According to a survey conducted by NewVantage Partners, only 62.9% of businesses have implemented big data strategies while only a fraction of them bring effective results. The main reason behind this is that they lack understanding of big data analytics. In order to have a grip on data analytic, it’s essential to collect sufficient amounts of quality data for analysis. In this regard, data extraction becomes an essential part of big analytics as it gathers large data sets from different sources automatically.
As a programmer, to extract data from websites, you can make use of programming languages such as Python, PHP, Ruby, C & C++, etc. You can also take advantage of open-source projects from Github. Both are effective ways for professional programmers with an in-depth understanding of data extraction technologies. For those who aren’t proficient in coding or even with zero coding experience, it is better to opt for data extraction software to facilitate the process of data collection from target web pages.
Before extracting the data from your target web pages, there are 3 steps you may follow.
Step 1: Open your target website and study it to have a general idea of the page structure.
Step 2: Pay attention to its HTML elements. Hover your cursor on some elements on the page, right-click and select “inspect” to check the Xpath of the content.
Step 3: Now you can start to choose the right tool to extract the data.
It’s hard to say which tool is the best because it really depends on what you are looking to achieve with the software. Some data extraction tools like Octoparse offer ready-to-use web crawler templates, which is a quick solution to fetch data in a short time. Some tools like Apify need you to have coding skills to configure your own crawlers in order to achieve more advanced and flexible extractions. I tested out some data extraction softwares and listed them as follows.
Octoparse is a great choice for individuals and teams of all sizes. No matter if you work on an individual research project, or work for a large enterprise, you can find a plan that works best for you.
Its free plan is very powerful. All plans offer unlimited pages per crawl, and the data can be retained for 3 months. Octoparse simulates human interaction with the pages. When you enter a web page URL into Octoparse, the bot will detect the webpage automatically, select data for you and generate a workflow right away.
Another most popular feature of Octoparse is its web crawler templates covering big sites such as Amazon, eBay, Yelp, Twitter. As I’ve mentioned above, these preformatted crawlers require no configuration and can be used by everyone.
Pros: data fields auto-detection, quick start tutorials, ready-to-use crawler templates, detailed walk-through guidelines, built-in Xpath tool, etc.
Cons: Octoparse doesn’t have a PDF-extraction feature or a chrome extension.
Apify provides serverless cloud programs called actors, which are like crawlers that run infinitely. These actors can be purchased, published and shared on Apify.
Pros: Writing scripts helps extract data from web pages with irregular structures.
Cons: The disadvantage is obvious: non-coders will find it hard to use.
If you’ve seen data extraction software with 10 crawlers on their logo, that’s probably 80legs. They provide 3 kinds of extraction choices: customized extraction, giant web crawl, and datafiniti. With customized data extraction, users can customize the app to crawl any web pages as well as common HTML data like links, keywords, meta tags, etc. Datafiniti is a database that gives you instant access to highly-structured data.
Pros: It is a cost-effective choice for small-volume data extraction. If you only need to run 2 crawlers at once, there is a $29/month plan.
Cons: Once you want to extract with 5 crawlers at once, the price rises up to $299/month.
Also called Sequentum, Content Grabber is a powerful visual data extraction software for retrieving content from web pages. Experienced programmers will find its integration with Visual Studio 2013 pretty effective. Content Grabber provides users with 3rd-party tools to better facilitate deriving value from data extracted.
Pros: It’s flexible at extracting dynamic websites as users can customize the crawlers accordingly.
Cons: Content Grabber can only be installed in Windows and Linux systems. Its flexibility makes it a bad choice for beginners. What’s more, it doesn’t offer a free version as well.
Dexi.io is a browser-based web data extraction tool. It has its own glossary for basic terms in its universe. Different robots such as Extractor robots, Pipes robots, Crawler robots, AutoBot robots serve different functions. Check out its introductory documents before building a crawler.
There’s a bit of a learning curve with such a number of new terms to grasp, which makes it challenging for data extraction starters.
Pros: If you don’t want to spend time learning the tool, you can contact the support team and ask them to get data for you.
Cons: Pricing ranges from $119/month to $699/month depending on customers’ extraction needs. It’s not very easy to use as the workflow is complicated to understand.
Outwit Hub is very easy to use, therefore, it’s suitable for beginners. Provided both as a Firefox add-on and a desktop application, it can be used to extract news articles, contact lists, job boards, eCommerce products, etc.
Pros: You can search and download images, documents, and PDF files with Outwit Hub.
Cons: However, this simple extraction software excludes important anti-blocking features such as IP rotation and bypassing CAPTCHAs. When scraping at a large scale without anti-blocking techniques, it is easy to be detected by websites and get your IP banned.
As a web-based data extraction tool, Mozenda allows you to export/publish extracted data to cloud storage platforms such as Dropbox, Amazon S3 and Microsoft Azure. In Mozenda, a data extraction project is called an agent. An agent builder is an application for building extraction projects. Mozenda provides an agent builder and a web console for users to run their agents and view the results of the data extracted. After building agents, you can group them and receive alerts after they run successfully.
Pros: You can extract documentation and images using Mozenda. It is also good at preventing IP banning, for it provides geolocation for users.
Cons: As a powerful data extraction software, Mozenda is a bit pricey, starting at $250/user per month. If you only have a limited budget, you may want to try a cheaper alternative that also delivers you the data you need.
Scrapinghub is ideal for developers, data scientists and data teams doing data extraction projects. Its main features include Crawlera – a smart proxy, Scrapy Cloud – cloud platform, Splash – a headless browser with an HTTP API, as well as AutoExtract API – for extracting data at scale.
Pros: Scrapinghub provides a pool of IP addresses covering dozens of countries worldwide, which reduces the chance of getting IP blocked.
Cons: Its data extraction tool Portia needs to be used with some add-ons to deal with dynamic web pages.
Import.io is a web data extraction software that supports multiple operating systems. They help customers solve extraction problems in different scenarios, such as research, eCommerce, online travel, sales and marketing, risk management, etc.
Pros: Its user-friendly UI and simple dashboard enable non-coders to get on board quickly.
Cons: There’s no free plan to test out. If you need a large volume of data, it may cost you up to $4,999/year for extracting half a million subpages.
Parsehub supports systems including Windows, Mac OS, and Linux. Moreover, it allows you to extract pop-ups, comments, images, tables, etc. Its detailed tutorials can get you familiar with the extraction software within a few hours.
Pros: Supports more operating systems compared to Octoparse.
Cons: Lots of limitations come with the free version. Only 5 projects can be built and you can only store the data for 2 weeks.
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