Data extraction or data scraping has become one of the most popular online services in 2017.
It is a process where you extract data (commonly with software) from various internet resources.
Originally, it was used as a reference to data retrieval from measuring or recording devices to a personal computer. As the technology progressed, it all became simple and now you can extract it from:
- Various internet sources
- Any free public database
- Social media (Facebook and Twitter)
- Government’s registers, etc.
While presence of data is not an issue, the problem often occurs due to inability to directly download it. This is why you need a program which will access source material and extract it through a web browser.
Extracted data can come in any format.
Please have in mind that at this point, data is extracted so you can store it in a virtual warehouse system; it doesn’t have a proper application in this form. In order to use it, you have to transform it, sometimes add metadata and only then will it work as valuable information.
So how does this help a site?
How extracting data benefits management decisions
There is a number of things you can find out with this data:
You can search for market opportunities
Before you even start doing anything, you can choose which segment of the market you wish to pursue. By checking web content, you are able to list potential opportunities. You can see if some products and services are not working as intended and if there is a need for a new, advanced solution. It can also tell you more about the competitiveness of a particular segment of a market. How many websites are selling their products and services and how much online traffic they’re getting.
It allows you to follow internet audience
With some of the tools you are able to scrape various opinions that were posted on the Internet. This will give you an insight into your competitors but can also reveal what people are talking about your company. Based on this data you can change your performance, improving things that are working and eliminating those that are not. As a result, you can save a lot of time and resources.
Use it to spy on your competition
When it comes to gathering competitive data, data extraction is the best tool at your disposal. Companies post all sorts of information online. You are able to check their recent activities ranging from new blog posts, social media posts, catalogues, price changes, promotions as well as to see how they’re interacting with other web companies.
Important tool for price adjustment
Web crawlers allow you to quickly and efficiently access full pricing lists on various sites. Although companies are trying to create ways which will prevent crawler access, it is still possible to do it. There are a lot of tools nowadays that guide you through internet protection of e-stores allowing you to access this content. Naturally, such information is priceless for sites as it allows them to remain competitive price-wise.
Helps you improve blog content
Almost any online text can help you improve your own blog content. Using an internet article or a file is not so common when it comes to writing new posts. However, scraping is really valuable for news sites as it allows them to find appealing articles on the web and show them on their own site. Extraction is also very useful when creating large studies as you need to have numerous sources at your disposal at any time.
Helps you find information about people
Here, I am not referring to opinions of the audience or competitive data. Instead, I am talking about bloggers, potential partners, news companies and all others that can prove to be strategically valuable for your company. Even if someone is a direct competition, there is some sense in connecting and knowing more about them. In this digital era, everyone with a keyboard has a voice. Regardless of the communication formats they’re using; they can be ambassadors for your brand or you can work with them on joint projects.
Can be used for various SEO, SMM and PPC projects
There are a lot of different ways extracted data can be used for various digital marketing projects. Each one of these areas is heavily dependent on internet stats and for each area there is a plethora of tools that can be used. If you are a marketing expert working in one of these fields, it is likely that extraction is a normal part of your daily routine.
Ultimately, by extracting and relying on all this data you are able to navigate the market with much more effectiveness and efficiency. Furthermore, it is probably one of the most profitable things you can do given how little you invest and how much information you get at the end of the day.
Regardless of what kind of a company you’re running and even if you’re not web-based, there is a lot to be learned from it.
How to perform data extraction?
In practice most extraction work is done by using various tools. But there are still a lot of people who do it manually.
By using data extraction tools
A lot of tools which can be found online are geared towards a specific function. For example, you can subscribe to tools that will help you get contacts, find specific posts, check site stats, check social media mentions, etc.
But they are only a small part of what you can do with data extraction.
Some tools are open-source allowing you to code them according to specific needs.
This means that if you have a team with programing experience, it is rather easy to set up scraping parameters and get just the information you need. Naturally, this is a bit more difficult task as it requires some coding experience but it can yield much better results and can be used in various situations.
These tools use web crawlers which are able to reach specific URLs and check various elements of a page. This is where the main issue occurs.
Some sites block crawlers or have strong defense against them so it is definitely pose an issue.
Another potential issue is crawling sites during peak hours. As something that can reduce crawling speed it should also be taken into account.
Doing it manually
Manual extraction is a rather rudimentary way of doing things.
In this case, individual will go from site to site seeking to scrape certain information. Initial batch of URLs can be based on a specific parameter or a query.
Best thing about manual approach is that you are able to circumvent some of the issues which appear when using a tool (primarily crawlers being blocked). It also allows you to check other page elements on whim, add notes and make any other valuable observation along the way. If you are proficient with digital marketing and are able to notice certain patterns, there are a lot of things which you can learn as you jump from page to page.
Unfortunately, it is an extremely slow method.
Even though this can help you circumvent all the barriers, the time you need to do it makes it unprofitable in most of the cases.
Different approaches to data extraction
Data extraction is a quite a specific process as it is subjected to a lot of customization.
Just so you have a clear picture of things, let’s check the main approaches to data extraction as well as their advantages and flaws.
Outsourcing services are ideal when you need to use an open-source software but you don’t have anyone in your team with the necessary coding experience.
As I already mentioned, there is a lot of customization during the scraping process. Companies use data extraction for various processes. Another thing that you need to keep in mind is that this process requires a lot of monitoring. Having all that in mind, you need to have people working on it.
For most companies, it doesn’t make sense to train and keep an extraction team.
It might also require a lot of time.
Outsourcing, although more expensive in the short run, provides you a quick and reliable solution.
It is also possible to do data extraction within your team.
As I mentioned, need for in-house team strictly depends from a company to company. It is a big investment and one that you should make only if you’re certain that the extraction process is something you will be constantly doing in future.
The main benefit of having an in-house team is the fact you have more control over the process.
Besides that, it can also reduce overall costs if performed over a longer stretch of time. Even though training a new team can be a hard process taking a lot of time and money initially, it will pay off after a while. This is especially true when compared to outsourced services.
Extraction is one of those jobs that are usually outsourced.
Even though it has wide application, it is a process that is being used according to a temporary need. For example, you might use it for market research but after that, you might not need it for a while. This is precisely why having a data extraction team is a waste.
Nevertheless, big companies often require work on a constant basis. This is often true for marketing and other companies that perform online services.
What should I do?
General consensus is that everyone can benefit from data scraping.
In fact, the data accumulation, processing and analysis has become a common aspect of any business. Without it, it is really hard to track performance of other competitors and current state of the market.
In that regard it is definitely a service you should consider investing in. As something that can have such a big impact on your planning process, it requires special attention. The only thing you need to consider at this point is how to do it and on what scale.
How often do you extract data from the Internet? Are you satisfied with your performance or services that you’re getting?
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