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What Can I Collect with a Web Crawler?

February 15, 2023 | By David Selden-Treiman | Filed in: web-crawler-development.

The TL-DR

This article outlines the types of data that can be collected with a web crawler for company analysis, including website content, financial data, and social media activity. It also provides a step-by-step guide for using a web crawler, from determining the types of data to collect to analyzing and interpreting the data, while considering ethical and legal considerations.

Introduction

When you’re looking to analyze a company, collecting relevant data is crucial. One way to gather this data is by using a web crawler. A crawler is a program that automatically explores and indexes websites to extract information.

By using a web crawler, you can collect large amounts of data quickly and efficiently, providing you with valuable insights into the company’s operations and performance. In this section, we’ll explore the types of information you can collect using a web crawler for company analysis.

Types of Company Information

When using a web crawler for company analysis, you can collect a wide range of data that can help you understand the company’s operations, performance, and market position. Here’s a more detailed look at each of the types of data you can collect:

General Company Information

General information about the company includes basic details like:

  • the company name and contact information,
  • its size and structure,
  • founding and history,
  • industry,
  • sector,
  • key people and their roles, and
  • any awards or recognitions it has received.

This data can help you understand the company’s background and overall position in the market.

There are many sites that can be used to collect this information. Examples include

  • LinkedIn
  • Google Maps
  • The company’s own website
  • Government filings (state filings in the US)

Financial Information

Financial information includes data related to the company’s finances, such as its:

  • revenue and profits,
  • financial ratios and key performance indicators,
  • assets and liabilities,
  • share prices and market capitalization,
  • inventory,
  • sales information,
  • competitors, and
  • market share.

This data can help you understand the company’s financial performance and how it compares to competitors.

If the company is public in the US, this information can often be found via the EDGAR SEC system. You can use a web crawler to track and parse this information to determine key information about the company.

If the company is private, the information can be much more difficult to determine. At Potent Pages, we tend to use the company’s website to extract out inventory and sales information where possible. We have also used 3rd party sites to track products down the retail chain. Usually in this case, it takes significantly more industry knowledge to get the desired info out though.

Marketing Information

Marketing information includes data related to the company’s marketing and advertising efforts, such as its:

  • products and services,
  • customer reviews and feedback,
  • target audience and demographics,
  • advertising and promotional strategies, and
  • sales channels and distribution methods.

This data can help you understand the company’s brand and how it positions itself in the market.

Usually, the best method to track this information is to track review sites, as well as any advertising channels the company is known to use. From this, you can get information relating to the company’s marketing strategy.

Often, tracking a company’s website will provide a good overview of the company’s marketing strategy since most companies will put their marketing material on their site. Then, the you just need to track where its distributed to.

If the company retails its products, you can also track the retailer’s websites and determine product prices, whether the product is in stock, the number of reviews for the product, etc.

Website Information

Website information includes data related to the company’s website, such as

  • website design and usability,
  • search engine optimization (SEO) strategies,
  • website content and features, and
  • user-generated content and social media presence.

This data can help you understand the company’s online presence and how it interacts with customers.

With a good quality web spider, you can create an internal copy of the company’s website and track changes over time. Our clients have found it useful to be able to know when a company has made changes to its website, including major site redesigns, pages that are added, etc.

With a good quality web crawler, you can track site usability scores over time and see how the site is improving or degrading. This can help assess opportunities for improvement in SEO rankings, such as page speed, mobile usability, etc. to outrank your competitors.

You can also use web crawlers to track and analyze social media presence. With a good crawler, you can track what a target company is posting, as well as how people are engaging with the content. This can provide you with insights on what works well and what you should focus on.

The Analysis Process

Determine the Types of Data You Want to Collect

Before using a web crawler, it’s important to determine what types of data you want to collect.

Consider your analysis goals and the questions you want to answer, and decide which types of data are most relevant to your analysis.

Industry expertise is really helpful here. When analyzing what to collect, you’ll want to discuss what is possible using crawlers with your development team.

When collecting data with a web crawler, it’s important to make sure you’re not violating any laws or ethical principles. Consider factors like privacy, intellectual property, and terms of use when collecting and analyzing data.

Choose a Web Crawler Tool

There are many types of web crawlers, so it’s important to research and compare them to find the one that best suits your needs.

At Potent Pages, we use custom crawlers. Selenium with PHP Webdriver is an excellent base for crawler development.

We will also use more direct crawlers that don’t require rendering the entire page, especially for focused crawlers extracting a small amount of information from each page downloaded.

Configure Your Web Crawler

Once you’ve chosen a web crawler tool, you’ll need to configure it to collect the types of data you’re interested in. This includes choosing the websites or web pages you want to crawl.

This is often the most expensive part, since it can require extensive development time to build an efficient crawler. This is where your crawler developer’s expertise comes in. You’re looking to extract out only what you need while creating as little traffic as possible.

Run Your Web Crawler

After configuring the web crawler, you can start it and let it collect data. It’s important to monitor the progress and make adjustments as needed.

This can take a long time, depending on what information you’re trying to collect, and how many pages you need to download.

At Potent Pages, we have crawlers that take an hour, and we have crawlers that take months. It just depends on the needs of your specific project.

Analyze the Data

Once you’ve collected the data, you’ll need to organize and clean it. Then, you can use data analysis tools and techniques to extract insights, interpret the data, and draw conclusions.

This is where the value of the web crawler comes in – the end results. The crawler can provide you with the data you need, but someone will need to interpret that data and determine what it really means. Industry expertise is really helpful here.

Conclusion

In conclusion, using a web crawler to collect data for company analysis can be a powerful tool in gaining insights into a company’s operations, performance, and market position.

By collecting and analyzing data from various sources, you can identify trends and patterns that may not be immediately apparent. However, it’s important to approach this process carefully and ethically to ensure that you’re collecting and using data responsibly.

By considering factors like the types of data you want to collect, the web crawler tool you use, and legal and ethical considerations, you can ensure that your analysis is comprehensive and accurate.

With careful planning and execution, you can use web crawling to gain valuable insights that can help inform your business decisions and strategies.

Looking for a Web Crawler?

Are you looking to have a web crawler built? At Potent Pages, we specialize in web crawler development and data extraction. Contact us using the form below, and let’s get started!

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    David Selden-Treiman, Director of Operations at Potent Pages.

    David Selden-Treiman is Director of Operations and a project manager at Potent Pages. He specializes in custom web crawler development, website optimization, server management, web application development, and custom programming. Working at Potent Pages since 2012 and programming since 2003, David has extensive expertise solving problems using programming for dozens of clients. He also has extensive experience managing and optimizing servers, managing dozens of servers for both Potent Pages and other clients.


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