Thank goodness so much information is virtual. Otherwise we’d be swimming in it. The immensity of the data available on the web and the speed at which it has grown (and continues to grow) is staggering. ‘Big data’ covers anything and everything, including customer and competitor information. That already makes many companies keen to extract from website data sources to try to get ahead in supplying to and satisfying their market. However blogs, social networks, medical records and other complex datasets make exploiting big data a challenge.
Data Collection and Data Analysis
If organizations do not have enough expert data scientists to hand, then the approach of the lowest common denominator may be more suitable. In other words, using a solution that is cost-effective to grab data on the web automatically and at least organize it in a simple but effective way for analysis afterwards. Not only does such a solution allow enterprises to get started quickly and simply, but it also considerably helps in return on investment: layout should be modest and affordable, compared to other more complicated IT solutions.
Web Scraping to Extract from Website Goldmines
When you know what you want, web scraping can help you get it. Also referred to as web data extraction and web harvesting, this software-driven activity emulates the web surfing and data retrieval that you would do as a human being. Who’s the biggest web scraper in the world? Google is certainly a candidate: web scraping is effectively what the search engine does when it visits web sites and captures content to store in its database for display in its results pages. However, it’s a good idea to be smarter about data extraction than just dumping it into a file. A web recorder that can automatically store data in a spreadsheet is already a big plus. Spreadsheets have data manipulation tools built in; for large amounts of data and even smarter solutions, try a purpose-built business modeling product.
Is Automated Web Scraping the Only Way to Get Data from the Web?
No, but web scraping is often one of the most efficient web data extraction methods. True, some web sites offer interfaces specifically built to feed data to another software program. These application programming interfaces (APIs) may however have certain limitations, such as limitations on the volume of data that can be recovered within a given time period. They may also log your access, an important point if you prefer to remain anonymous. While they do allow you to avoid the intricacies of logging in to a web site, good web scraper technology also has the tools to handle this anyway.
Starting Off Your Web Data Extraction
If you’re looking for a list of big data sites to help you build your own data resources, starting off with data.gov might be a good idea. The site boasts over 75,000 different datasets, community pages and open government content. It has everything from data on zooplankton to national income tables. When it comes to a big data marketing process, then remember a few basic rules. Get business people and IT people involved, so that your big data resource addresses real business needs, while being technically robust. And just like web scraping gets you started quickly for rapid results, continue with ‘agile marketing’ that develops your big data resources according to your highest priority business needs, with frequent, incremental enhancements.