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Web Crawler vs Data Scraper (The Definitive Guide)

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No matter how tech-savvy you are, you probably wrongly assume that a web crawler and data scraper refer to the same thing. Most people make this mistake.

Web scrapers are common among business owners, while crawlers are used by search engines. But this does not mean your business cannot benefit from using a crawler.

We will help you differentiate between scrapers and crawlers, and show you the different benefits that each can bring to your business.

Let’s define the two terms first.

What Is a Web Crawler?

A crawler, also known as a spider bot or spider, is a tool used by search engines to index web pages. As of 2019, there were 1.71 billion websites. Crawlers make it easy for search engines to understand the content on these websites and give visitors relevant responses to their queries.

So, how do crawlers work? They use known websites to discover new web pages by following hyperlinks. The links lead them to new sites, and the crawler will follow more links on the discovered page to find other sites. And the chain continues.

Once the crawler discovers new web pages, it tries to understand the content by going through the meta tags and the site’s copy before indexing it.

Whenever a user searches the web, the search engine quickly looks for relevant web pages on the search index. It then ranks them in their order of relevance depending on the search terms used and displays these sites on the search engine result page.

Having your site crawled and indexed makes it easier for potential customers to find you.  The higher you rank, the more discoverable you will be. It draws organic traffic to your site and increases your conversion rate. Due to these benefits, websites do not block crawlers from their site.

Understanding Web Scrapers

Businesses use web scrapers to extract data from websites. This data is then analyzed and used to develop insights that help with decision making.

Web scraping involves the use of a scraper, which automatically collects the data needed from targeted websites, changes it into a readable format, and stores it in a database or spreadsheet.

Scraping can have a number of benefits for your businesses.

  • It makes it possible to monitor the competition
  • You can gather price-related data and set more competitive prices
  • Gathering data from review websites helps you understand your customers
  • You can collect the contact information of potential customers from LinkedIn and the Yellow Pages
  • You can research on the most competitive keywords to incorporate on your site.

Website administrators are not as friendly to scrapers as they are to crawlers. This is because scrapers slow down the website and lead to misleading web analytics. For this reason, you have to use a proxy server when scraping.

Proxies come with an IP address attached to a different location. They prevent the device that is holding the scraper from directly accessing the web, making it possible to scrape data anonymously. Rotating the proxy IP addresses enables you to make as many requests as you need without being detected.

What Are the Differences Between Crawlers and Scrapers?

From the descriptions we have laid out, differentiating the two processes is easy.

1) Scope of Work

A crawler is not limited. It follows all the relevant hyperlinks in the websites and indexes all the web pages found. But a scraper works with a specific goal. It extracts the required data from targeted websites, such as prices from e-commerce websites, and does not go beyond this goal.

2) Nature of the Process

A crawler downloads the websites discovered and indexes them for easy retrieval. A scraper, on the other hand, extracts the content of the web pages and stores it in a database or spreadsheet for further analysis.

3) Deduplication

Blogs often repost content on other websites, making it likely for a crawler to index content twice.  This makes the elimination of duplicated content an essential part of crawling. It ensures that websites are not ranked twice on SERPS. Deduplication is, however, not necessary with web scrapers.

Can a Crawler and a Scraper Work Together?

You can use a crawler to make your scraping project more efficient.

Using the crawler, you can find and download the websites relevant to your project. It makes it easier and faster to scrape the data needed.

Winding Up

Web crawling and web scraping are both essential processes for businesses. It is through web crawling that businesses are able to have their websites visible to potential customers, increase organic traffic, and improve their conversion rate.

Web scraping enables businesses to make better decisions, carry out market research, stay competitive in the market, and build a sizeable market. Incorporating web crawling to the web scraping process makes the process easier and saves time.

Ensure that you are getting your web scraper and web crawler from a reputable vendor for a smooth process.

Read next: The Best Wireless Alarm Systems Under $300 In 2020

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