As you likely know, web scraping is a quick, easy, and highly efficient way of gathering publicly available information from the internet. You might also know that it requires development and IT resources, but that it is typically done by using a web crawler or a bot.
However, what you may not have known is that there are a few important differences when it comes to gathering data, you can have an in-house scraping solution or use a web scraping API. Today, we will cover a few different types of scraping, and dive into the differences between each method, so that you can determine which approach is the best for you.
What is the difference between web scraping and web crawling?
Before we continue, we should point out what is the difference between web scraping and web crawling. When it comes to web scraping, it means that you are fetching the content from a certain page. In other words, you download a page, and extract relevant data from it.
Meanwhile, web crawling relies on following different links to reach numerous pages. Crawlers also have to scrape, and they don’t just go from one page to another for nothing. Instead, they do it to find useful data and obtain them for later use. However, they also need to discover links that lead to additional pages in order to get to them and retrieve their data.
In other words, web scraping is a crucial component of web crawling, as you will want to extract the data after finding the relevant web pages.
Costs associated with building your own website scraper
If you ever had contact with a website scraper or web scraping company, you probably know that there are certain costs that need to be paid. Hiring a dedicated website scraper can cost you thousands of dollars per month, although that depends on the service you have hired.
However, building your own website scraper can cost even more, as there are multiple aspects that you need to obtain and prepare, in order to have everything you will need to create your personal scraper.
The largest among these costs include the cost of servers, proxy costs, as well as things such as maintenance. That is, assuming that you have proper technical knowledge that will allow you to do the work yourself, or a competent team that works for your business, that can do it for you. Let’s take a closer look at how much this can actually end up costing you.
Maintaining in house scaping obviously requires servers for the crawling operation, scraping the data, and parsing it. It also requires setting up a complex load-balancing system, setting up an autoscale solution should also be considered as your scraping requirements may vary during the day/week. If you rely on cloud services like AWS or Digital ocean you should also factor in outbound traffic costs.
Direct costs pretty much straightforward, mainly the servers fee and the outbound traffic.
But the indirect costs AKA overhead costs are significantly higher, as you must have IT / DevOps resources at your disposal. You should also factor in system downtimes and redundancy costs.
Web scraping and proxies go hand in hand, running a web scraping/crawling without good proxies is like owning a car without gas in its tank. Even if you rely on advanced web scraping tools like Puppeteer, without proxies websites would quickly figure out you are not a real user, and they would likely block your IP address, thus preventing you from accessing them in the future.
There are 2 kinds of IP addresses you should use when using proxies for web scraping: Residential IPs – Residential proxies usually have a higher success rate, but they might be slower, tend to disconnect and significantly more expensive.
DataCenter IPs – Data Center proxies are significantly cheaper and much faster, but they come with serious downsides in the form of lower success rates.
In other words, if you choose to go with residential proxies, you should expect higher proxy costs and lower scraping speeds. And if you choose Data Center proxies you should factor in reduced productivity, and higher server and IT / DevOps costs.
Finally, there is the matter of maintenance to consider, and that doesn’t simply include server maintenance or recurring proxy subscription payments. As you likely know, websites push updates all the time, and when a change like this occurs, the scraper needs to be updated. When scraping a webpage for data, a reference to some element in the page’s html needs to be defined. When scraping a few fields from a page these references are likely to be changed over time. Some websites even go the extra mile and place in anti-scraping / anti-bot tools which update on a regular basis.
With each change, the website evolves, and scraping data from it requires modifications. Your scraper/crawler needs to be constantly tweaked for every website you crawl, pretty much on a daily basis in order to function properly. Naturally, that means that you need a dedicated team who will know how to do it, and how to do it quickly and efficiently. Obviously, that is going to end up costing you as well, so be prepared for that, too.
This is why companies choose to use off the shelf web scraping tools instead of maintaining their own in house web scraping operation. Like everything in life, there are pros and cons to using it.
Data Accuracy and Monitoring
When using an in-house scraping solution, you should also build a monitoring system that notifies you when things go wrong. Pages can change, IP Addresses can be blocked, and the scrapers you wrote might not cover all of the cases when pages vary. This means investing a large amount of resources in validating the scraped data and monitoring the quality of your web scraper. For example: you need to scrape Amazon, and they starting to block the IP addresses of your proxy provider. This can cause your scraper to get blocked, even if you change IP addresses.
Validating the parser is also troublesome, since a change in html structure can cause the results to wrong: empty or wrong values. This causes the necessity of having a full time software engineer to be devoted to the scraping task.
The pros and cons of using off-the-shelf web scraping tools
There are many off-the-shelf web scraping tools out there, which are basically a commercial product that aims at a larger audience. These solutions are typically inexpensive to purchase, as they target mass-market audience, so development costs can be covered simply by offering them to users globally.
This includes tools such as Scrapy, Crawly, Diffbot, ScreenScraper, ScrapingHub, and alike. However, these are not a holistic solution, either. They must be constantly updated and you lose control over the use of the right browser fingerprint.
In addition to that, you must also buy the proxies yourself, which is a tough cookie on its own and its integration might be tricky. If you still choose to go with that option we recommend you will have at least 2-3 proxy providers for backup.
As for their benefits, the cost is definitely a factor as you don’t have to own a dedicated R&D team. Other benefits include a great number of features and the fact that they are most capable of meeting the needs of most businesses. Also, they come with customer support, and they are easy to use and quick to deploy.
Another alternative many companies choose is to skip this whole operation and use a web scraping API, which is similar in its business model to SAAS subscription.
What is web scraping API?
Web scraping API is the next evolution for web scraping as you just get the data and don’t have to deal with proxies, web scraping tools, etc. These APIs are usually provided by SAAS companies and allows you to easily extract data from most web pages, and do it in real-time, thus providing you with results in seconds.
Obviously, when it comes to any business, one rule stays the same — time is money. With that in mind, you can undoubtedly see how using an API that can deliver information that you need almost instantly could be of use to you without any overhead costs. With a web scraping API, you will unlock useful data, and exploit new business opportunities as they emerge, instead of discovering them too late to advance your own business.
Furthermore, you can innovate your entire business model, and retrieve data into analytical platforms, and have it processed as it arrives. In other words, it allows you to focus on your core business model and improve your efficiency.
The advantages of using a web scraping API
We have already mentioned some of the advantages of using a web scraping API, with the ability to collect data in real-time and have it ready for analysis. This data can include information from E-commerce websites, news data extraction, contact details harvesting, and more.
These APIs can be set to focus on the type of data you need, and they will deliver excellent data quality. Best of all, most of them were built with scalability in mind, meaning that they can search the web at major speeds, often scanning thousands of pages each second, and extract data from millions of these pages each day. This is definitely much better than anything anyone could ever do manually, and this is where the true value of web scraping APIs lies.
ScrapeZone real-time web scraping API
ScrapeZone has developed a web scraping API that is capable of gathering and providing useful data in real-time. Moreover it revolutionized the web scraping industry by offering a SAAS like subscription model where you can get e-commerce and SEO web scraping in minutes after you sign up.
There are multiple benefits to using ScrapeZone’s API, some are more generic like not owning a dedicated IT department for web scraping or purchasing proxies. Other benefits are its scalability, ease of integration and its business model where you only pay for successful data retrievals.
You will simply get data in real-time! Not only that, but there is also no need to manage proxies. There are no delays, and all results are available instantly.
Real-Time SEO Scraping API
If your use case is SEO only you can choose Scrapezone’s real-time SEO scraping API, which allows you to scrape search results from search engines and quickly and easily obtain valuable SEO data insights. As the name suggests, you would receive this data in real-time, as the API collects it. Depending on the API — or the settings you choose — it can scrape data from a single page, multiple pages or from different search engines.
This can be very useful if you wish to compare the data obtained from Google and the one obtained from Bing, or other engines, you can even choose between JSON results and full HTML results. To learn more about SEO scraping check out these 5 things you should know about SEO scraping.
Real-Time e-Commerce API
Finally, if you are after e-Commerce data — the best way to obtain it would be to use a real-time e-Commerce API, which scans e-Commerce websites in a similar way and collects all the necessary data from there.
This can include anything from specific product descriptions, prices, and alike. These APIs use advanced techniques that identify different patterns and fetch all useful data that can be found on eCommerce websites. There are also many services that can create a custom scraper specifically for your business, and set it in a way that will allow it to collect the data that is most useful for you.