Typically, you need a web browser to visit a website and view the data available there. Not all websites, however, allow you to download the data they display to your computer. Some of them would not even allow you to copy and paste the data manually. Even if manual copy-paste is allowed, copying large volumes of data from websites to your computer files would be a tedious and time-consuming task. Hence, you need web scraping software to extract data from websites within minutes or seconds. The software simulates the function of a web browser, but with the only difference that it helps save the necessary data from a webpage to a local file in your computer, rather than just displaying the data on your computer screen.
How to Extract
Web scraping software has codes written in PHP, Python or other programming languages. You need to choose the right language depending on accessibility, ease of use, and other factors. First things first, identify your exact requirements; define your purpose behind data extraction; and decide where you want the data – in a spreadsheet, an analytics application, or a local database? Next, you need to identify the websites and pages from where you want to source information. Some examples of sources could be government websites, retail sites, ecommerce sites, and competitor sites. Now narrow the scope, defining classes and functions or exactly what type of data you want to scrap.
If you choose to use point-and-click web scraping software for extracting data from websites, you simply need to specify the data fields and images you want to scrap by clicking on them. The difficult part, however, is to spot the right pages and elements that need to be scrapped. Once you add the data fields, click on “Next” button and the software will automatically start the process of web scraping and save the required data in your preferred file formats.