Web Scraping For Beginners (Tips To Help You Get Started)

Website scraping is easy, right? You just jump in, grab some data, and then go about your day. It’s not quite as simple as that. Websites have a ton of data, and it is easy to get overwhelmed while scraping. Sites also have complex security systems in place, and that can make scraping difficult. Follow some tips on web scraping for beginners to ensure you are successful when scraping a website. These tips will transform you from a novice to a pro so you will be ready to scrape with the best of them.

Table of Contents

Web Scraping Tips – Gather Your Tools

guide to web scraping

Unless you are a web developer, you need to get the right tools for website scraping. Start with an online web scraper. This tool will go out and scrape the data from the site for you. There are a ton of tools out there, including the Google Chrome Web Scraper extension and FMiner both of which may allow you to scrape simple sites (unlike scraping Craigslist which is better left to pro equipment). Do your homework and choose the scraper that works best for your needs. You will need to decide if you’re going to use a hosted scraping solution or a desktop app for your website scraping needs.

Desktop apps

If you choose to get a desktop application, you will need to download and install it. Then, it will run from your PC or laptop. You will be responsible for updating it to make sure that you have the latest and greatest technology at your disposal.

Hosted solutions

While desktop tools get the job done, most people prefer a hosted solution. Hosted, or online, scrapers offer some advantages that you can’t get with a desktop app. These advantages are worth considering before you spring for a scraper. First, of course, a hosted solution runs on a third-party server. These cloud servers are typically faster than what you can get with your own computer, making it a good choice if you want to move through the job faster. You don’t have to worry about lag time and other issues bringing your scraping job to a halt. It’s also much easier to scale a hosted solution. When you buy a desktop app, you are stuck with what you get. If you want to scale up, you will have to buy a new app. On the other hand, you can scale up with a hosted solution at any time. You might start out just wanting to scrape a few hundred pages and then decide you want to scrape millions. When you choose a hosted solution, you can easily get more resources to do just that. You will have to pay more, but you won’t have to start from the beginning and get an entirely new app. You can log in from anywhere, allowing you to run the app on different systems. This is much easier than buying a piece of software for every system that you want to use. That can get really expensive, and you want to avoid it if you can.

Don’t forget a proxy

Now you know about the web scraper, but that is only one of the tools you need. You also need to get a proxy. This is where a lot of people go wrong. They take the time to pick out a tool and then they run it without a proxy. That means they will do all of the scraping with a single URL. This stands out to the websites and is a surefire way to end up getting blocked. When you use a proxy, you won’t just mask your identity. You can also get thousands of URLs. That will make it very difficult for websites to detect you when you’re scraping for data. After you get your tools, you’ll be ready to follow the rest of the tips.

Web Scraping Tricks – Take It Slow

beginner web scraping projects

It’s normal to want to finish a job as quickly as possible, and powerful tools and proxies let you flood websites with parallel requests. That might be fine if you’re scraping a small website, but if you plan to scrape a big site, you need to take it slow. Big websites use various algorithms that detect scraping on the site. Basically, the algorithms detect parallel requests. If you make a lot, the site will shut you down. The site will think you are engaging in a Denial of Service Attack, and all your IP addresses will get blacklisted right away. This is true if you’re using proxies. You will have to switch out your proxies if this happens. Here’s the thing, though. There isn’t a set number of parallel requests that you make. Each site uses a different algorithm, so you must play with your scraping tools. If your IP addresses are banned, slow it down until you can run it without any issues. That is when you will know you’re at the sweet spot.

Keep a Record of Your Beginner Web Scraping Projects

Web scrapers do a great job of scraping data, but they do crash from time to time. If your scraper makes it through 90 percent of the sites you want to scrape and then crashes, you don’t want to start from the beginning. You want to scrape the remaining sites and analyze the data. Store all of the URLs you have scraped just in case the scraper crashes. That way, you won’t waste a bunch of resources scraping for data you already have.

Web Scraping Tips

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You might run into some blockers when scraping with proxies. Here are some tips to help.

Captchas

There is a very good chance that you will bump up against a CAPTCHA or two while scraping websites, and this is very frustrating. It’s important to understand that most scraping programs aren’t integrated with CAPTCHA breakers when you buy them. However, some do offer a CAPTCHA solving solution. You have to decide if you want to pay more to solve the CAPTCHAs or just avoid getting data from sites that have a CAPTCHA. If important data is protected by a CAPTCHA, it is a good idea to get a CAPTCHA breaker. If not, you don’t really need the CAPTCHA breaker.

Pagination

Some websites display everything on a single page, while others make users click to load more data (called pagination). If you fail to think of this when you’re setting up your scraper, you could end up with only half of the data you want. Most scrapers let you handle this issue in the settings. You will need to go into the settings and make sure that the scraper is enabled. Otherwise, you will be out of luck when you get your results. That is very frustrating, and you don’t want it to happen to you.

Guide to Web Scraping – Take the Public Data and Prices You Need

beginner web scraping projects

A lot of marketers are data hoarders. When they start the web scraping process, they want to take everything they can. This will take up a ton of bandwidth and storage, though, not to mention time. Instead of grabbing it all, come up with a plan for exactly what you need and then go after it.

Price and other product data

Price data is a big one. Many people who run online stores scrape the web for product prices so they can come up with their own prices. This allows you to undersell the competition. For instance, if you scrape the data and find out that the lowest price on the web is $9.99, you can mark your prices at a few cents less and overtake the competition. If this is what you want to do, you just need to get the price data. You don’t need to waste your time with product descriptions or manufacturer names that you won’t use. Just go for the data so you can move through the process relatively quickly. In some cases, though, you might need more product data from websites. Some people need the price, item, quantity, description, and names of products. When that is the case, you can gather it during your scraping job. As long as you need all of that data, take it all.

Metadata

Meta information is another popular choice. You can use a scraper to pull all of the metadata from various websites. Then you will have the page title, meta description, and keywords for the websites. That way, you will have an easier time ranking your site. You can borrow some keywords that the sites use and go head to head with them. Don’t copy the metadata word for word, though, or it might get flagged as duplicate content. You can take this even further by scraping websites for keywords and search engines for pay-per-click ads. This will provide you with a better indication of what your competition is using in regards to keywords. While you might not want to just take their keywords and run with them, it will give you a jumping-off point for your own keyword research. You can use those words as root words and then build some longtail keywords around them. That will make it much easier to compete online.

Shipping rates

Shipping rates are also popular for scraping. If you are an online retailer, you are going to have a hard time staying in business if you don’t offer the right shipping rates. On one hand, if your rates are too high, people will go elsewhere. On the other hand, if they are too low, you will lose money. If you scrape the web for shipping rates, you can find the sweet spot. You will be able to offer rates that are a little lower than the competition, but not so low that you lose money. That will put you in a great position to make money. Of course, you will slow the process down quite a bit if you waste your time getting product descriptions and other data that isn’t relevant, so just go for the shipping rates.

Get the right proxy

It is difficult to get the information you are looking for if you get locked out of the websites you need. We know that proxies are needed to make sure you do not get banned from the sites you scrape. However, the quality of the proxy matters too. To have the best chance of success, you need a proxy that can keep up with the scraper. You should not settle for speeds less than 1Gbps. You also need to ensure you have the most reliable uptimes with unlimited bandwidth. Blazing SEO is here to fulfill all of those needs. We also have locations in 13 different countries, options for rotating proxies, and instant delivery. Look at our available packages now to learn more.

Final Thoughts

Now that you have a general idea of how to scrape for data, it is time to dive into the process. Web scraping for beginners is only the start. You will pick up a lot of information as you move forward with your website scraping tool. You will quickly see that the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Before long, you will be using your web scraping tool like a pro. You will have all of the data you need, and then you can use it to build your business.  

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