Data Scraping: How to Find Hidden Information

By Dan Munson

It is impossible to escape the internet. Everyone uses the internet and it is almost crucial for a business to have a website. Businesses without websites do not tend to fare as well as those with a website. Now, with websites, there is a lot of data stored. Many companies try to take advantage of this by exploring data scraping. Data scraping allows you to collect information from another company’s website. Not only can you collect crucial information, but you can also find hidden data. Here is what you need to know about data scraping.

What Is Data?

The internet is full of information or data. With over 3 billion people on the internet and countless websites and companies, it might sound overwhelming to consider how much data is on the internet. Four major companies own most of the internet’s data. These companies are Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft. There is about 1.2 million terabytes of data between them. Data is useful for everyone who browses the internet. Most look to the internet for information. Nowadays, there is very little that you cannot find on the internet. With all of this data, it is no surprise that people could never look through all of it.

What Is Hidden Information?

When collecting online information, there is always a chance you will not be able to get the data that you are searching for to collect. There is a lot of hidden data on the web. Sometimes that data is simply hidden behind a javascript function. The truth is that most data on the web is unavailable. You may not be able to find the data, but a computer or a program can. Most websites now are interactive and visual websites. The data that you need may be in a separate layer that is more difficult to access.

Most pages have hidden data on them. You could find hidden data on an educational website, on a retailer’s website or any other place on the internet. Now, you do have to be careful when it comes to hidden data. Keep in mind that it is not all open data. Just because you can access it with a web scraper does not necessarily mean that it is open-licensed. In some cases, you may need to check the website ahead of time.

Hidden data does not look the same as data that you get from an open dataset. The hidden data is going to be in a different format. For instance, it might be in JSON, embedded with HTML or in XML or RDF.

What Is Web Scraping?

Data scraping or web scraping is a form of data mining. Data mining involves turning raw data into information. Software can look for patterns in the batches of data so that businesses can learn more about customers, competition and more. Web scraping is the foundation for a lot of companies to develop new strategies. Data is the best way to gain insight on another company.

Data scraping or web scraping involves using a type of software to target websites for information and hidden data. For instance, if a retailer wants to know the competitor’s prices or reviews, he or she does not have to dig through the website but can instead use data scraping to gain more information. With this information, he or she can competitively price his or her product or decide on new market strategies based on the competitor’s information.

If you run your own business, you should never underestimate the need for information. When it comes to the internet, there is a lot that you can learn. For instance, you can figure out what your competitors are doing right versus what they may be doing wrong. You can find prices, reviews and much more about others. With the right tools, data scraping can be easy and just about any business is capable of web scraping.

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