Scraping online is a type of ecommerce web scraping method that uses automated software to extract information from a website. The term “scrape” comes from the verb “to scrape,” where an individual or machine scrapes or pulls off materials such as animal hides or metals without first melting them into other usable products, as with a pelt or metal. Essentially, it means taking something intended for one audience and using it for another purpose — like copying text from a paper and pasting it into your document. But if you’re thinking about stealing content from someone else’s site, don’t do it. Most scraper sites have terms of service that forbid you from using the tools on their platform to take content from other sites and use it for your purposes. The company can be held liable if a scraper site is caught hosting bots scraping copyrighted content.
Many businesses use web scrapers to search large amounts of data in a short amount of time. For example, real estate sites use automated programs to scrape detailed information about homes and apartments for sale in a specific area.
eCommerce databases like Google Shopping, Amazon, and eBay:
These sites are ideal for ecommerce scraping because they allow third-party sellers to list products for sale. You’ll want to use a database that gathers listings based on product keywords. Google Shopping and Amazon both use this method, so we’ll focus on eBay.
When it comes to harvesting data from large eCommerce sites, there are a few different strategies you can use.
1. Ask the site owner for specific data on a particular item:
Use Google’s Keyword Planner to find products that you search on often, then see if the site has pages with similar keywords. It is easiest if you’re a seller on eBay and you have it set up to collect your auction data automatically. Still, you can also check out other listing services like Shopify or Storenvy, which have scrapers that allow sellers to enter their data manually.
2. Find popular products and scrape them:
Look at their sales history and click through the relevant pages. Use the “the_title” parameter of the PHP scraper extension to grab titles. If the site owner uses a relational database, you can scrape the products using regular expressions and use the “the_title” parameter or manually search for pages by title. You’ll want to ecommerce price scraping if you’re working with extensive data collection and need to scale for efficiency.
3. Use a URL parser:
Some sites have structured URLs that make it easy to find specific information. For example, eBay has a consistent layout in its URLs. You can isolate the main categories by using the PHP “pos” parameter. For example, to scrape the first product that appears in a search, you’d use “pos=0&_page=1&_per_page=10”. To get products from a specific category, use “category=/electronics/laptops.”
4. Use the manual search:
If there is information that is only available through manual searches, you can manually search for it using Python’s urllib library or Selenium WebDriver.
5. Use a scraper site that searches for you:
Search is the best way to find data, but it can also be time-consuming. Scraper sites offer a solution by automatically searching for you. Sites like RobustScraper let you copy and paste a link, then let you search their database for specific keywords. They’ll even scrape images and generate CSV files so you can analyze things in your spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel.
Remember that most eCommerce sites have strict rules about scraping their data and can shut down your access if they catch you infringing on their terms of service. Contact the site owner and ask for permission to harvest information from that domain first.
Social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit):
Social media channels often make it easy for you to scrape information. It can be handy if you’re trying to find out about a competitor’s business.
Facebook allows page administrators to view their page traffic and monitor their demographics and audience. However, it doesn’t let administrators see how users interact with the page. That means there is the only way for admins to gather information about likes, shares, or comments made on the Facebook platform is if they have a tool that can effectively scrape these metrics.
Social scraper sites allow you to search for competitors’ pages and click through their content without leaving your dashboard. They also offer tools to search for specific pages rather than posts.
Like Facebook, Twitter allows site admins to view their traffic numbers and demographic data. However, when it comes to user-generated content, such as tweets or retweeted links, information is not available. That means you can only gather information about retweets if you use an automated tool.
A social media scraper scrapes all the data published on a target website, capturing everything visible to anyone who searches for your competitor while still letting you look at the content by page or post.
Forums & community websites (Quora and Reddit):
These platforms are only sometimes the right choice for data storage. That’s because forums and communities usually have contradictory rules. Even if you scrape a single thread, you may get banned from the community because of an error. It’s best to find a site that has an API specifically designed to pull data. That way, you don’t have to worry about scraping everything and getting banned in one swift move.
For example, Quora allows users to specify their user agent or set it to “any.” However, Reddit does not have this feature; it requires you to get Reddit gold for the bot to work properly. For Reddit, you’ll need a scraper site that uses API keys instead of scraping every page manually.
Product review websites such as Yelp and Slickdeals:
These platforms aren’t designed to allow you to get data directly. Instead, they rely on user reviews to provide the information that users want. That means it’s best to find a site that has an API for scraping their data.
For example, Slickdeals has no public API and does not specify its user agent on the site itself, so you’ll need a scraper that uses your personal information for it to work correctly.
Yelp allows you to send an email directly from the site and include your email address and password. You can also ask them in a comment via email so they can manually pull up the data for you.
Social media is one of the best sources when trying to find information about a competitor’s business. If you’re looking for demographic data or other KPIs, it’s best to use a scraper that allows you to search their different pages and feeds. A product review site is probably your best bet if you’re looking for more specific information, like user-generated content. That way, you can gather the most data in the shortest amount of time.