Do you really know data scraping and its tools?
Do you also have difficulties and losses in picking up a data scraping tool? Data scraping is no longer a new phrase nowadays; if you don’t know what they mean, let me do a quick intro for you. Data scraping, web scraping, or data extraction all mean using bots to extract data or content from a website into a usable format for further use. A data scraping tool is important because it helps people to obtain a large amount of information in a timely manner.
In the world we live in today, companies compete against each other with massive information collected from a multitude of users — whether it be their consumer behaviors, content shared on social media, or celebrities following. People collect information before making decisions, such as going over the reviews to decide whether to buy the stuff. Therefore, at least you should have some web scraping knowledge in order to further use or be successful.
Although we live in the generation of big data, many businesses and industries are still vulnerable in the data realm. One of the main reasons is due to the minimal understanding of data technology or their lack. Thus, it is necessary to make good use of data scraping tools. Today, data scraping tools or web scraping software is an essential key to the establishment of a data-driven business strategy. You can use Python, Selenium, and PHP to scrape the websites if you know the coding language. As a bonus, it is great if you are proficient in programming. However, don’t be anxious if you don’t know any coding language at all. Let me introduce some web scraping tools to facilitate effortless scraping.
Nowadays, there are more and more data scraping tools being created in the marketplace. Some tools like Octoparse, provide scraping templates and services which are a great bonus for companies lacking data scraping skill sets. On the other hand, some of the web scraping tools require you to have some programming skills in order to configure advanced scraping, for example, Apify. Thus, it really depends on what you want to scrape and what results you want to achieve. If you have no idea about how to get started with data scraping tools, follow me and start from the very beginning with basic steps.
3 basic steps to get started with data scraping tools
First, spend some time studying targeted websites. It doesn’t mean you have to parse the web pages. Just thoroughly glance over the web pages. At least you should know how many pages and what data on the websites you want to scrape. Do some notes and that will be good for the scraping later.
Second, pay attention to the website structure which means its HTML structure. HTML consists of a series of elements that tells the browser how to display the content. Some websites are not written in a standard manner. That being said, if the HTML structure is messed up and you still need to scrape the content, you need to modify the XPath.
If you don’t know what XPath is, check out What is XPath and how to use it in Octoparse.
Third, find an appropriate tool. After learning your targeted websites and their HTML structures, you should have some ideas about them and your data requirement. Then you can go through some data extraction software in the marketplace. Do some research, no matter if you search online, ask friends or try any other methods. Finally, consider comprehensively and make a decision based on your own situation.
If you don’t know any data extraction tools and don’t know where to start. Below are the lists of some personal experiences and thoughts in regard to scraping tools. I hope it can offer you some insights.
7 Best Data Scraping Tools
Octoparse is a free and powerful web scraper with comprehensive features, both available for Mac and Windows users. It simulates the human scraping process, as a result, the entire scraping process is super easy and smooth. It’s ok if you have no clue about programming, as they have a special auto-detection feature that auto-targets data for you.
Moreover, Octoparse has built-in web scraping templates including Amazon, Yelp, and many popular website templates for starters to use. It is really good for the beginner who has no idea in creating a crawler to scrape the data they want. All they need to do is choose a template that can help to get the target data and enter some information. And then the scraper will scrape the data for you.
Pros: Octoparse has its unique built-in task templates, which are friendly for new users to start scraping journeys. In addition, it offers free unlimited crawls, Regex tools, and Xpath to help resolve 80% of data missing problems, even in scraping dynamic pages. It also can schedule scraping and run data in the cloud which can finish the scraping and even shut down your computer.
Cons: Unfortunately, Octoparse doesn’t have a PDF-data extraction feature yet, nor directly download images (only can extract image URLs).
Check out the video to learn more about Ocotparse.
Mozenda is a cloud-based web scraping service. It includes a web console and agent builder that allows you to run your own agents, and view and organize results. It also lets you export or publish extracted data to a cloud storage provider such as Dropbox, Amazon S3, or Microsoft Azure. Agent Builder is a Windows application for building your own data project. The data extraction is processed at optimized harvesting servers in Mozenda’s data centers. As a result, this leverages the user’s local resources and protects their IP addresses from being banned.
Pros: Mozenda’s harvesting servers split list-based tasks into multiple threads for faster processing. It scrapes websites through different geographical locations which is useful for websites that serve region-specific data. APT access: control your agents and data collections without manually accessing the Web Console.
Cons: Mozenda charges by pages, it will charge by hours even for the trial plan. In addition, Mozenda requires a Windows PC to run and has instability issues when dealing with extra-large websites.
Diffbot is a data scraper and is one of the top content extractors out there. It allows you to identify pages automatically with the Analyze API feature and extract products, articles, discussions, videos, or images. Diffbot scrapes more than just text — entity matching, topic-level sentiment, and more.
Pros: It can be a structured search to see only the matching results. Visual processing that enables scraping most non-English web pages. It provides JSON or CSV format. Good for the article, product, discussion, video, and image extraction APIs, as well as Custom crawling controls.
Cons: It is a little pricey. Price plans start at $299/m, which is quite expensive and a drawback for the tool.
Import.Io is a web scraping platform that supports most operating systems. It has a user-friendly interface that is easy to master without writing code. You can click and extract any data that appears on the webpage. The data will be stored on its cloud service for days. It is a great choice for the enterprise.
Pros: Import.io is user-friendly which supports almost every system. It’s fairly easy to use with its nice clean interface, simple dashboard, and screen capture.
Cons: The free plan is no longer available. Price on application through scheduling a consultation. It might be cheap or expensive, you will know after the project evaluation.
Parsehub is a desktop application. Unlike other web crawling apps, ParseHub supports most operating systems like Windows, Mac OS X, and LINUX. Also, it has a browser extension that allows you to scrape instantly. You can scrape pop-ups, maps, comments, and images. The tutorials are well documented which is definitely a big bonus for new users.
Pros: Parsehub is more user-friendly for programmers with API access. It supports more systems compared to Octoparse. And it is also very flexible to scrape data online with different needs.
Cons: However, the free plan is painfully limited in terms of scraped pages or projects. The paid plan is quite pricey from $189 to $599 per month. Large volume scrapes may slow down the scraping process. Thus, small projects are a good fit in Parsehub.
Cons: The downside is pretty obvious, for most people who don’t have programming skills, it is very challenging to use. The price for a developer is free, for any other users the price sets from $49 per month to $499 per month. And it has a short period of data retention, make sure you save extracted data in time.
Zyte is a cloud-based web platform. It has different types of tools — Scrapy Cloud, Smart Browser API, Automatic Extraction, and Splash. It is great that Zyte offers a collection of IP addresses covering more than 50 countries which is a solution for IP ban problems.
Pros: Zyte provides different web services for different kinds of people, including the open-source framework Scrapy.
Cons: Scrapy is available for programmers which means it is not easy for beginners to use.
Hopefully, you have a clearer understanding of data extraction tools and the pros and cons of some of them now. If you have data scraping needs, you can go through your project and pick an accurate data scraping tool for your project.