Everything you need to know about data extraction

words Alexa Wang

data extraction

Data is being generated more than ever. The main reasons for that are the development of digital technologies and the internet, and it’s an excellent opportunity for businesses worldwide to gather and use data to make informed decisions.

Running a business on your “business hunch” or “intuition” simply won’t cut it anymore. Everyone is using data for a variety of operations. That’s how you can find your place in the market and stay competitive for a long time.

But how to extract data from a website? If you want to gather and use data that brings business value, you will have to learn more about the process.

What is Data Extraction?

For a lot of people, data extraction might seem complex, but it really isn’t. It’s the terminology that’s confusing. For example, data extraction is also called web scraping, screen scraping, or web harvesting. These are all the same thing, just called differently.

As the name implies, this process includes the extraction of publicly available data from various websites. To get the data, however, it needs to be accessed via a web browser. In other words, the data is placed in the online environment.

To get it manually would take a lot of time, and web scraping is an automated process that does it accurately and efficiently. These tools interact with sites the same way as web browsers do, but they save data locally rather than displaying it visually.

How is it Done

Data extraction is done with tools specifically designed for these tasks. These tools are intelligent and can inspect different website structures, understand HTML, gather specified data, and store the data in your database in a structured manner.

Since you probably don’t have coding knowledge, you’ll want to use a third-party scraping service or use an intuitive scraping tool. With them, anyone can learn how to extract data from a website. Here are the general steps you need to make to extract data with these tools:

  1. Find sites that you want to extract data from and save their URL addresses.
  2. Add all the addresses to your tool and choose the data that you want extracting from those sites.
  3. Query the site and see all of the data the tool has found. Choose the data you actually need.
  4. Choose where you want the data stored and in what format.
  5. Extract data and watch how your database is getting populated.

Main Challenges of Data Extraction

Even though websites offer information publicly, many of them don’t want others to get their data. They use a variety of techniques to prevent scrapers from getting their information. Some of the most common data extraction challenges are:

Banned scraping

Lots of sites use robots.txt to block scraping. With this command, web scrapers are unable to access the site or get any data from it.

Complex page structures

Different site structures are one of the biggest issues for scraping. Even though most sites today use HTML, designers and developers have lots of room to create something different. Extraction tools sometimes won’t understand these structures.

Blocked IPs

Scrapers send out lots of requests when gathering data. Sites often have automated IP blocks when they recognize a large number of requests. This method is often combined with honeypot traps when sites set up invisible pages to identify scrapers and block them instantly.

CAPTCHA

CAPTCHA is used to check whether a human is accessing the site by presenting various puzzles that scrapers can’t solve.

How to Overcome Challenges

Different challenges require different solutions. However, using a scraping proxy will deal with most of the issues. When you use a proxy for data extraction, you hide the IP address of your web scraper, which means that sites won’t be able to block your IP and prevent you from scraping them.

Proxies can overcome a variety of geo-blocks and other blocks related to your IP. They can even rotate your IP address to ensure your scraper isn’t recognized.

You can also set up multiple scrapers with different settings to overcome structure issues and give them multiple IPs with a proxy to avoid getting blocked.

Benefits of Data Extraction

The main benefit of data extraction is getting large volumes of accurate and valuable ready for analysis. This technique and data can be used for brand monitoring and learning what others are saying about your brand online.

It can also be used for market research, analyzing your competition, cataloging, or tracking product prices. You get valuable and actionable data in an automated fashion with an emphasis on efficiency. There’s no need to know programming or waste time by getting data from multiple sources.

Conclusion

We hope this article has helped you understand what data extraction is and how valuable it can be. We live in the age of information, and all businesses are combating to get as much relevant information as possible to perfect their operations.

If you want to dig deeper into the topic, then read more in this in-depth article on how to extract data from a website.

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