Data is a gem in modern business, and there’s huge money to be made in mining it from the world’s largest information source: the internet. For proof of this, you only need look as far as Google, which has built a multi-billion dollar business largely on the back of manipulating other people’s published data.
However, you don’t need the huge resources of an Internet behemoth to join the web-scraping party. Suitable software is readily available at a reasonable cost, both off-the-shelf and bespoke.
The simplest web-scraping software will check if your website is live and functioning correctly. When every minute of downtime could be costing revenue, having a service that quickly informs you of any problems is invaluable.
Services such as Google Alerts can be very useful in staying on top of developments in your niche, but scraping software can take this idea to the next level. You could scrape multiple news sources and social media platforms, filtering the results by content, to find out which topics are hot in your area of business.
Social Media Monitoring
Social media marketing is all about conversation and engagement. Software which monitors Facebook Twitter, Instagram and other platforms for mentions of your brand or business activity gives you a head start in influencing conversations to your benefit. Check out http://omgwde.com for more information.
Scraping makes it a simple matter to track your competitors’ online activities. You can receive alerts whenever they lower their prices, introduce a new product, or launch a new section of their site. In business areas with stiff competition, every piece of commercial intelligence can make the difference between profit and loss.
Finding Popular Products
Several websites such as Amazon rank their products by popularity, determined either by sales volume or review scores. Scraping software can trawl through such sites and produce a handy report of which items or categories are the most in demand, allowing you to devote more resources to them on your own site.
Checking for Broken Links
Web crawling software can easily check for broken links on your site, whether internal or external. This is an important part of professional website maintenance. Not only do broken links prove frustrating for customers, potentially reducing business, but search engines see them as signals of poor quality. Too many bad links can impair your Google rankings and therefore reduce your traffic.
More sophisticated software can take link-checking a step further, by emulating a real web user and testing various elements of a website for technical problems. This can be highly useful for companies with large and complex sites, where comprehensive human testing can be unrealistically resource-heavy.
How to Find Web Scraping Solutions
If you think that scraping could be a valuable tool for your business, there are four major categories of software available.
Web Alerts and Monitors
This is the most basic category of scraper, consisting of programs which for the main part simply monitor a specific webpage for any changes. They can be used to provide a heads-up for a site being offline, new content being added to a competitor’s site, and so on. Besides checking for changes, they usually do very little in the way of intelligent data processing or manipulation.
The next level up in complexity is software written for a single purpose. Whether this is to collect and collate product popularity on Amazon or to mine popular subject topics from the many question-and-answer sites, these programs harvest a specific set of data from defined sources and then process it into a useful form. Thousands of these focused solutions exist, both commercially and in the public domain, with various degrees of quality and effectiveness.
Most crawling and scraping software is reasonably simple in technical terms, and a freelance jobs portal should provide plenty of prospective developers willing to work at a reasonable price. Alternatively, you could ask your web design agency to source a solution on your behalf. It’s important to choose your developer well, as this type of software tends to need regular updating to handle changes in the target sites’ architecture, and so a good working relationship is a must.
The web is an information resource of unparalleled breadth and depth, yet it’s remarkably easy to access the data held within it, given a little technical know-how. How could your business use scraping software to manipulate this incredibly valuable asset?