Is Web Crawling the Same as Web Scraping?

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With the development of technology and the increase of data on the internet, there also came a need for sophisticated tools to access and analyze that data. These tools came in the form of web crawlers and scrapers that offer various features that make data analysis easier.

However, these concepts can seem pretty similar at first glance, and people need clarification on the terms web scraper and web crawler. The confusion is understandable as these terms are related, but in essence, they are two distinct actions.

That’s why we will dive into the terminology, tell you about web scrapers and web crawlers, mention the similarities, explain the differences, and discuss their various uses. Hopefully, this overview will help you understand which one you need.

What exactly is web scraping?

With massive amounts of internet data today, businesses use web scrapers to gather that data daily. But what exactly is web scraping? As the name suggests, web scraping is a form of gathering information from the web.

That means using automated tools to visit web pages and extract large amounts of specific data. That data is then saved and analyzed for various purposes by all kinds of online companies.

What do web crawlers and scrapers offer?

This is the tricky part, as the internet is full of blogs talking about web crawling vs web scraping and often using these terms interchangeably, which they aren’t. As we’ve already mentioned, these two terms are related but are quite different processes.

Crawlers are the older of the two, making sense of piles of data since the early 90s. Today, there are numerous web crawlers that can match anyone’s data requirements. They offer speed, efficiency, scalability, and other innovative features such as intelligent recrawling and even politeness so as not to crash the website they are visiting.

On the other hand, web scrapers often include various features such as automation capabilities, javascript rendering, rotating proxies, and other valuable features. That’s how they can offer companies the ability to track and compare prices, look for brand mentions, track social media websites, scrape search engine result pages, etc.

How are they similar?

Being very sophisticated tools that are used daily, web crawlers and web scrapers have certain similarities. One similarity is that web crawlers and web scrapers identify and locate target data from websites.

Both of these tools access websites by making HTTP requests – they are both automated and they both download data. The internet offers various free and paid tools to crawl or scrape websites.

Another similarity is that both can overload a website if used continuously and on a large scale, especially on smaller websites. They can both be used maliciously and blocked by a website.

However, even though these terms share similarities, there are some essential differences between the two.

Differences between the two

Web crawling vs web scraping causes a lot of confusion, as these terms sound quite similar. Even though both of these refer to data extraction from websites, they’re two different processes.

Web crawlers gather generic information from websites. These bots, also known as spiders, are most often used by large search engines. Essentially, they view webpages as a whole, going through every sub-page and link, looking for any information, and indexing it for easier searching.

On the other hand, web scrapers focus on specific data sets and not on the whole page. It’s an automated process of extracting large amounts of data from websites and very specific data, at that. After the data is collected, it is analyzed and used by businesses.

Check out this article for more information on web crawling vs web scraping.

How are they used?

Both of these tools are pretty powerful. They are used daily and on a large scale for various purposes.

First, web crawlers are less complex and easier to understand. It’s a preferred method for companies looking for real-time data, as web crawlers quickly adapt to current activities. Another benefit is that they deep dive and index target pages in-depth. These bots are often used for quality assurance, as they are pretty good at content quality assessment.
Web scrapers are used in even more areas, as they offer various features. These include sports analytics, market research, brand monitoring, marketing, eCommerce, social media, real estate, and all other sorts of industries. These bots are highly accurate and cost-efficient and can easily be programmed and pinpointed for specific data.

Conclusion

We have explained the differences between web scrapers and web crawlers and how they are used. Many people confuse these two terms, but it should be easier to understand and choose the one you need now. Differences in end goals will decide whether you need web crawlers, web scrapers, or even both for whatever you and your business require.

I am a young digital marketer and a blog analyst, Author from Uttarakhand, India. I have been into blogging since 2013 and helping businesses with their SEO requirements. I have 12 years of experience; during the journey, I have worked on many websites and made good friends. I research and share my knowledge with everyone to help them succeed as solopreneurs, businessmen, and entrepreneurs. You can also find me on LinkedIn and see my entire journey.