Data or web scraping is a technique that gathers colossal amounts of information from search engines, websites, databases and other locations around the web. Formerly out of reach for small businesses and individuals, there are now lots of free and inexpensive tools that can scrape thousands of pages with the click of a button.
The information that you learn through scraping can be put to use in all kinds of ways, from knowing which gaps to fill with content, to improving internal processes or even finding great places to build links and follow your competitors. Here are five great things you can learn – about your competitors, your industry, or even your own website – by scraping the web.
1. Link Analysis
This applies for both inbound and outbound links. Scraped link data can be great for determining what links are highest and lowest in quality, and can then be either benchmarked against your own, or sought out in order to increase the number of high-quality inbound links your site has. Because we all know that high-quality inbound links — and the quantity thereof — is such a powerful SEO booster, this is definitely an advantage provided by scraping. Depending upon the scraping tool, or if you have programming skills, you can also gather information about domain authority, social signals, or nearly anything else you might want to know about a link.
Link analysis can help not only with your own link-building strategies but with incoming traffic to boot. Scrapebox is a great scraping tool for SEO that performs link scraping with ease.
2. Blog and Audience Outreach
Screamingfrog is a good scraping tool, although there are plenty of others, for compiling a blog and contacts list by scraping blogs according to content, audience volume and popularity, page rank and search engine rankings. This is especially useful for marketing strategies where influencers, review bloggers, and active social media users can drastically impact a particular campaign. For example, self-published authors and single-product businesses can potentially increase their online visibility and conversions to a drastic extent with successful blog scrapes and outreach campaigns.
3. Newsworthy Trends or Changes
There are probably more articles, tutorials, tool list recommendations and blog posts about scraping for journalism than any other type. This is because journalists often have to scrape huge amounts of data in order to find a story.
Journalists are able to look at a large amount of data and spot trends and changes and form them into a report or story. This is why journalists can benefit from using either really powerful scraping tools or being able to program their own, because they require enormous amounts of data at one time while also needing that data to be compressed into something that can be digested quickly.
That being said, newsworthy trends and changes do not have to be something reported exclusively by journalists. If you perform your own data hunts, you can much more easily find truly original information and content, which is exactly the kind of blog or web content that readers will flock to.
4. Competitor Analysis
“Competitor analysis,” as a single category in this list, is actually very broad. You could write a whole article on using data scraping for competitor analysis alone. You can compare everything from your competitor’s Google ad keywords and Google ad content to prices, keywords and anchors to inbound and outbound links, social media — pretty much anything you analyze about your own website, you can analyze about your competitors when you use web scraping. Mozenda is a good tool for such kinds of scraping. While scraping competitor sites, and plenty of others, for that matter, it’s a good idea to use a VPN or proxy to hide your IP address. Mozenda uses a proxy feature that rotates many IPs, so you’ll be virtually invisible while harvesting your data. Other scraping tools spin comments and anchors while scraping data, in addition to rotating the many IP addresses.
5. Keywords – Both Paid and Organic
Using scraping tools like SEMrush, which is good specifically for scraping keyword data, you can analyze all keywords to both your own and competing sites that bring traffic to them. After this information is gleaned, you can use a second tool and put competitor sites through those, export to Excel or as a CSV, and create a formula to analyze keywords and locations for local SEO. By creating formulas to filter the information, you can identify locations and keywords targeted by your competitors, as well as how many pages they’ve built around those sites, how much traffic each keyword brings on a daily or monthly basis, and so forth.
This information is especially useful to local businesses and services that target or receive at least a portion of their customers online. For example, an Italian restaurant that receives 30% of its customers’ orders online will be competing for the same local keywords as any other local Italian restaurant that also offers online orders and/or reservations. By scraping competitor keywords, keyword content and so forth, it can more effectively reshape its own keyword strategy and drive more customers via the web or social media.
There are literally hundreds of ways data and web scraping can be used, and not just for SEO or marketing. Data mining can be used by investigators, recruiters, writers, marketing agencies, and even soccer moms. The learning curve for some of the scraping tools is steep, but there are plenty of tools that are simple. That said, when it comes to scraping, those with programming knowledge will always have an advantage, and you’re better off at least learning the very basics of programming to perform the best kind of scrapes.