What is Web Scraping and What is it Used For?

What is Web Scraping and What is it Used For?
Oct 26, 2021

Over the past decade, information has become a major resource for business development, and the Internet is its main provider. As of January 2021 there were 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide (59.5 percent of the global population). And they all generate new data every second. By extracting and analyzing this web data, companies develop their strategies and achieve goals.

If you've ever copied and pasted information from a target website, you've performed the same function as any web scraper, only on a very small scale. However, collecting and extracting such a large amount of web data is not easy, especially for those who still think there is an "Export to Excel" button. Unlike normal, manual data extraction, the web scraper extracts huge arrays automatically. Scraping can be done on your own, using special tools or asking for help from specialists.

We've prepared an article for anyone interested in the topic and wants to know more about web scraping. Here we will explain what scraping is, what kinds of scraping there are, how it works, and where it is used. We will also answer the main question - is this kind of information collection legal?

Get Data for your Business

We extract the data you need from any website to satisfy all your business requirements with 100% accuracy.

  • Free Sample Data Sets
  • Regular Data Delivery
  • Legal and GDPR compliance
Get a Quote

What is Web Scraping?

Web scraping, or web data extraction is a method of obtaining web data by extracting it from pages of web resources with the help of a program, that is, in automatic mode. It is used to syntactically convert web pages into more usable forms. Some of the major uses of web scraping include price monitoring, market data collectionlead generationreal estate market analysis, and more.

Of course, among the web scraping benefits are following:

  • Cost-effective
  • Process automation
  • Unique and rich datasets
  • Effective data management

A specially trained algorithm goes to the target site page and begins to go through all the internal links, collecting the specified data. The result is a CSV, XML, JSON, SQL, or any other suitable format, in which all the necessary information is stored in a strict order.

Web Scraping Components

The work contains two parts: a web crawler and a web scraper. First, you crawl URLs, download HTML files, and then you extract data from those files. This means you extract the data and store it in a database or process it further.


A web crawler, or "spider," crawls the Internet to index information on a page using bots, clicking on links, and exploring it like a human. Web crawlers are mostly used by major search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, statistical agencies, and major online aggregators. The web crawling process usually looks at general information, while web scraping focuses on specific pieces of data.


A web scraper is a tool designed to extract data from a web page accurately and quickly. An important part of each scraper is data locators, which are used to find the data you want to extract from an HTML file. Once the desired information is collected, it can be used according to the needs and goals of the specific business.

Read more about Web Scraping: Data Crawling vs Data Scraping

Web Scraping Techniques

Web Scraping Techniques

Get Data for your Business

We extract the data you need from any website to satisfy all your business requirements with 100% accuracy.

  • Free Sample Data Sets
  • Regular Data Delivery
  • Legal and GDPR compliance
Get a Quote

Manual Scraping

Web scraping can be done manually. You need to copy and paste information into a spreadsheet that tracks extracted data. In practice, manual scraping is rare because automated scraping is much faster and cheaper.

On the plus side, it is a simple scraping method that does not require technical skills to perform. A person can check every data point to avoid errors or selection of actual and irrelevant data records during extraction.

Although this method is simple, it is the slowest one. A web scraping bot will be much faster at collecting information than a human anyway. Manual web scraping can be very expensive at the very least because of the time involved. Well, depending on how important data accuracy is to you, there is still a risk of human error.

Automated Scraping

Unlike manual scraping, automation solutions are most popular because of its ease of use, time, and cost savings. Data collection tools come in all shapes and sizes, from simple browser extensions to more powerful software solutions that allow rapid performance, extracting hundreds of records in seconds. Modern web scrapers can be run on a schedule and output data to Google Sheets, files like JSON, XLSX, CSV, XML, etc. Essentially creating a live API for any data set on the web.

  • DOM Parsing. Defines the style, structure and content of XML files. DOM parsers are commonly used by scrapers to gain a deeper understanding of the structure of a web page or to retrieve nodes containing information and then use a tool such as XPath to scrape web pages.
  • XPath. This is a query language that works with XML documents. It is used to navigate the tree by selecting nodes based on different parameters. It can also run in conjunction with the DOM to retrieve an entire web page and publish it to a target site.
  • Google Sheets. Inside Sheets, the scraper can use IMPORTXML (,) to retrieve data from websites when you need specific data or templates, for example.
  • HTML Parsing. HTML parsing is performed with JavaScript and targets linear or nested HTML pages. A good way to extract text, links, resources, screen scraping, and so on.
  • Text Pattern Matching. A method of matching regular expressions using the grep command in UNIX. Used in programming languages like Perl or Python.

However, no one wants to bother with web scraping on their own. Therefore, you can outsource all your projects.

Types of Web Scrapers

Types of Web Scrapers

We've already talked about web scraping techniques, now let's move on to types. Below is a classification based on how they work.

Browser Extension

Browser extensions are app-like programs that can be added to browsers like Google Chrome, Opera, or Firefox. The advantage of extensions is that they are easier to use and are integrated directly into the browser. Good for those who want to collect small amounts of data. The downside is that a browser extension cannot implement any advanced features, such as IP Rotations. And it only scrapes one page at a time.

Get Data for your Business

We extract the data you need from any website to satisfy all your business requirements with 100% accuracy.

  • Free Sample Data Sets
  • Regular Data Delivery
  • Legal and GDPR compliance
Get a Quote

Installable Software

Since the demand for data is constantly increasing, some companies have developed special web scraping software for computer installation. Most of the software runs on Windows, and the collected data will be available in CSV or any other format for download. The software is suitable for those who want to scrape small or medium-sized data chunks. Unlike a browser extension, the software scrapes multiple pages at a time.

Cloud Based Scrapers

Cloud-based web scrapers run on an external server provided by the company that developed the scraper. It does not need installation on the computer, just to configure the data plan and requirements, and then the scraper will collect the data. Unlike a browser-based extension, cloud-based scrappers allow you to integrate advanced features. Suitable for those who collect large amounts of data.

Self-built Scrapers

And of course, everyone can create their own web scraper. However, the tools to create your web scraper require some programming knowledge. The amount of expertise also increases with the number of features you want to implement in your scraper.

What is Web Scraping Used For?

What is Web Scraping Used For?

The retrieved information can be used for any purpose within reason, of course. The category of useful data can include product catalogs, images, videos, text, contact information, etc. Here're some of the most common causes of scraping.

Brand Monitoring

If you sell products online and want to know how people perceive the brand on an emotional level and what they're saying about you online, brand monitoring can give such information. Any available information that lets you assess actual brand sentiment and adjust customer service and marketing strategies to improve reputation and brand awareness is available through web scraping.

  • Pricing
  • Search keywords
  • Attitudes & reviews
  • Geographic differences
  • Product placement

Get your Business Back on Track

Boost the growth and productivity of your retail or manufacturing business with e-commerce data

  • Free Sample Data Sets
  • Regular Data Delivery
  • Legal and GDPR compliance
Get a Quote

Market Research

You need a lot of real-time data to get information on market trends. It is often the case that new ideas and products struggle to get to market because of little or no demand for an unknown product. Before product release, you should research what your target audience trusts and wants. High-quality, voluminous and reliable data contributes to market analysis and business intelligence around the world.

  • Market trends
  • Market pricing
  • New products & services
  • Optimizing point of entry
  • Potential customer understanding
  • Competitor monitoring & analysis

Price Monitoring

As competition increases and online markets grow, so does the demand for web scraping. Extracting product and pricing information from e-commerce sites and then turning it into intelligence is an integral part of today's businesses that want to make better pricing and marketing decisions.

  • Pricing analytics
  • Competitor pricing
  • Tracking product trends
  • Optimizing revenues

Now competitors can automate their information retrieval activities to the point where their site automatically reflects the best price after analyzing prices on competing sites.

Get Data for Lead Generation

Get complete access to our scraping service with no limits, and start generating leads today. We'll scrape the web for you and deliver the new data at lightning speed.

  • Free Sample Data Sets
  • Regular Data Delivery
  • Legal and GDPR compliance
Get a Quote

Lead Generation

Scraping, on the other hand, allows you to collect available contact information about potential clients and customers from the Internet. So for example you can understand where your leads are coming from, make sure potential customers are actually interested in buying, or make the lead gathering process more tailored to the specific audience you want to reach.

  • Creating a list of potential customers
  • Get contact information
  • Attracting potential customers
  • Employee data

According to Hubspot's 2020 data, 61% of marketers said that generating traffic and leads is their No. 1 objective.

Read more about Web Scraping: How to Generate Business Leads Using Web Scraping

News & Content Monitoring

The media can, through news, both add value to your brand and pose a threat. If you are a company that depends on timely news analysis or a company that appears frequently in the media, web scraping of news data is a great monitoring solution, aggregating and parsing the most important stories from your industry.

  • Competitor monitoring
  • Influence decision-making
  • Political campaigns
  • Audience engagement
  • Public sentiment analysis

Social Media Analysis

Social media platforms are very valuable sources of data, especially when it comes to human-generated content. Large companies and organizations want to know what people are saying about them, and one easy way to do that is to analyze social media posts, likes, comments, reviews, and more.

  • Sentiment analysis
  • Marketing & social  research
  • Improvement of public relations responses
  • Audience engagement
  • Business strategy building
  • Development processes

Get Real Estate and Housing Data

Observe the real estate marketplace and decide the finest time to purchase or sell depending on data.

  • Free Sample Data Sets
  • Regular Data Delivery
  • Legal and GDPR compliance
Get a Quote

Real Estate Data

The real estate industry's digital transformation in recent years has dramatically changed the way firms operate. Using collected data in their daily activities, agents and brokers can now make informed decisions in the market, soberly assess property values and rental yields, understand where the market is headed, and invest wisely.

  • Appraising property value
  • Competitor monitoring
  • Data about agents, brokers, prices, homes, apartments, mortgages, deals
  • Customer sentiment monitoring
  • Market analysis
  • Monitoring vacancy rates
  • Estimating rental yields

Financial Data

The financial sector relies heavily on web scraping to optimize its investment strategies through analyzing current financial market conditions, identifying changes and trends in the market, and monitoring news affecting stocks and the economy.

  • Investment decision making
  • Business & political news data
  • Competitor monitoring
  • Turnover
  • Estimating company fundamentals
  • Current stock price data & research
  • Limitless financial industry data

Machine Learning

Machine learning enables technologies such as driverless cars, spaceflight, image and speech recognition. However, models need the information to improve accuracy and reliability. Therefore, websites and online platforms are some of the resources for getting raw data to develop and improve machine learning models. Web scraping tools allow collecting large amounts of data points, text, and images for analyzing real-time data, training predictive models, and optimizing NLP models.

Read more about Web Scraping: Web Scraping for Machine Learning

Tools & Libraries for Programming Languages

What is Web Scraping Process?

The goal of all web scrapers is to understand the structure of a target website so that they can then extract all the necessary data and export it in a new readable format.

First, the web scraper is given one or more URLs from which to scrape the data. The scraper will then load the HTML code of the relevant page. More advanced scrapers display the entire site, including CSS and Javascript elements. The scraper will then start retrieving either all the data from the page, or specific data that the user has selected.

At the end, the web scraper outputs all collected data in the format the user wants. Most scrapers output data in Excel spreadsheet, JSON, CSV, XML formats that can be used for API.

Tools & Libraries for Programming Languages

You will find a lot of parsing tools. They are written in different programming languages: Ruby, PHP, Python. Various types of bots are used, many of which are fully customizable to recognize unique HTML structures of sites, extract and convert content, store collected data, or extract data from APIs.There are open-source programs where users make changes to the algorithm if needed. So, here is an example just of a few ones.


Python libraries provide efficient and fast functions for parsing. Many of the tools can be plugged into an off-the-shelf application in API format to create customized crawlers.

  • BeautifulSoup. This is a package for parsing HTML and XML documents and converting them into syntax trees. Uses HTML and XML parsers such as html5lib and Lxml to extract data.
  • Selenium. tool that works like a web driver: opens the browser, clicks on items, fills forms, scrolls through pages, and more. Need drivers installation to interact with a specific browser before you start.
  • Lxml. Library with tools for handling HTML and XML files. Has a high speed of analysis of large documents and pages and convenient functionality. To get more functionality you can combine Lxml and Beautiful Soup as they are compatible with each other. Beautiful Soup uses Lxml as a parser.


Java implements various tools and libraries, as well as external APIs that can be used for parsing.

  • Jsoup. An open-source project to extract and analyze data from HTML pages. The main functions include HTML page loading and parsing, managing HTML elements, proxy support, working with CSS selectors, and so on.
  • Jaunt. A library that can be used to extract data from HTML pages or JSON data with a headless browser. Uses its own syntax, can execute and process individual HTTP requests and responses and interacts with the REST API for data extraction.
  • HTMLUnit. Allows to simulate browser events and supports JavaScript. HTMLUnit supports XPath-based parsing, unlike JSoup.


JavaScript also has ready-made parsing libraries with handy functional APIs.

  • Cheerio. The parser creates the DOM tree of the page and makes it easy to work with. It analyzes the markup and provides functions to process the resulting data.
  • Osmosis. Written in Node.js and supports CSS 3.0 and XPath 1.0 selectors, can load and search for AJAX content, log URLs, redirects, and errors, fill out forms, pass basic authentication, and much more.
  • Apify SDK. A Node.js library that you can use with Chrome Headless and Puppeteer. Apify allows doing deep traversal of an entire website using a URL queue. Can run parser code for multiple URLs in a CSV file without losing data if the program fails.
Is Web Scraping Legal?

Is Web Scraping Legal?

Scraping compliance is a headache for companies, and when a firm wants to collect data, it needs to make sure that its activities are conducted within the law. Of course, web scraping by itself is not illegal. Any publicly available data can be collected. Problems arise when people use it without the site owner's permission and ignore the ToS (Terms of Service).

Although scraping has no clear law or usage conditions, it does fall under a number of legal provisions. Some of which are Violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA)Violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)Copyright InfringementBreach of Contract.

So yes, web scraping is legal and the specialty data collection companies abide by all rights and site policies.

Get Data for your Business

We extract the data you need from any website to satisfy all your business requirements with 100% accuracy.

  • Free Sample Data Sets
  • Regular Data Delivery
  • Legal and GDPR compliance
Get a Quote

To Sum Up

Web scraping exists in various types, is ubiquitous, and is built into many programs - for making improvements, for collecting data, or for forecasting. Many popular services, such as search engines or price comparison sites, would not be possible without automatic extraction of data from sites. But the misuse of scraping poses serious risks to companies, so data must be collected wisely. We will be glad to help you with your data collection and answer any questions you may have.

Talk to us to find out how we can help you

Let us take your work with data to the next level and outrank your competitors.

How does it Work?

1. Make a request

You tell us which website(s) to scrape, what data to capture, how often to repeat etc.

2. Analysis

An expert analyzes the specs and proposes a lowest cost solution that fits your budget.

3. Work in progress

We configure, deploy and maintain jobs in our cloud to extract data with highest quality. Then we sample the data and send it to you for review.

4. You check the sample

If you are satisfied with the quality of the dataset sample, we finish the data collection and send you the final result.

Get in Touch with Us

Tell us more about you and your project information.

Scrapeit Sp. z o.o.
80/U1 Młynowa str., 15-404, Bialystok, Poland
NIP: 5423457175
REGON: 523384582