Web Crawling: What You Need to Know

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Have you ever wondered how your preferred search engine updates its content? Well, it does this by combining web crawling and web indexing. Notably, while the former is mostly applied in search engines, some websites also utilize it for several applications, as we’ll detail below. But first, what is web crawling?

Web Crawling

Web crawling refers to the process whereby search engines and other types of websites sanction bots to scour the internet, looking for new content, and to store it. The new content could be in the form of webpages, videos, images, or even PDF.

The crawling process starts with a few web pages. Naturally, websites include links, either inbound or outbound, for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. Now, the bot, known as a spider or crawler, follows each of the links and, in so doing, discovers new URLs and, by extension, new content. It then adds the content in a database, which is much more organized and whose entries are clearly labeled for future retrieval.

Web crawling is a vital prerequisite to web scraping. You can also learn more about what a web crawler is on Oxylabs website.

Web Scraping

Web scraping refers to the targeted data extraction from websites. Needless to say, the first step entails identifying what websites contain the exact information that is to be extracted. Therefore, the web crawler charts the web scraper’s path, leading it as a virtual tour guide.

A simple look at what search engines achieve through web crawling and the reliance of web scrapers on spiders underscores the importance of web crawling in the entire online ecosystem. Much wouldn’t happen sans web crawling bots.

Further, your business stands to gain tremendously by incorporating web crawling. Here’s how.

Benefits of Web Crawling

Saves time and resources

The benefits of web crawling arise from the fact that crawlers eliminate the need for human subjects to painstakingly go through multiple web pages and websites searching for specific information. Such an undertaking is bound to take a lot of time.

Suppose obtaining this information was a daily requirement. In that case, too much time and human resources would be spent, straining available resources. But with web crawlers doing your bidding, there’s much to gain.

News and Social Media Monitoring

A company’s reputation is its lifeline. Thus, a smear campaign could prove disastrous. Alternatively, customers, keen on providing feedback, could be commenting or inquiring about your company’s products and services. But if your company doesn’t have systems in place that find such comments and remedy the situation, these customers will move to competitors.

Simply put, a lack of robust preventive mechanisms could result in a PR nightmare.

This is where web crawling comes in. With web crawlers, you can determine, without much effort, what news outlets and social media users write about your company. It’s an early warning system for negativity and a way to intercept genuine feedback as well.

Market Research

Web crawlers can scour the internet looking for websites that contain specific information that may help your business grow. For instance, you could instruct the crawler to look for new products being rolled out in your business line. Alternatively, you could instruct it to find web pages containing products’ pricing information. You could then use web scrapers to harvest this data in a structured format.

Lead Generation

Supposing your business is in the service industry and thrives whenever festivals and other suchlike events are being held. Naturally, you’d need to know about upcoming events as soon as organizers announce them. To this end, you need a web crawler to look for that information.

That said, web crawling is not smooth sailing. It comes with several challenges, which you should know about.

Challenges of Web Crawling

  1. They require a lot of bandwidth

Web crawlers require a lot of bandwidth to download and store URLs and, in some cases, content. This challenge could be more significant, bearing in mind that some downloaded content may be irrelevant and useless. Also, in some cases, web crawlers deploy multiple crawlers to crawl faster. This is bound to strain your company’s web servers even more.

  1. Web Content is updated regularly

Every second, new content hits the internet. From social media users, news publishing websites, e-commerce sites, and company websites, etc. For web crawlers to keep up, they have to do a lot of work. However, you may lack the resources to store the information gathered.

  1. Lack of Uniformity

The internet is a vast database of information. But, even so, the data structures vary from one website to another. This makes accessing such information becomes a challenge.

  1. Collecting irrelevant information

In some cases, when web crawlers don’t find the information in their instructions, they opt to collect related information, which could be irrelevant to the user.

Nonetheless, these challenges don’t invalidate the many benefits you’re likely to experience if you incorporated web crawling in your business.

 

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Web Crawling: What You Need to Know
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Have you ever wondered how your preferred search engine updates its content? Well, it does this by combining web crawling and web indexing.
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