Web Scraping Vs. Web Crawling: Key Difference and Concepts

Web Scraping Vs Web Crawling Key Difference and Concepts

Usually, brands need data and in large quantities. And most times, when speaking about how to source a large amount of data from the internet, we often use the terms “web scraping” and “web crawling” interchangeably.

Perhaps, this is nobody’s fault and, at some level, correct. This is because before web scraping can even begin, some form of web crawling (to find web pages with relevant data) has to occur. So technically speaking, web crawling usually precedes web scraping.

However, both web crawling and web scraping exist as separate concepts and have their differences. Today, we will see what these differences are and what is a web crawler.

What is web scraping?

The process of web scraping can be defined as the extraction of specific and valuable public data from multiple sources such as websites, marketplaces, social media platforms and so on.

Scraping the web involves using data extraction tools to interact with the target server, read its contents, retrieve the needful, return the data to the host computer, and then save it in some usable format.

The extracted data can then be analyzed further and deeper, interpreted and even used to make key business decisions that promote brand growth.

In today’s competitive market, it is believed that company successes are directly tied to how much of their decisions are data-driven. This makes web scraping a crucial part of any business adventure. 

What is web crawling?

Web crawling is also sometimes called “web spidering” and is defined as the process of using tools known as bots to read, copy, and store the public contents of websites. Web crawling involves going on the internet searching for data requested by the internet user. Once found, crawling even deeper using links and URLs included and then finally tying everything up by creating indices and collections. The process plays a vital role in data indexing and archiving, two essential aspects of Machine Learning.

The web crawling technique is generally used by giant corporations and search engines such as Google and Bing to extract data, create copies, and index them to make web scraping easier for brands.

What is a web crawler?

A web crawler, also often called a “web spider”, is defined as a bot that can be used to scan the internet for important contents. The bot navigates the web and systematically goes through web pages using internal links and URLs,  exploring in details all that the website has to offer before correctly indexing all the information gathered.

Generally speaking, web crawlers are used by search engines to crawl through a website, learning all about its contents. They go from page to page, collecting links and URLs as they do so. Then they crawl the links afterward. You can get more info about web crawlers by visiting the Oxylabs website.

The above process could endlessly save for a set of policies that control how the web crawler works. To make the process more coordinated and efficient, web crawlers are usually built to follow the following rules:

  • Crawl websites based on the relative importance and relevance of each web page instead of checking all publicly available data
  • Constantly revisit websites to ensure that recently updated contents are also indexed
  • Check the robots.txt.file before crawling to ensure they follow specific rules.

Main difference between web scraping vs. web crawling

Indeed, web crawling is closely tied to web scraping. It is also true that web crawling naturally leads to web scraping. Both processes are pretty similarly hence the reason many people use the terms interchangeably. Yet there is a world of difference between the two, and below are the main ones.

Web ScrapingWeb Crawling
The primary purpose is for data extraction from specific websitesThe primary purpose is for searching, collecting, and indexing web pages across the internet
Generally used by both small and large enterprisesEmployed mainly by large corporations only
It entails visiting only specific pages and downloading data without making copies of the pagesIt entails searching for content then finding other relevant contents and, in most cases, duplicating the contents
It is a dual process involving a web crawler to find the content and a parser to return the dataIt is a single process needing only a web crawler
Web scraping finds application in brand and price monitoring, brand protection, retail marketing etc.Web crawling’s main application is to assist search engines to give more helpful search results to internet users
Web scraping does not need to follow the robots.txt ruleWeb crawling always has to follow this rule.

Conclusion

Web crawling and web scraping; two roads that lead to the same end. They even work similarly but knowing what web crawlers as well as how web scraping and web crawling differ is important to help you understand which of the processes or tools your business needs is.

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