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Are Web Scraping and Web Crawling Different Things?

web scraping vs web crawling

Web crawling and web scraping are often used interchangeably. Most business owners will talk about web crawling when they mean web scraping, and it may seem like an insignificant mix-up. It would, however, lead to miscommunication with experts in the matters, such as an IT manager or a proxy vendor.

Web scraping and web crawling refer to two different processes that use various tools and serve different purposes, as we will see in this article. But before diving into the details of the two, let’s define them.

What is Crawling?

It is the process by which search engines crawl or go through the web finding new content and indexing the pages. The crawler follows links within a page, which leads to the discovery of new pages. These pages are also indexed, and any links within the pages are followed as well, and the process continues.

web scraping vs web crawling

Web crawling makes use of bots or crawlers. Its main purpose, as indicated in the definition above, is to find new content on the internet and index it. 

Once the pages are indexed, the search engine will find keywords within the content and use it to rank these pages. It then makes this content visible on search engine result pages.

What is Scraping? 

It refers to the automated process of collecting information from web pages with the use of a scraper. The scraper is configured to extract this data from targeted websites such as e-commerce sites or a business’s competitor sites. Find more information about this topic straight on service provider websites.

The scraper parses the data and imports it into a local file within the computer in a readable format for further analysis. 

The purpose of web scraping is market research that enables businesses to make better and more informed decisions, which keep it competitive and profitable. Web scraping serves the following purposes:

  1. Developing better pricing strategies
  2. Understanding the competitors’ moves
  3. Keyword research
  4. Better marketing campaigns
  5. Lead generation
  6. Finding customer feedback regarding the business
  7. Understanding changes in the market’s needs and tastes for better product creation

Web Scraping vs. Web crawling: What are the Key Differences?

web scraping vs web crawling

1) Scope of work

A web crawling task is not limited. The crawler will follow all links it comes across on every page and use them to find more pages.

Web scraping, on the other hand, is more defined. The scraper is set to extract data from a specific site that is intended to meet a certain goal. For instance, you may choose to extract the prices of water bottles from Amazon.   

2) Data Collection

In web crawling, no data is collected or stored. The crawlers only record the links of the pages discovered and index the content discovered so that web users have an easier time finding the information they are searching for.

In web scraping, the data extracted is transformed from HTML to a structured or semi-structured form with the use of a parser. It is then stored in a database or spreadsheet. Businesses use this data to develop market insight.

3) Use of Proxies

In addition to the scraper used to extract data and the parser that transforms the data format, web scraping also makes use of proxies. A proxy is used to hide the IP address and location of the device extracting data, making the process undetectable by web administrators. The proxy also makes it possible to access geoblocked websites.

Web crawling only makes use of bots that follow hyperlinks around the web. There is no need to use proxies to crawl anonymously. This is because web administrators have no reason to block or ban crawlers. Crawling benefits them by making their content discoverable to web users and attracting prospective customers. 

What Is The Similarity Between Scraping And Crawling? 

A similarity between the two processes is that they can both be used to collect real-time data.

Hundreds of new websites and new content are published on the internet every day. For this reason, both scrapers and crawlers need to collect it in real-time so that businesses can use current data to make critical decisions, and search engines can keep their index updated with the latest content.  

Winding up, if you are like most people, you have probably asked what is crawling, and if it is different from scraping. The answer is ‘yes’. These are two different processes that use different tools and have different purposes.

Scraping is more specific while crawling is generic. The main beneficiaries of scraping are businesses that need to make informed decisions while search engines use crawling to organize and index the content on the web. And while a scraper stores the data extracted in the computer, a crawler only indexes the content discovered. 

All in all, both processes are important for businesses. Web crawling makes the business’s website visible on SERPs, attracting organic traffic to the site. Web scraping helps the business remain competitive, create better products, and cultivate customer loyalty through informed decision making.