Web scraping is a hot topic in the internet marketing scene. Why? Because it’s very effective when done correctly and it doesn’t break any rules (in most cases).
Just like with any other SEO technique, you don’t want to go spamming everywhere with scraping tools, or your site will get banned pretty fast.
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is a software technique for extracting information from websites. The scraped information can be stored in a database or spreadsheet for later processing.
Web scraping enables you to automate and schedule data extraction from web pages across the world wide web without actually having to visit all those websites -at least not most of them- yourself.
What is Web Scraping Used For?
Scraping can be used to aggregate data from several web pages to be used in one report. It can also help us analyze and monitor changes and trends over time and extract the information we wouldn’t find elsewhere.
For example, you might want to scrape search result pages on your competitor’s websites to see what keywords they rank for, what anchor text they use, and how many backlinks they have. Or you might want to scrape eCommerce sites to find out what they charge for shipping or product returns.
In most cases, web scraping is used with the help of a crawler that automatically visits web pages, following links from one page to another until it has found all necessary data. The machine then stores the data in a database so it’s accessible later on by other applications or users who can query it or draw graphs etc.
How to Approach Web Scraping The Right Way?
The best way to use web scraping is to be up-to-date, honest, and transparent about what you’re doing. This means using your own API endpoints for all the data (and not somebody else’s service) and mainly – telling people what you are doing.
The main reason that’s good for you is that if people know who you are, they can quickly get in touch with you or check public sources to see if they can confirm your story.
If you go around telling people, “I’m scraping this,” and don’t give them enough proof about your sources, they will most likely think that you’re lying to them. And when the time comes where you want to release something (SEO tool/plugin/etc.) with data that comes from scraped sources – they will most likely not trust you (and probably never again).
You’d better mention everything in detail on your website or in whatever product that serves as proof for your service quality. That way, it would be easy for other marketers to check out what you are doing and contact you before anything else.
This isn’t just good because it builds trust but also because it gives you a chance to get valuable feedback from experienced marketers about your techniques and whether they will be suitable for the market or too aggressive.
When you have a better approach to showing what you are doing, people tend to appreciate that and recommend your services if they work as promised. And this is something that you should always keep in mind when building any business for yourself.
Enough with the motivational stuff, though – let’s look at some tips on how to approach web scraping:
1. Don’t use somebody else API endpoints – build your own
This is probably the first thing every marketer should know before starting anything serious with scraping websites. In most cases, website owners don’t like it when someone uses their data via somebody else API endpoints. Sometimes they even ban the IP address of that company to avoid further issues (even if you’re not using someone’s endpoints).
If you own your website, scraping it is pretty straightforward. It might take some time to build the scraper, but if you invest enough time into it, you can probably make an efficient one quickly.
This approach’s benefits are that your site will be up all the time and won’t get banned because of technical errors with other service providers (that happen now and then). Of course, technically, everything could still go wrong, but at least it won’t be because of the error on your side.
2. Don’t keep your scrapers private
This is pretty simple – don’t make the tools for web scraping private. That way, other marketers can quickly check what you are doing, how you do it, and what data you are using.
It’s always better to have multiple people looking at your stuff instead of just yourself since they might spot more errors or possible improvements that would otherwise go unnoticed by just one person.
It’s not a secret how basic web scrapers and crawlers work, so this should give some peace of mind when sharing them with other marketers. If they find something wrong or could be improved – both of you will benefit from that in the long run.
3. Don’t present others data as yours
Most marketers are not against scraping per se, but they don’t like people who present someone else data as their original work. This is probably one of the most annoying things that can happen when you’re sharing your source with other marketers.
You shouldn’t do this for two reasons. First of all, it’s considered bad netiquette, and second of all, if you do anything significant with the data (like putting it in some SEO tool/plugin), people will most likely ask, how did you get them?
And when they find out that they’re not yours – there is a high chance that whoever provided the data in question won’t be too happy about it.
Saying that these were scraped from somebody else’s website isn’t stealing, but still, it’s not something you should do. Everyone knows that most of these scrapers are available online, and it would be impossible to keep them a secret even if you wanted to (no matter how hard you tried).
So – whenever sharing your data, try to avoid mentioning where exactly they were found. If the marketers don’t ask about it, great! That means that there is no need for you to tell them anything about this. Just saying “I scraped it from such a site” might already be enough for people to understand what’s going on with the data.
It might seem like too much trouble at first but in the long run, having good relationships with other marketers is worth more than just one free website scraper.