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Web Scraping API for Data Extraction: A Beginner's Guide

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Does it ever happen to you when people ask you to write a separate API for integrating social media data and saves the raw data into your on-site analytics database? You must wonder what an API is, how it is used in web scraping and what you can achieve with it. Let’s dive right in.


What is an API

Wikipedia terms that: “ In computer programming, an application programming interface (API) is a set of subroutine definitions, protocols, and tools for building application software. In general terms, it is a set of clearly defined methods of communication between various software components”


In general, Web API is a set of rules for developers to follow when they interact with a programming language. Just like Harry Potter must say “Alohomora” to unlock a door. 


One misconception that most people have is that API can extract data. It is not completely true since it’s only responsible to retrieve the data according to the dedicated resources. In most cases, you will get only what you request. However, you are not accessible to other information. 




For example, you want to conduct sentiment analysis and need reviews and comments. A Web API is used to send your request for that keyword to a web server, and in return, the server provides reviews or comments to you in a raw data format. Raw format data doesn’t necessarily look user-friendly like spreadsheet rows and columns.


 raw JSON data in chrome

Raw JSON data in chrome 


As such, in order to “consume the data” from a product page, we need to go through a few steps for an intact process of extraction, transformation to storage. Sometimes you even have to convert the raw data into the desired format. It sounds like an easy task for experienced programmers. However, the complexity still frustrates people who have no programming background yet need data the most. 


Standard API and Advanced API

To reduce the complexity, it’s better to have a web scraping tool with some API integration that you can extract and transform the data at the same time without writing any code.


Octoparse is an intuitive web scraping tool designed for non-coders to extract data from any website. Their software engineers build API integration that you will be able to achieve two things: 


1. Extract any data from the website without the need to wait for a web server’s response.

2. Send extracted data automatically from the cloud to your in-house applications via Octoparse API integration.


Besides the flexibility, it allows you to convert raw data into forms like Excel, CSV as you need. Another benefit is that it can run on a schedule that eliminates complicity during manual data extraction. 


In case you never used Octoparse, let me explain in detail how you can use Octoparse to extract data and stream it to your database.


Octoparse has two types of API. The first one is the Standard API. A Standard API can do all the works as I mentioned above. You can use it to extract data into a CRM system or a data visualization tool to generate beautiful reports.


The second API is called Advanced API. It is a superset of the standard API. It does everything that standard API does. Better yet, you can access and manipulate data stored in the cloud. As the data-driven business model has become more popular, people without coding knowledge are expected to use different tools to extract data. If you are frustrated in using an API as well, you will find great value in Octoparse as its integration process is easy. 



Author: Ashley

Ashley is a data enthusiast and passionate blogger with hands-on experience in web scraping. She focuses on capturing web data and analyzing in a way that empowers companies and businesses with actionable insights. Read her blog here to discover practical tips and applications on web data extraction


Artículo en español: Web Scraping API para Extracción de Datos: Una Guía para Principiantes
También puede leer artículos de web scraping en El Website Oficial



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