The best performing businesses today have a digital platform. They utilize web scraping to extract information from different websites. With such data, a company can scrutinize the activities of the competition and find excellent ways to increase its client base.
Without market research, sales and marketing lack focus. To bank on these digital benefits, businesses invest in scraper API to gather and analyze industry-relevant information.
Understanding how scraper API works, its drawbacks and advantages, provides insight to guide business decisions and strategy formulation.
How does scraper API work?
API or Application Programming Interface is an intermediary that links two types of software. It facilitates communication between the two. For instance, you can transmit a JSON to an API, and it will respond with a JSON.
There are guidelines as to what data is allowed for transmission in the JSON. And what it ought to return. These strict rules cannot be adjusted unless a user or designer modifies the API itself.
Consequently, when using a scraper API, your business must adhere to those rules, which also limit the data fields available for scraping.
Difference between web scraping and using scraper API
The restriction of API scraping does not exist in web scraping because web scraping allows customization. Furthermore, web scraping has no governing rules and offers more complex possibilities. It does not limit the accessibility of data, and you can scrap any website you want.
However, since web design and development is a dynamic field, websites change their layout constantly.
As a result, your business scraping software code requires constant tweaking to be on par with targeted servers. This, however, poses no challenge if your business has invested in tech-savvy personnel and top of the bar scraping resources.
Scraper API as an option – is it worth it?
When using a scraper API, limitations abound, such as the earlier mentioned data access restrictions. But then, API’s have advantages too. For starters, if you scrap a server using an API that does not belong to it, it can neither limit nor track your activity.
Free API allows you to initiate between ten and a hundred requests in a day. You can send even a thousand requests if you’re using the API throughout. This, however, only happens if you have subscribed for premium API, and the numerous requests you send out eventually cost your business a lot in related fees.
An API only avails data from specific websites to which it is linked. This means that when new sites rise, you cannot access the latest information since APIs do not follow data trails. You build data trails by collecting links within web pages and following the links as leads to more information and sources.
Scraper API does not allow that since its protocols and regulations bind its activities. To make it worse, the complexities of modifying the API of a website do not allow you to customize its aspects such as:
- Frequency of sending requests
- Selection of fields of scraping
- Structure and format of data
- Scraping device-specific data
- Scraping geo-specific data
Another point about scraper API is that they do not exist by default on all websites. Most websites go to great lengths to conceal their data from scrapers. You can secure your business’s data, too, by installing an API to limit and control the accessibility of your data by other users.
The point here is this: Let’s say the website you seek to scrap does not have an API. To link with it, you would need to customize your scraper codes, which APIs do not allow. Scraper APIs will hinder you from snooping on the competition.
Then why use scraper API?
Seeing that scraper APIs pose several challenges to scrapers, why should you consider them of benefit to your business? One reason is that you might have entered a contract with a website whose information you’re interested in to use their API to some stated extent.
It could be the only way for you to access some coveted information from that server.
Another reason is that your business could require only some specific data. And the website’s API will allow you to access it continuously with no hindrance.
Scraping needs vary. An API can help you extract details such as dates, content and author, open images, and access titles. APIs also avail products and their prices, reviews and ratings, model numbers and descriptions- crucial data for e-commerce websites.
They can also extract information from websites outside your countries. Have the sites blocked IP addresses from your area? If so, you might need to purchase API permissions. Or hire a scraper who can access the website and address your data needs.
The choices you make for your business should consider the availability of data engineers and resources to facilitate API scraping.