If you want to reach the right people with your products and services, you need to know who they are and what they want. Market research – a process that involves collecting and analyzing data from a specific group of people is crucial for any business to succeed.
Within the larger field of data scraping, the concept of screen scraping has become increasingly popular due to its ability to gather relevant information efficiently and accurately.
By strategically extracting information from websites, it can provide valuable insights and data for various use cases such as:
- Market Research
- Price Monitoring
- Review Monitoring
- Ad Verification
- Brand Protection
There are differences in operation and mechanism between traditional web scraping and screen scraping. Let’s dive deeper into understanding it and its various use cases.
What Is Screen Scraping?
Screen scraping is the process of extracting data directly from a visual display, such as a website or application.
Think of it as simulating a human user navigating and extracting information from a website.
This data extraction method is particularly useful when the desired data is unavailable in a structured format or when access to an API or database is restricted.
It works works by mimicking the steps taken by a user, which involves sending HTTP requests to retrieve HTML documents and then parse through the code to extract relevant data.
This can be done manually or with the use of web scraping software, which automates the process and allows for faster and more efficient data extraction.
Key Idea: Screen scraping software enables businesses to gather data from various sources without the need for manual extraction, saving time and resources.
An Example of Screen Scraping
Imagine you are a market researcher, and your task is to gather information on the prices of various products across different retail websites
Sure, you could manually visit each website and note the prices, but that would be time-consuming and prone to human error. (and you can bet your competitors are using screen scraping software to do the same job faster and more accurately!)
With screen scraping, on the other hand, you can automate this process by creating a script that navigates through each website and extracts the desired data. This automated process saves you time and resources, allowing you to focus on analyzing the data rather than gathering it.
Screen Scraping vs Web Scraping
While both screen scraping and web scraping involve extracting data from websites, there are key differences to note:
- Scope: Web scraping typically involves gathering large amounts of data from multiple websites, while screen scraping focuses on extracting specific data from a single website.
- Technique: Web scraping primarily involves parsing through HTML code, while screen scraping may involve interacting with user interfaces such as dropdown menus and forms.
- Use Cases: Web scraping is commonly used for data analysis and market research, while screen scraping has more specialized use cases, which we will explore in the next section.
When should you use screen scraping over web scraping? If your primary goal is to gather data from a single website, especially when user interactions are required, then it is likely the best tool for the job.
Screen scraping has become increasingly popular due to its versatility and effectiveness in a wide variety of industries. Here are some of the various cases in which it is commonly used:
As mentioned, market researchers can use screen scraping to gather data on prices and other product information from various websites. This allows them to gain insights into market trends and competitors’ pricing strategies.
For instance, a company may use it to track their competitors’ pricing on specific products, allowing them to adjust their own prices accordingly.
With so many eCommerce companies selling similar products, keeping tabs on your competitors’ prices is essential.
Screen scraping enables you to automate this process, ensuring that your prices remain competitive. By taking a look at your competitors’ prices, you can gain insights into their pricing strategies and adjust accordingly.
Want to check out the various reviews on a website quickly? Screen scraping can take the manual work out of this task. Quickly scraping the screens of various product listings can provide valuable insights into customer feedback, allowing you to identify common themes and areas for improvement.
With the rise of digital advertising, screen scraping has become an essential tool for verifying the placement and accuracy of online ads. Ad agencies can use screen scraping to ensure that their clients’ ads are being displayed correctly and in the intended locations.
Brand reputation is everything for businesses, and screen scraping can be a valuable tool in protecting everything from copyright infringement to fraudulent activities. Companies can quickly take action and protect their image by monitoring websites and social media platforms for unauthorized use of their brand.
For example, if a company notices that its brand logo is being used on a counterfeit product on an eCommerce site, it can use screen scraping to quickly identify other instances of this and take legal action against the offenders.
What Is The Best Screen Scraping Software?
There are various screen scraping software options available, each with its unique features and benefits. Some popular choices include:
- ScrapeHero Cloud: A user-friendly, browser-based platform for hassle-free web scraping. It offers pre-built crawlers and APIs for popular websites and requires no programming knowledge.
- Scrapy: An open-source Python framework for building web scrapers. It’s known for its ease of use, detailed documentation, and active community. Scrapy can export data in
JSON, CSV, and XML formats and runs on various operating systems. It is free to use .
- Web Unlocker: This tool specializes in scraping data from websites without getting blocked, managing proxy, and unblocking infrastructure for the user. It features automated IP address rotation and real-time adjustments to avoid detection.
- Octoparse: A visual scraping tool designed for non-coders with a point-and-click interface. It offers cloud extraction, built-in configurations for data cleaning, and support for bypassing ReCaptcha.
How Can I Find The Best Screen Scraping Software?
Search online for screen scraping software, and you’ll find plenty of options to choose from. But how do you know which one is the best for your needs? Here are some key features to look for when considering screen scraping software:
- Does the software have a user-friendly interface?
- Is it able to handle large volumes of data?
- Does it offer customizable scraping settings?
- Can it handle dynamic websites and frequent updates?
- Is the software reliable and accurate in its data extraction?
Taking the time to analyze and test different screen scraping software options is key to finding one that fits your specific requirements. Don’t be afraid to consider reviews and ask for
recommendations from others in your industry who have experience with it.
The Bottom Line
When you need to access key data across different websites quickly and efficiently, screen scraping is the way to go. With its ability to automate data extraction from various sources and customizable settings, it can provide valuable insights for businesses in a variety of industries.
The learning curve of screen scraping may seem daunting at first, but there are plenty of software options that offer an automated and user-friendly approach. With the right screen scraping software in hand, you can easily keep up with market trends, monitor competitors, and protect your brand’s online reputation.
Take a look at the different screen scraping software available and consider your specific needs to find the best fit for your business.
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