration, many startups have turned to Amazon web scraping for priceless actionable insights into the mind of the consumer and the state of the retail market.
Amazon the world’s largest e-commerce store launched in 1995 has quickly evolved from an online bookstore to a retail empire. Over 74% of all buyers begin their search for products directly from the Amazon site, whenever they want to make a purchase.
Sales from this online store now account for over 52% of the US e-commerce market. Customers are so loyal to the e-commerce store that its prime membership numbers are now over the 100 million mark. Any savvy retailer knows that this huge ecosystem holds data that can be of great use to their business advancement strategy.
On the website, there is endless data on product categories, ratings, special deals, reviews, news, and descriptions. Such information is very useful to vendors and sellers and the beauty of it all is that all this gold is located in one convenient mine.
Retailers, therefore, perform Amazon data scraping because it is convenient and saves a lot of time, which would have been spent searching for data from disparate websites.
Challenges of web scraping
Mining for data on websites is not without its headaches. This is why most businesses use the best web scraping services to make the practice manageable and convenient. The best web scraping tools use high-quality rotational pools of residential proxy servers to avoid detection when scraping.
Going back to our Amazon web scraping illustration, the website like many others has a strict scraping policy, which is a hindrance to effective data mining. It is therefore not a straightforward process. Some of the challenges you will face include;
Complex algorithms that minimize scraping ability. Common automotive crawlers will not scrape this website effectively
Your e-commerce data mining can also be hampered by the website’s algorithms designed to block traditional API data crawlers
Websites such as Amazon have massive amounts of data and scraping them can be a very resource and time-consuming activity. If you do not have a robust web scraping service or tool to minimize the effort, time and computing resources required, then you will not enjoy the many benefits of data scraping.
Protective features such as CAPTCHA will also be a challenge to any regular web-scraping tool. CAPTCHAs are designed to distinguish between human and bot traffic, blocking unwanted web activity such as unwarranted data mining or spamming.
Is web scraping legal?
In the past, the law on scraping has been ambiguous and there are cases where a business has sued the other over the practice. Most websites simply put measures in place to control data scraping by blocking, banning or flagging IP addresses of data mining bots.
In 2019, however, an interesting case between HiQ and LinkedIn set a precedent that made data mining of public information legal. LinkedIn’s request to prevent HiQ, an analytics company from scraping its platform was denied by the US Court of Appeals in late 2019.
The historic judgment made it clear that any public information devoid of any copyright protection is fair game to web scrapers. The only limitation there seems to be with web scraped data is in the commercial utilization of the information mined.
Business can, therefore, mine public data freely but for unlimited commercial use. If you are planning to web scrape, you will nevertheless have to surmount the various hindrances placed in websites to prevent web scraping.
How to scrape data ethically
If you are scraping data legally, the one other consideration that you need to think about is the ethical basis of data scraping. Your business can, for instance, avoid data scraping activities that;
Directly harm the business that you are scraping data from
Avoid data scraping from a business that you have agreements with that prohibit the mining of each other’s data. There are cases where a simple statement on the terms and conditions pages of your business agreement can constitute an agreement that prohibits data mining.
Do not scrape data at such high speeds and consistency that you bring harm to the server hosting the website that you are scraping. Such activities will make the site unavailable to its regular users or completely slow down the loading times of its pages, making it unusable as well.
Do not use the data mined in any activity that amounts to copyright infringement. You cannot for instance use web scraped data directly on your website.
Your business can employ web scraping tools to gather data for various uses such as price comparison, SEO use, brand monitoring, social media listening to name but a few. Find the best web scraping services providers to get started.