Data Harvesting War: Scraping vs using API
At the age of big data, data extraction is vital for all businesses. Data harvesting can give companies many advantages and, most importantly, it will get the business to a highly competitive place. By conducting market research via data harvesting, the business gets access to up-to-date information regarding the industry or any related topic.
When the business has relevant data, it gets insights into the market changes in real time and becomes highly competitive in the industry. Being informed on what’s happening in the market, your business can respond to any changes accordingly and minimize losses and maximize sales.
Data extraction is especially crucial for companies that build their business around price, quality, and competition.
For example, online retailers must be well-equipped with the latest news about their competitors: their pricing strategy, special offers, and inventory.
All traveling businesses always claim to have the lowest prices and best offers, so they must be well aware of all the possible changes that happen in the industry. This is also true for the real estate industry. The house price index is updated in the country’s national statistics on regular basis.
The price index change affects all the industries related to real estate. Thus, companies must extract the latest data from the web to later analyze it and make decisions accordingly.
In today’s hypercompetitive world, it’s vital to be up-to-date regarding the market trends and changes, prices, and your customers. All of these can be improved with the help of data crawling from websites. There are many ways how data harvesting can be done. Currently, the two most acceptable methods are web scraping and API. Although both have their advantages and disadvantages, it’s better to stick to only one. In this blog post, we will reveal the pros and cons of both and help to choose the best option.
Web Scraping vs API
Web scraping and API scraping are the most practical ways of data harvesting. Web crawling, data crawling, and web scraping are all names to define the process of data extraction. With the help of this technique, data is extracted from various website pages and repositories.
The data is then saved and stored for further use and analysis. Basically, what web scraping does is that it copies all the content from a web page and delivers raw data of your choice in a specific structured format. There are currently many companies that offer web scraping services. With the help of these web scraping service companies, your business can outsource all the data crawl process to a third party. Hence, the company will get raw structured data that is ready to use and analyze.
API is another data scraping method, however, it works quite differently. An API – application programming interface – is an intermediary that allows one software to talk to another software.
In more simple terms, an API allows the user to open up data and functionality to other developers and businesses. It is the most practiced way of data and service exchange between companies, both internally and externally. This technique of sharing data using the web is increasingly getting popularity. Both web scraping and API scraping are widely used today as data crawling methods. Collecting data is very important, but it’s also important to figure out which scraping method to use. The decision should depend on several factors.
Nevertheless, what should matter the most is to choose the method that has minor limitations or issues. Especially if you’re doing web crawling on regular basis, you want to make sure that you’re using the best options. API does have some limitations which make web scraping superior over API method. We consider the issues with API in the next section.
Limitations of API Scraping
1. Availability and Lack of Customization
Obviously, not all websites have API today. Most do, yes, however, this doesn’t imply that you can easily use their API to extract data. Firstly, APIs do not provide access to all the data available. Secondly, even if you could access the data, you would have to adhere to all the rate limits that are referred to in the next section.
So the availability of data is a serious issue. Also, when there are certain changes in the website, these changes in the data structure would reflect in the API only months later. Thereby, the data extracted through an API tool may not be reliable.
When you choose to get data with the help of a website’s API, you are very limited in the customization. You can’t control aspects of customization such as format, structure, fields, frequency or any other specific characteristics. It’s simply impossible to get a high degree of data customization with API.
2. Rate Limits
Considering that the website provides an API, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can harvest as much data as you want. Rate limits are a major problem for APIs. These rate limitations are creating a lot of issues for developers. The limits are based on time, the time between two consecutive queries, a number of concurrent queries and the number of records returned per query. So basically, you are very limited in what and how much you can extract.
The website’s APIs usually track and limit the data you’re trying to harvest. So most APIs have a limited usage policy. This won’t cause any issues if you’re using the API for one time only. However, if you intend to use API continuously, then you will end up sending thousands of request over the entire day.
You will eventually have to purchase a premium version. The free API will let you send only ten to a hundred request per day. Using API on regular basis will lead to signing a costly agreement between you and the API owner.
With data scraping, you will always face the issue of legality. API supporters often claim that data scraping with API is completely legal and doesn’t violate any rules. However, this is not always the case. Even with API, there are some legal hurdles. When you receive data with the help of an API, this data is not copyrightable. But the underlying database from which the data comes from is, arguably, copyrighted.
Thereby, you could still be sued because you infringed a copyrighted database.
4. Advantages of API and Why People Use It
After mentioning so many limitations, you might be wondering why so many people still prefer to use API over web scraping. The answer is very simple. If you need to get the same data, from the same source, for the same specific objective, then API would perfectly fit all your data needs. Also, the person might have a contract with the website. According to the contract, the person might be supposed to use their API within specific limits.
So if your data needs are the same and don’t change within time, you won’t face any limitation of the API system.
How Web Scraping Can Help Your Business
Web scraping and data crawling are the best solutions for all your data needs and wants. It is simple and has no limitations whatsoever. The crawled data can be used for so many reasons and can benefit your business enormously.
With web scraping method, you are in charge of what and how much data you scrape. Also, you can get the data in your preferred structure, format and specific characteristics of your choice.
Web scraping will help your business in the following ways:
- Lead generation – any businesses’ main target is to generate as many leads as possible. Of course, you could manually go and search for your potential clients online. But imagine how time-consuming and inefficient it would be. So web scraping services can do the work for you. Leave it to professionals, and they will provide you with ready data of leads’ contact information from millions of websites in no time.
- Price optimization – with the help of regular and fresh data, you will be able to be the most competitive business in the industry. Price is one of the most important aspects of your competitive strategy. By scraping fresh price data, you’ll be able to keep track of all the changes in the industry, as well as to keep your prices competitive for your products. Collecting price data from the web with the help of web scraping will be very useful for creating your pricing strategy.
Advantages of Web Scraping
1. Up-to-date data
When using web scraping, you can be sure that the crawled data is always fresh and relevant. With API, as the database is not updated on regular bases, you might end up having old data. This is impossible with web crawling as you scrape the content right from the screen. You crawl exactly what you see. Also, you can easily verify the data by comparing it with what you see right on the website.
2. No rate limitations to scraping
Web scraping is free and has no limits in terms of how much you can scrape. In general, the amount of crawled data is not limited as long as you’re not hammering the website with hundreds of concurrent requests. If you get too harsh, the website can ban you. It can request some forms of verifications like CAPTCHA. However, although it can be tricky, there’s a solution for that as well. In any case, as long as you are following the legal terms of the website data usage, you won’t get into trouble.
3. Customization and well-structured data
It’s much easier to work with data crawl method if you are in a need of a specific data. Customization is one thing that can be achieved only with web scraping. No other data extraction method can offer such a degree of customized data. You can scrape specific data in your desired format and structure. Also, you can choose the frequency of scraping and even get the geo-specific or device-specific data.
Staying anonymous while scraping data is a privilege you get when you use web scraping. You can gather the data and stay private if you want to do so. The website administrator won’t be able to track each your step. With API, you often must register to get a key and send it along every time you request data. So it’s practically impossible to stay anonymous while gathering data via APIs.
Why You Should Outsource the Work to a Web Scraping Service
There are many reasons why you should consider letting a web scraping service to do the scraping work for you. Nowadays, data is everywhere and it’s available in enormous amounts. Simply think about all the work that must be done to scrape and handle that vast amount of data.
Whatever your data needs are, you can gain a lot of benefits by outsourcing the work to a web scraping service company.
Web scraping service companies are operated by a team of professionals, who know exactly what they need to do. Most importantly, they are well aware of the legal side of the scraping. So by leaving the work to them, you will be provided by the most accurate and efficient data. Also, you will save a lot of time.
Thereby, outsourcing the work is time-efficient because you will spend your valuable time not on scraping data, but on analyzing an already scrapped and nicely formatted data.
Whether you need customer information or data on the internal market structure or sale trends, anything can be ordered from a web scraping service company. So save your time and nerves, and let a team of professionals handle all your data needs.
Web scraping industry is dynamic and undergoes changes regularly. A technology that is used today may be completely outdated the next day. So instead of getting your hands dirty, leave the scraping process to professional scrapers and try out a reliable service like DataHen.