Although there is a goldmine of web data freely available to crawl and extract, businesses need to be pointed in the right direction while identifying the correct sources of data collection for their particular use case. The uncertainty while identifying web sources is natural since the data available on the web is primarily meant for human visitors and not bots. While accessing the data on a website using a web crawler setup, you will have to factor in the legal aspects of the extraction along with the technical accessibility. These apart, not all websites make ideal sources of data collection. We’ll explain the reasons and suggest some of the best web data sources for various business applications.
Things to keep in mind while selecting sources
Stay away from sites that block bots
There are certain websites that use aggressive bot blocking technologies despite legally allowing web crawling via their robots.txt rules. Such sites aren’t great data sources since their blocking activities might give you incomplete, skewed or no data at all. This lack of stability makes them poor sources of data collection.
Watch out for broken links
Broken links are a clear sign of a poorly maintained website. Broken links can cause issues while the web crawlers try to navigate the site to reach different pages to fetch the data. It’s best to steer clear from sites with too many broken links.
User experience and site design
Websites with a cluttered and complex user interface often have low quality, unreliable information available on them. If you have to use a website with poor user experience as your source of data, it’s better to ensure the reliability of the information manually before proceeding.
Frequently updated sites
Fresh data is critical for time-sensitive applications of web data such as pricing intelligence, brand monitoring and news feed aggregation. For most cases, you should ideally look for frequently updated websites.
Sources of data collection by application
Brand monitoring is critical for all companies, given the power of internet to make or break a brand. Conversations now happen in real time on the web and opinions and reviews posted could significantly impact your business. Brand monitoring using web crawling helps you discover negative opinions voiced by consumers so as to fix the overlooked issues within your offering. Ideal sources of data collection for brand monitoring are:
- Public forums
- Niche blogs
- Reviews section on e-commerce/travel sites
- Social media platforms
Sentiment analysis is essentially the process of identifying the emotional tone from a series of words, used to gain an understanding of the opinions, emotions and attitudes expressed via an online mention. By crawling certain websites where your target audience is likely to express their views about your brand, product or a certain world event, you can gather data required to perform sentiment analysis. Here are the popular sources used by companies for sentiment analysis.
- Social sites like Twitter,Reddit,YouTube and Instagram
- Sites where reviews are posted
- News websites
- Other niche social media sites
Market research is crucial for gauging the market size, demand and competition among other important aspects of the market. Companies should perform a thorough market research at a pre-defined frequency to garner the information necessary to stay relevant in the industry. With web scraping, the process of market research can be easily automated and accelerated.
- Government websites
- Statistics websites
- Competitors’ websites
News feeds aggregation
News and media sites need ready access to the breaking news and trending information from the web. This can only be covered by using a dedicated web crawler setup to extract data from frequently updated sources. For news feeds aggregation, the best sources are:
- News websites
- Feed aggregator websites
- Social media sites
Job feeds aggregation
Job boards, HR consultancies and recruitment analytics firms can make good use of job posting data. Since job listings reflect the current trends in the labor market such as skills in demand, trending job titles and the industries that are hiring, companies in this industry can derive crucial insights from this data. Best sources for job data aggregation are:
- Job boards
- Career pages of company websites
- Classified websites
Competitive pricing is one of the defining traits of e-commerce, hotel and flight booking businesses today. The price sensitivity of today’s customer has also lead to the mushrooming of price comparison websites. Companies looking to gather pricing data can extract it via web scraping from the following sources:
- Ecommerce portals
- Travel portals
- Price comparison websites
Travel portals with huge inventory find it difficult to manage their catalogs. Keeping the product pages up to date would require relevant data extracted from sources where the hotel room data is present. The ideal sources for catalog building are:
- Other travel portals
- Hotel websites
Applications for financial market
Companies or individuals that are closely associated with the financial industry would require near-real time data from sites that host financial data. The data is time-sensitive in this case and would require a live web crawling solution to fetch it with ultra low latency. Sources of data include:
- Stock market websites
- Websites of major financial institutions
- News and media sites
The applications of data collection using automated technologies such as web scraping is on the rise. However, selecting the right kind of source websites is a crucial step to ensure proper results from your data aggregation project. Since the quality and relevance of data present on different websites vary a lot, one has to be extremely selective while adding a site to the source list. Reliable and relevant sources of data collection can greatly enhance the ROI from web scraping.