Web Crawling vs. Web Scraping | Which is Better for Extracting Data from a Website?

The more data you have, the better decisions you can make for your company. So it's no wonder that many businesses turn to web crawling and web scraping as methods for collecting data. Like most people, you probably think of web crawling when you hear "web scraping." 

And while they are related concepts, they are not the same. This blog post will explore the differences between web crawling and web scraping and help you decide which is a better option for extracting and collecting data from websites.

What is Web Crawling?

Web crawling involves discovering new or updated web pages. It is typically done by starting with a list of URLs from a seed set, fetching each URL, and following the links found on each page. Once all the pages have been crawled, the process starts with any new or updated pages.

Web crawlers are used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Indexing web pages for search engines

  • Validating HTML code

  • Checking links to find broken ones

  • Generating sitemaps

  • Collecting data for analytics

Benefits of Web Crawling

  • Lead Generation: Lead generation is attracting and converting strangers into customers or sales leads. A lead is generally a person who has indicated an interest in your company's product or service. Businesses can more effectively target their marketing and sales efforts and generate higher-quality leads by collecting data about potential customers.

  • Analytics: Web crawling can be used to collect data for analytics purposes. This data can track trends, understand user behavior, and more.

  • SEO: Web crawling can be used to index websites for search engines. It helps ensure that your website appears in, let's say Google search results, when people are looking for the products or services.

  • Keeping Tabs on Competitors: Automated web crawling can be used to keep track of competitor websites. For example, you can crawl their website daily to check for changes in pricing, product availability, and new product releases.

Disadvantages of Web Crawling

  • Slower Than Web Scraping: Web crawling is typically slower than web scraping, requiring more time to index websites.

  • Less Control: With web crawling, you have less control over the collected data. It's because you're relying on the search engine to index websites.

  • Could Be Blocked: If you crawl a website too frequently, you risk being blocked by that website. That's why it's important to be careful when setting up your web crawler.

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What is Web Scraping?

Web scraping is a process of data extraction from web pages. It's typically done by writing a program that makes HTTP requests to a web server, then parses the response to find the desired data.

Web scraping is used for a variety of purposes, including:

  • Collecting data for analytics

  • Automating tasks

  • Generating leads

  • Price comparison

  • Monitoring competitor prices

Benefits of Web Scraping

  • Quicker Than Web Crawling: Web scraping is typically faster than web crawling, as it allows you to specify which data you want to extract from websites.

  • More Control: With web scraping, you have more control over the collected data. You're in charge of specifying which data to scrape from websites.

  • Automatic delivery of data: With web scraping, you can set up your scraper to automatically deliver the data it collects to your email or FTP server. It's a great way to get the information you need without constantly checking for new updates.

  • Extraction of data at scale: With web scraping, you can extract large amounts of data from websites quickly and easily.

  • Low maintenance cost: Once you have set up your web scraper, it will continue to work automatically, without further input from you.

Disadvantages of Web Scraping

  • Has a Learning curve: One of the main disadvantages of web scraping is that it has a bit of a learning curve. As such, you need to be familiar with HTML and CSS to be able to scrape data from websites effectively.

  • Could Be Blocked: If you scrape a website too frequently, you risk being blocked by that website. As such, it's important to be careful when setting up your web scraper.
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Web Crawling vs. Web Scraping: The Differences

Now that we've explored the basics of web crawling and web scraping, let's take a look at the key differences between these two methods:

  • Web crawling is used to discover new or updated web pages, while web data scraping extracts data from web pages.

  • Web crawlers typically follow links to find new pages, while web scrapers typically make HTTP requests to a web server to get the data they need.

  • Web crawlers are used to index web pages for search engines, while web scrapers collect data for analytics.

  • Web crawlers can be run manually or automated, while web scrapers must be automated.

  • Web crawlers validate HTML code and check links, while web scrapers are used to generate leads and monitor competitor prices.

So, which is better for your business? It depends on your needs. When looking to collect data for analytics or index web pages for search engines, web scraping is the way. And if you're looking to do both, you can use a combination of both methods.

How to Choose the Right Web Scraping Tool

A web scraper is a tool or piece of software that extracts data from a web page. A scraper can be manually operated or automated. Automated scrapers are often used for collecting data for analytics or lead generation. There are a few things to consider when looking for a web scraping tool:

  1. Your Skill Level

If you're starting, you'll want to look for a tool that is easy to use and doesn't require much coding. On the other hand, if you're more experienced, you may be able to handle a more complex tool.

  1. Your Use Case

Some web scraping tools are better equipped to handle specific tasks than others. For example, to scrape data from a website that regularly changes its structure, you'll want a tool to take that. To extract emails from Linkedin profiles, you'll need a Linkedin email scraper, and so on.

  1. Your Budget

Web scraping tools can range in price from free to thousands of dollars. You'll want to consider your budget when looking for a web scraping tool.

  1. Your Operating System

Most web scraping tools will work on both Windows and macOS, but a few are only compatible with one or the other. Ensure that the web scraping tool you're interested in will work on your operating system.

  1. The Website You're Trying to Scrape

Websites can vary significantly in their structure and design. Some web scraping tools are better equipped to scrape certain types of websites than others. Consider the website you're trying to scrape when choosing a web scraping tool.

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How Can I Protect Myself From Web Scraping Attacks?

If you're worried about web scraping attacks, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Use VPN Services: A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, is a tool that helps to protect your online privacy. Your data is encrypted and sent through a secure tunnel to the VPN server when you use a VPN. It makes it much more difficult for anyone to intercept and read your data.

  • Use a Web Proxy: A web proxy hides your IP address and makes it harder for someone to scrape your data.

  • Use a Firewall: A firewall can help block IP addresses known to be used for web scraping.

FAQs

What Is Crawler in Web Scraping?

A web crawler is a bot that systematically browses the internet for new web pages. It is also known as a spider, robot, or simply a bot. Bots visit websites and gather data that you can use to improve various aspects of search engine optimization (SEO). A well-designed bot will visit many different websites and collect data about each one. This data can then be used to improve the SEO of the visited websites.

What Is Web Crawling Used For?

Web crawling can be used for various purposes, including lead generation, analytics, SEO, and keeping tabs on competitors.

What Is Web Scraping Used For?

You can use web scraping for various purposes, including data collection, automated delivery of data, extraction of data at scale, and low maintenance cost.

Is Crawling a Website Illegal?

No, web crawling is not illegal. However, if you crawl a website too frequently, you could be blocked by that website.

Conclusion

So, what's the difference between web crawling and web scraping? Crawlers are automated bots that systematically traverse the web by following links from page to page. Scrapers extract data from individual pages that they visit. Crawlers are used for indexing websites so that search engines can provide results to users. In contrast, scrapers are used to gather specific data sets, which you can use for various purposes such as market research or competitor analysis. 

Which one is best for you depends on your needs – if you need to collect large amounts of data quickly, crawlers will likely be more efficient, but scraper scripts will be more effective if you need to target specific information. It all comes down to what you want to achieve. 

About Dusan Stanar

I'm the founder of VSS Monitoring. I have been both writing and working in technology in a number of roles for dozens of years and wanted to bring my experience online to make it publicly available. Visit https://www.vssmonitoring.com/about-us/ to read more about myself and the rest of the team.

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