The internet is undoubtedly an essential element of countless businesses around the world. Companies are rapidly moving all their activities to the virtual world, which leads to new development in the way businesses are run.
As web crawling becomes an increasingly popular term in the tech world, many organizations are taking a look to see if they can apply it within their own day-to-day dealing.
So, what is a web crawler? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.
We’re going to explain what this tool is, what it’s capable of and how organizations use it. Let’s go.
What is a web crawler?
A web crawler, also known as a web spider or a search engine bot, is a software tool that downloads and indexes various content taken from all around the internet. The purpose of web crawlers is to learn what different internet pages are about so that it’s easier to retrieve the specific information when needed.
Web crawlers typically access websites automatically, as they’re programmed software tools specifically designed to participate in web crawling activities. They’re also operated as one of the crucial aspects of search engines. This means that crawlers provide links or sources depending on the search query, just like a search engine would do.
Although web crawlers start with a set of known web pages, they obtain additional information by following hyperlinks on all visited sites that lead to other pages. As a result, web crawlers can automatically download and index information from billions of websites available on the internet.
Here’s a great place to get started on your web crawling journey and find out more!
Difference between crawling and scraping
Although often used interchangeably, web crawling and web scraping are two separate terms that denote two different internet activities.
Web scraping, also known as content scraping or data scraping, is a process of downloading content available on the internet without permission. Although bots visit and download the content from websites, the content is often used for malicious purposes. Additionally, web scrapers visit only specific websites and web pages since the entire process is much more targeted.
Unlike web scraping, web crawling is the process of downloading and indexing the available information. Furthermore, web crawlers don’t target specific web pages, as they continuously crawl websites by following available hyperlinks.
Finally, web scrapers don’t pay attention to whether a website they visit is overtaxed, while web crawlers typically limit the number of requests per website.
The process of web crawling
Although we briefly touched upon the process of web crawling when we talked about what web crawlers are, now it’s time to take a better look at how these useful software programs work.
Visiting internet pages manually isn’t very effective if you’re trying to collect as much information as possible within a specific time limit. As the internet is constantly growing since there are around 252,000 newly-launched websites every day, it’s simply impossible to keep track of all the data and information without any assisting tools.
Fortunately, this is where web crawlers come in handy. They start from a list of known URLs. After crawling the web pages available at these URLs, web crawlers continue to websites that are part of hyperlinks within the known URLs.
But, since this process can go infinite, web crawlers decide which websites to crawl and in which order to crawl them. Websites that are frequently visited or are cited a lot are prioritized, as they probably contain high-quality, credible information worth crawling.
Use cases of crawling
It’s safe to say web crawling can come in handy for online businesses. Regardless of the business size, industry, success, or type, web crawling can always equip companies with new insights and useful pieces of information they can use to grow their business and bring new opportunities.
Some common use cases of web crawling include:
- Data analytics and data science;
- Product development;
- Public Relations;
- Marketing and sales;
- Human resources.
Companies can experience countless benefits after implementing web crawling techniques. Some of them are:
- Price intelligence: Gain insights into when is the right time to increase or decrease your prices for maximizing your profits.
- Brand monitoring: Monitor different channels and platforms across the internet to see where your brand is mentioned.
- Product building: Research similar product developments to ensure you follow the latest trends and stay on top in your industry.
- Market research: Gather key information regarding your market to ensure successful decision-making processes.
- SEO research: Learn about the current SEO trends and implement them into your website to optimize your internet presence.
Now that you know what a web crawler is, how it works, and how it can help your business grow, it’s time to invest in a high-quality, efficient, and reliable web crawling software program.
The numerous advantages of web crawlers make them ideal tools for all kinds of companies that are shifting their focus on online presence. From learning how to price your products or services to monitoring your brand across multiple channels, web crawlers can ensure your business remains successful for a long time.