Web scraping and web crawling are instrumental techniques for many businesses. While the two have distinct functions, their combination produces insightful data that can be used in many ways like finding business leads, market research, product feedback, search engines, and more.
With that said, in terms of web crawling vs web scraping, how do they differ, and which one is the better option? Let’s find out.
In general, web scraping is a technique that collects targeted data and downloads it in a format preferred by the user. Moreover, many terms refer to this technique, like web harvesting, screen scraping, and web data extraction. If you find all these terms very frustrating, take your time and read more about all the nuances behind these notions, including web crawling.
With that said, web scraping can be done manually or with software, which is often preferred due to lower cost and labor. The collected data are intended for many uses like being sold to other users, research, or promotional purposes.
Of course, there are many ways you can access web scraping programs. For example, you can create your own or download ready-made programs.
Aside from this, web scrapers also come in browser extensions or cloud-based programs. Lastly, web scraping is often paired with web crawlers because of its capability to filter out specific data, thereby simplifying the gathered information.
On the other hand, web crawling is the method to collect and index web pages all over the internet. It uses an automated script or software program, which comes in many terms like a web crawler, spider, bot, and many more.
In addition, the ultimate output of web crawling is a collection of web pages that are publicly available on the internet.
Often, web crawlers are unable to include private pages during the data collection. Additionally, Sitemaps are usually the starting point for web crawlers when finding web pages.
Moreover, famous search engines use web crawling to provide more relevant search queries for internet users. Commonly, the search engines set rules for the web crawlers through an automated script regarding what data to look for when crawling a page.
However, frequent web crawling sometimes produces data duplication. So, to avoid duplication, a crawler will filter the data collected. Lastly, web crawling can only be done through a crawling agent, unlike web scraping, which can be possible through manual labor.
How Are They Similar and How Are They Different?
Web scraping and web crawling are both used for the data collection on the internet. In both cases, automated scripts or programs are used to achieve a desirable collection of data.
In addition, they are commonly paired together; that’s why many get confused with their distinct processes. Both of these processes require going through different information to generate better results.
In terms of their differences, web scraping targets specific data from multiple sources on the internet. As a result, it becomes convenient for businesses to gain further understanding of the market they are involved with.
Since there are specific data targets, it can be done manually or automatically because it doesn’t go through all websites. In addition, the collected data are downloadable in several formats like XML, SQL, or Excel.
On the other hand, web crawlers generate more collected data, thereby needing a web crawling agent.
This technique requires going through all web pages and all lines of information that will produce a comprehensive set of indexes to be stored in a database. In this case, web crawling is commonly done by large search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
Web Crawling vs Web Scraping: What to Use?
To know which to use, you should identify your purpose for collecting data. For example, you should ask yourself, are you trying to do market research? Are you trying to create an index of web pages for a search engine? Are you going to deal with a large amount of data?
Overall, it would be best to explore the tools you can use when web scraping or crawling and find what works for you.
Web crawling requires a web crawler or spider to collect data systematically. On the other hand, web scraping can be done manually or automatically, depending on the size of the data you’re dealing with.
In addition, automated web scraping can use software depending on the programming language you’re used with, like ParseHub, Scrapy for Python, and Cheerio for NodeJS. Meanwhile, web crawlers and web scraping will produce outputs in different formats, which you should note.
Aside from this, web crawling also deals with larger data sets. The crawlers or spiders will go through every link and web page it can detect to index the gathered data. In contrast, web scrapers will target specific data, whether on the internet or database, and produce a downloadable format for analysis.
Overall, both methods require specific tools to produce satisfactory results, highlighting the need for a deep understanding of an optimized program for a more efficient process. After all, knowing how web scraping and web crawling relate to each other is also helpful.
In fact, to perform web scraping, you need to do a bit of web crawling. Now that you know the distinction between web crawling and web scraping, it should be clearer what you should use for your business.