Web scraping is one of the major data collection methods nowadays with analysis of the retrieved results becoming a crucial part of modern business. Thus, naturally, money and scraping walk hand-in-hand. There is more than one way to make money with web scraping and utilizing the retrieved data. If you have the skills or the opportunity to get your hands on a quality web scraper, you are in luck. Even if you do not, but are just looking for new ways to make money, web scraping might still be the best choice for you.
What is web scraping?
Web scraping is an automated process of retrieving data from the internet. It is done by using software tools known as scrapers that you can either acquire from a third party or write code for yourself.
Web scraping is related but not synonymous with web crawling. Crawlers are tools to acquire lists of websites from the internet for indexing purposes. They are how search engines work. Scrapers, on the other hand, can be used to collect data from the websites themselves. Thus, it is through web scraping that you can collect more types of data.
The data scraped from the internet is often unstructured and usually arrives in an HTML format. But it can then be structured and made more accessible through the use of parsers and turned into one of the many popular data formats like CSV or JSON. Additionally, both textual and visual data can be scraped from the internet. So, the bottom line is that you can get virtually all kinds of valuable information by web scraping.
How do web scrapers work?
The basic mechanics of a web scraper are quite simple. Assuming that the script for the web scraper is written, URLs of the websites to scrape need to be fed to it. The scraper then goes through the website and extracts the HTML code from it.
What is necessary for building a web scraper?
Like with every activity based on information technology, to build a web scraper you are going to need some hardware and some software. The necessities for the hardware depend upon the scale on which you intend to do web scraping.
A simple device, like a personal computer, is enough to build a scraper. However, as the data you want to collect increases in volume and the websites you want to scrape simultaneously get more complex, the greater the need for more hardware. Thus, eventually, you might have to switch to dedicated servers for such tasks.
On the software side, you will need a programming language in which to write the code for the web scrapers. Popular programming languages, like Python, Node.JS, and Ruby have libraries and in-built tools available to make scraper development easier.
However, naturally, you will only be able to build the scraper yourself if you have some experience in programming. If you have been working in software development beforehand, writing a web scraper won’t take a lot of effort. Otherwise, it might take some time to learn enough programming to build a web scraper.
Another way out is to find someone with the skills to do it. Even when investing money to pay someone else to build the scraper, it might turn out profitable for you in the end. You would just need to utilize scraping and its results to ensure a satisfactory return on investment.
Finally, a good web scraper will have to be able to avoid IP blocks. Thus, you are also going to need to use proxies and other techniques to mimic human-like user traffic. Web scrapers without proxy IP rotation quickly become worthless as a single ban on a website means losing access to data.
Proxies can circumvent a lot of roadblocks that websites might present you with - from geo-restrictions to request limits per IP. They can also sometimes help avoid CAPTCHAs. In cases when CAPTCHAs are unavoidable, you might also need to use CAPTCHA solvers in order to keep your web scraper going.
How to make money with web scraping?
Now it is time to monetize your web scraper or web scraping skills. Even if you have neither, there are ways for you to make money web scraping by utilizing tools created by others.
1. Sell your scraper
If you have built a web scraper that works just fine, the fastest way to turn it into money is by simply selling it. There are many organizations that constantly need data and will certainly pay a fair price for the tools that can do it. Private people might also want to buy your web scraper for learning purposes or, potentially, for the various projects that they are working on.
Furthermore, you can customize the web scraper you have built to match the needs of the buyer. If you are good at developing them, you can even go as far as taking orders in advance and then building custom web scrapers for sale. You can also pitch your ideas to businesses and start developing it after you find an interested party.
2. Sell the data
Selling data is another clear-cut opportunity to make money with web scraping. Businesses are looking for data that they can use for various purposes - from marketing to lead generation. A lot of crucial information that B2B companies need can be acquired by scraping search engines and other websites.
Additionally, universities and other science organizations are in constant need of data for research purposes. Even government organizations might look to third parties to supplement their data sets, although getting these deals might prove to be extremely difficult. Thus, you will always find someone in need of data that you can scrape from the web and provide.
Aside from selling data on demand you can also take and fulfill orders from various institutions. In this case, you would first find out what they need and then go about scraping for that data. As you get better at this, you can even satisfy particular requirements of the buyers, like delivering data in requested formats.
3. Provide web scraping services
Similar to the aforementioned selling of data, providing web scraping services might require simply getting it to the customer. The essential difference is that here you would rely even more on your skills and expertise than on the end product.
Organizations might need your advice to improve their web scraping procedures. Additionally, they might also ask you to look at their web scrapers and fix problems with them.
There are many freelance websites where you could offer web scraping services. Customers with various needs could find you there and negotiate the terms of service. The better you get at web scraping, the more varied and profitable services you can provide.
4. Resell (limited edition) items
Now we move on to the ways to make money through web scraping that also require additional steps to be taken. You can utilize your web scraping skills to find the best online deals and acquire various items at discount prices.
In this case, you would scrape e-commerce and price comparison websites for their prices and product data. Such information will allow you to recognize underpriced items and acquire them before they go out of stock. You could even create bots to buy limited edition items for you once they appear online.
Then you would need to set up your own website to resell these items at higher prices in other markets or when cheaper deals are no longer available. This way you could make money off of various products, but it would all need to start with web scraping.
5. Create price comparison platforms
The shopping data that you scrape can also be used to create price comparison websites of your own. People are always looking for discounts and good deals, thus your website would surely get traffic. You would be able to monetize it through advertising and making deals with retailers.
This method is for those who are not into reselling themselves and would rather leave that part to someone else. All you would need to do is scrape the data and display prices on your websites while others would do the shopping. This is a great way to help people save money while making money yourself.
6. Teach others
Another way to help people while making money through web scraping is to teach others the secrets of the trade. If you are good at developing web scrapers and utilizing them for various data collection projects, offer to share the knowledge with others. There will surely be interested parties as web scraping is a very marketable skill in the contemporary jobs market.
The better you are at web scraping, the more you can teach others and the higher your hourly rates can be. However, that does not mean that only programming geniuses can take on teaching. If you have successfully created and used a web scraper, you can surely give some introductory lessons to beginners.
This way of earning money is perfect for those who do not want to spend their professional time communicating only with computers. Developing your people skills might prove a path toward better career opportunities whether you stick with programming or move on to something else.
7. Support your business with web scraping
Finally, if you are already making money another way and not sure if web scraping can help you - it probably can. Whatever business you are in, web scraping most likely can bring value to it through the insights and opportunities it provides.
In fact, web scraping can help with most if not all aspects of the business. You can use it to watch your competitors, see how they advertise online, and then boost your own marketing strategies. You can scrape search engines to see how your brand is being perceived, thus paving the way to improve public relations. Or you can collect data for product development, pricing strategies, and dozens of other use cases crucial for business.
Additionally, web scraping enables you to create bots that can automate a lot of the data management procedures your team does manually. Thus, it can help your business both to cut expenses and find new ways to profit.
There is a good reason for all the buzz behind web scraping. In today’s markets where data is a valuable and versatile asset, a method to get it cheaply and fast cannot go unused. Thus, if you have skills in web scraping or are interested in acquiring them, you can rest assured that there are plenty of monetizable applications for them.
If developing web scrapers does not sound like your thing, you can still profit from web scraping. All you need to do is find someone who will take care of the technical part while you concentrate on the business side.