Spending too much time going to websites and manually entering data into spreadsheets? While they may seem simple, these types of tasks eat up a great deal of time, and with manual data entry, are incredibly error prone. But with a web scraping tool, you can scrape data from a website, saving your team time and reducing errors. And with the right tool, you won’t need to write a single line of code.
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping refers to the process of using a computer program—be it a script or software—to extract data from a website. A web scraping tool can navigate to a page, find the data, and capture and save it for further use.
This process starts with a request being made to a website’s server, followed by a response which is the requested website displaying the text, links, images, and other data the tool is looking to scrape. Next the web scraping tool will parse the content on the web page which is when it finds the specific pieces of data to be extracted. Then the tool moves the data and saves it in a database, application, or file for further use.
Learn More> What is Web Scraping?
Web Scraping Examples: 10 Common Use Cases for Web Scraping
Web scraping can be utilized in so many ways to streamline data extraction tasks. Web scraping examples can be found in practically any department and across businesses of all kinds. Here are just 10 of the most common uses for web scraping tools:
Keep up with the competition by using web scraping to monitor competitor websites to better analyze pricing trends.
Conducting Market Research
Scrape review sites and social media to gather data on customer sentiment.
Easily and automatically scrape websites for relevant content from multiple sources to aggregate news articles and posts.
Collect potential lead information by scraping the email addresses and phone numbers of potential leads from their company websites.
Analyzing the Job Market
HR departments and recruiters can use web scraping tools to gather information on job postings, salaries, and skill requirements.
Checking Shipping Trackers
Track shipping information from websites like UPS, FedEx, USPS, and more by automatically inputting tracking numbers and scraping details like shipping status.
Use screen scraping to conduct website testing and monitoring by automatically visiting a website and scraping for certain elements to determine if the site is up.
Compiling Stock Market Data
Scrape financial news sites and other sources for stock market data for more informed investment decisions.
Conducting Academic Research
Scrape data from academic databases, journals, and other repositories to aid in academic research.
Compiling Publisher Information
Find and scrape specified metadata, image types, and file types from publisher websites to help determine how to best send deliverables.
4 Kinds of Web Scrapers
There are four main types of tools to scrape data from websites with different use cases. They are:
These add-ons install directly into a web browser like Google Chrome or Firefox. While browser extensions are typically easy-to-use, they have trouble handling large or complex scraping tasks and can only work with a specific browser.
Programmatic and Scripted Scraping
More code-savvy users can write scripts using languages like Python, Java, or Ruby to parse websites and scrape information. This is great for more complex tasks but requires experienced users to spend time coding and scripting. And if the employee who built the scripts retires or leaves, the code is difficult to maintain and you may need to start over from scratch.
Dedicated Web Scraping Tools
These are special software tools, often cloud-based, that are specifically dedicated for web scraping. While they are specifically designed, they lack more advanced features for data transformation and movement and can add to IT bloat as they’re tools for only one purpose. Plus, their pricing may be based on the number of pages you want to scrape per month, which may be a concern as you look to scale.
Robotic Process Automation Tools
RPA uses software bots to automate rule-based, repetitive processes like scraping websites for specified data and information. They’re user-friendly and most RPA tools come with OCR capabilities and API integration connectivity right out of the box. Plus, they go beyond scraping data, allowing you to build end-to-end automated workflows that scrape, extract, transform, and move data.
For IT teams looking to empower business users and citizen developers, an RPA tool—like Fortra’s Automate—is the best choice of these four types of web scraping tools. Automate’s user-friendly features makes it easy to get up and running fast, all without writing a single line of code. With drag-and-drop development and a screen recording tool, easily build automated website scraping tasks. Automate can scrape data from the most popular browsers like Google Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft Edge. And pricing starts at $5,000 a year with no limit to how much data you can scrape.
Plus, with 700+ native actions and an integration kit that masks the complexity of working with APIs, connect your scraped data to your most critical applications and systems. RPA allows you to not just scrape the data you need from websites, but also use it as part of extended automated workflows such as inputting the information directly where you need it to go. Choosing Automate for data scraping—and beyond—offers organizations a flexible, scalable software option.
How to Scrape Data from a Website: Web Scraping Tutorial
Watch this example to see how Automate allows you to quickly build out an automation task to scrape data from a website. Using a combination of Automate’s native actions and the Automate Recorder, build a task that reads a list of products, then goes to multiple websites to scrape data, like price and stock information, and then write that information back to an Excel file.
Ready to learn how to web scrape? Follow along to the steps below of our web scraping tutorial to set up your first automated web scraping task.
Step 1: Download a Trial of Automate.
Step 2: Begin by building the task in the Automate Task Builder. (If you need a basic primer on how to build Automate tasks, Automate Academy offers free video tutorials.)
Step 3: Drag the Excel Get Cells action into the Task Builder.
Step 4: Fill in the Action Properties field to perform the selected action, including the cells you want to read in, the dataset you’re going to store it to, and the cell references for the range of cells you want to select from.