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HTML Scraping: The Basics

by Kevin Bellah

The internet is the magic box that contains all the data that an e-commerce company needs to make better decisions, more profits, and fewer business errors.

Shaking this box may pour forth all the data the brand requires, but it doesn’t pour out in the format we may all want. Copying data from the internet can often produce unstructured results with too many errors.

It takes an enormous amount of time to finish copying an entire website manually.

A better alternative is web scraping. Scraping HTML documents using sophisticated tools does not only save time and energy but produces high-quality data that can be applied to help a brand grow.

What Is Web Scraping?

Web scraping is the process of interacting with multiple data sources to extract the data they contain and convert that data into information that can be used to create clear business insights.

The process often involves using tools such as proxies and scraping bots to access enormous amounts of web content and collect them for use.

To save time and effort and guarantee more accurate results, web scraping is often automated to harvest data as rapidly as possible repeatedly.

What Are The Advantages of Web Scraping?

The following are some of the most obvious advantages of web scraping:

  1. It Saves Cost

For the kind of job that web scraping does, one would naturally expect it to be very costly. However, web scraping saves cost and helps businesses gather a large amount of data for almost close to nothing.

A brand only needs to spend on the tools and software such as proxies and bots and, in return, get an endless supply of relevant data from any part of the internet for free.

  1. It Guarantees Data Accuracy

Even the slightest error in the data a brand puts to use can cause major setbacks. And very often, when data is harvested manually, it can lead to errors that may be hard to detect.

Web scraping, on the other hand, isn’t only fast but delivers accurate results as well. The resulting information contains almost no errors and can be used with full confidence.

  1. It is Fast With Low Maintenance

Web scraping is an incredibly fast process used in gathering and collecting in minutes the amount of data that would take days to collect otherwise.

The tools used also require very minimal maintenance and can work for a long time before needing another round of maintenance.

  1. It Can Access Geo-Restricted Content

Some websites and platforms don’t like to share their content, while others don’t like to share with people from certain regions.

This then prompts them to set up measures that partially or completely prevent access to their servers.

One of such measures is geo-restrictions which can be commonly encountered when manual scraping is done.

On the other hand, web scraping uses proxies that have multiple internet protocols (IP) addresses and locations that can effectively evade geo-restrictions.

The Basics of HTML Scraping

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) is the programming code used to structure their pages and content.

The language is used to develop both the parts of the websites and the formats of the content the pages contain. It covers everything from how the pages appear to the size of fonts and how the images are placed.

HTML scraping is the process of scraping the pages built with HTML. There are different ways to do this, including using the free Python library known as lxml and requests.

The library is already open-source and free, and all that may be required is to take an lxml tutorial or course to get familiar with how to use it. You can read the article here (lxml tutorial).

What Are The Benefits of Accessing Publicly Available Competitor Data?

Scraping public data can hold several benefits for any business, and below are some of the most common ones:

  1. Brand Monitoring and Protection

The way the public perceives a brand is very important as this is what determines whether the brand gains or loses customers.

Most buyers will read what other people have to say about a brand before buying the brand’s products or services. Hence, it is usually in the brand’s best interest to monitor what is said.

This entails monitoring comments, reviews, discussions, and posts about the brand across several channels and platforms.

The most effective way to do this is to scrape all this data at once through web scraping.

  1. Market and Sentiment Analysis

It is easy to sell and dominate the market when you understand what the market factors are saying. It would also help your business greatly to understand buyers’ biases and sentiments.

Knowing this can help you react according to manufacturing products and services that enter the market at the right time.

Web scraping avails you of the opportunity to do this and more.

  1. Dynamic Pricing Strategy

The market worldwide is never static or rigid and changes according to certain market factors such as demand, supply, and customer behaviors.

Brands that want to stick around for long must also be flexible and flow with whatever waves hit the market.

Dynamic pricing is a way of fixing prices to illustrate this flexibility. The prices vary according to the times and seasons, selling higher at peak hours and lower during regular hours. The prices can also vary according to different markets and regions.

Data collection en masse creates a powerful dynamic pricing strategy.

Conclusions

HTML is the building block of almost all websites. Scraping these websites can have an enormous impact on the growth of a business.

In the simplest form, you can use some free libraries such as the Python lxml to build a scraper that gathers and parses HTML and XML files easily.

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