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The importance of web data and how to easily access it

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By the one and only
May 11, 2021

Web data touches every aspect of our lives. We create, consume and interact with it while we’re working, shopping, travelling and relaxing. Extracting meaningful data from the web – reliably, cost effectively and at scale – can play a vital role in helping companies get up-to-the minute insights about their own brand, understand the competitive landscape, optimize their product offerings and pricing strategies. 

Current events have intensified digital transformation, shaping new digital habits. Social distancing along with the shift to remote working has changed the way we shop, socialize and consume data. With each click, swipe, share, and like, a world of data is created, and it continues to grow at an explosive pace.

As digitalization is rapidly increasing, so is the demand for data. Across every industry sector, organizations have never been more reliant on web data. Data drives everything. It’s the differentiator that enables businesses to innovate and grow. The turmoil of 2020 taught businesses that they need to understand and act on data more quickly. Speed to insight is key to mitigating losses and fostering business growth. 

Brands need to be on top of their competitors’ up-to-the-minute product and pricing information. And they need to know what sources of news, information and entertainment consumers are tuned in to. Gaining accurate insights faster enables organisations to outpace competition. It’s a task that’s getting harder as our interactions with data across multiple channels become deeper, more complex and more frequent. 

Google is great at finding answers to specific questions lurking in billions of indexed web pages: nobody knows for sure just how many there are. But even the best search engine can’t collect structured data from a website – or thousands of sites in dozens of languages – and deliver it in a practical format that product development, sales and marketing, business intelligence and leadership teams can easily access and act on.

Competitive advantage through data

Let’s say you’re in the process of building your own online proposition. Maybe you’re looking to launch an ecommerce product, a price comparison site, or perhaps a curated news app to help shape your clients’ investment decisions. 

Making your proposition a success depends on much more than your own development skills. You’re also going to need access to data. Lots of it, from loads of different sources, and as close to real time as possible. Looking at the example of product data extraction, you’ll need intelligence about your competitors and their own offerings, including product rankings and pricing data from other e-commerce sites. You’ll need to keep an eye on latest developments in the market and keyword search trends. And you’ll want to know what the world’s saying about you and your peers in product reviews, social media posts and news and articles that benchmark your own brand’s health against the competition.

The wonderful world of web data is a conduit of news, knowledge and opinions. It contains valuable insights. What if you could monitor news globally, regionally or locally to create a curated news app to help inform policy making or shape investment decisions? Would you try collecting chatter from blogs, extract product reviews from an ecommerce website or marketplace to analyse consumer sentiment or track changes in your brand reputation?

Accessing web data has never been more vital to securing a competitive edge. But getting hold of that information – quickly, reliably, cost-effectively and in a usable format – can be a big challenge for large and small organizations alike.

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Don’t let data hold you back

What are the options? One solution is tasking a marketing executive or eager intern to scour websites manually to cut and paste the information you’re looking for. It’s a time-consuming process. They’ll soon struggle with larger projects; and with web pages changing all the time, the data they’ve laboriously pasted into a spreadsheet will be out of date within days or even hours. Assuming you’ve got the IT resources in house, another route is using commercially available extraction software or scraping apps. But that’s going to take your costly developers away from other mission-critical tasks and the speed of delivery can be way too long, especially if you have to act now.

It’s no surprise that capturing reliable web data at scale and making sense of it is getting tougher, more costly and more time consuming. Web data extraction has traditionally required specialist coding skills that are outside the comfort zone of a research analyst or marketing manager. And while the value of data extraction is recognized by virtually every business, the costs and complexity of making it happen are a turn-off for companies that lack the in-house know-how.

That’s when Automatic Extraction comes in - helping you get your web data quickly, reliably, at scale and cost effectively. And letting you focus on what really matters: driving your business forward in a fast-paced competitive world. 

To make life easier, we’ve launched our self-serve web interface for Automatic Extraction that’s proving popular with our customers as a discovery tool in the early phases of a bigger project. Based on powerful machine learning algorithms to scrape dependable, high-quality structured data from web pages without the need to write site-specific code, it cleverly combines crawling and data extraction functions with a uniquely easy-to-use front end. All our friendly interface needs as a starting point is the URL for a whole website, or part of a site.

There’s no need to write and maintain custom spiders to collect relevant pages – a big development overhead in itself. Just choose the data type you’re after (Products or News & Articles) and hit Start. Within moments you’ll see extraction results magically start appearing, together with statistics about the crawl such as used requests, crawl speed and coverage. And with built-in ban management that uses automatic IP rotation to prevent blocking, you don’t need to babysit every crawl. Leaving you with loads more time to focus on what really matters – driving your own business forward.

Written by Zyte team
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