What is the Difference Between Web Crawling vs Web Scraping, and How to Choose What is Better for Your Business Goals
Gleb Lepeshkin
Gleb Lepeshkin Published: 2022/04/29

A lot of times people tend to confuse web crawling with scraping. And, although these two activities are somewhat similar in nature there is still a significant difference between them that deserves an article in our blog to explain it in detail. 

So, get ready to enjoy a thorough explanation of how web scraping is different from web crawling and how proxies can be of help in executing these activities online. 

What is Web Scraping and Crawling?

I suggest we start with a brief description of what web scraping and web crawling are. 

Web scraping is all about data collection and extraction from online resources. It is normally executed by special automated tools or bots called scrapers. The scrapers access the target websites and pull out the datasets that are requested by the user. These data arrays are then stashed into databases for further research and analysis. 

And web crawling is all about locating various URLs containing certain information. This process is also known as indexing. It is performed by special robots called crawlers. The most renowned cases of web crawling are search engine activities like indexing done by Google, Bing, Yahoo and the like. If we compare web crawling vs web scraping in terms of treating data, then crawling is all about capturing the genetic information and recording its location, where scraping is about extracting data that you need. 

Now, if we consider these two practices for real business use, normally they are coupled together to augment each other. Regular data extraction projects usually combine web crawling with scraping, so that you can compile the list of URLs containing the required information and then perform spot-on real-time data extraction with a scraping tool. 

Web Crawling vs Scraping Use Cases

The most common use cases of web crawling are demonstrated by search engines. Their crawlers index myriads websites on a daily basis making it possible to locate the data we need on the web momentarily. 

Also, commercial web crawling is performed by statistical agencies and online aggregators. They can perform this kind of operations on specific missions (economic or political) depending on the needs of their clients. 

Now, let’s consider the most popular web scraping use cases. 

In the business sector, the most popular application of web scraping is related to all types of data research. This includes using scraping tools to extract data for further academic, marketing or financial research. Lately, a lot of efforts were targeted at data collection through scraping to get a clear picture of the situation with COVID spreading and containment in megapolis areas.

In the retail and e-commerce sectors companies engage in web scraping to perform analysis of their competitors active in the same market. These activities allow you to collect and research data on pricing, online reviews, special offers or discounts as well as inventory levels or your competitors to make further business decisions. 

Another special case of web scraping applications is brand-related data collection. It serves for brand protection against brand fraud and counterfeit production that can severely damage the image and reputation of the original brand through the unlawful use of logos, names and branding symbols. By engaging in scraping companies can prevent such cases of malicious branding activities on the Web. 

What Is the Difference Between Web Scraping and Web Crawling?

Now that we have some idea about web scraping vs crawling comparison, we suggest going step by step to determine the key differences between these two processes.

Essential Difference Between Scraping and Crawling

In its essence crawling is all about indexing the information on the Web and scraping is used for extracting data for further analysis. 

Tools Used in the Process

As we mentioned before, both crawling and scraping rely on special software tools for implementation. In case of crawling they are called Web Crawlers (or Spiders), and in case of scraping – Web Scrapers. 

A good example of a web crawler would be Google’s robot crawling the web. The crawlers used for the commercial sector include such names as Scrapy and Apache Nutch. As for famous scrapers, users trust ScrapeBox and ProWebScraper as solid and reliable software solutions for scraping missions. Read more on how to use proxies with Scrapebox in this article on Scrapebox. 

Modus Operandi of Data Crawling vs Data Scraping

Where for proper crawling, a crawler must visit all pages of a website it is indexing, for scraping you do not need this, since you can target only specific URLs containing the information you need. 

Normally, the scraping involves crawling as a part of the process. So, after sending the request to the target website and receiving an answer, the scraper needs to engage a parser to “read” the data and store it properly for further use. This process makes scraping different from crawling, where in crawling you will only need to deploy a crawl agent to do the indexing for you.    

Scale of Projects Involved

The scale of web scraping depends on your business requirements. You can engage in a large-scale campaign to extract data against numerous parameters or it can be a very spot-on operation with a limited time frame.  

When we talk about crawling, normally we mention large-scale missions involving thousands of URLs.    

Most Frequent Use Cases

To give you a short summary of use cases of web scraping we should mention Retail Marketing, Reputation Intelligence and Machine Learning. 

As for web crawling, it is used by all web search engines for indexing the web (such as Google, Bing, Yahoo). Also, crawling may precede the scraping in some cases of online research missions.

Difference in Outputs

Where in case of crawling the output can be a simple list of URLs, with scraping you can end up with tables containing dozens of data fields. You can easily scrape just one URL but still have a lot of parsed parameters like prices, locations, phone numbers, etc. 

What Proxies to Use in Web Scraping vs Web Crawling? 

Now, this is a critical question that will be on your mind once you decide to pick just the right proxies for your mission. And, of course, there are several key factors that you need to consider here to improve your proxy experience. Although, if you are still confused about which proxy to use where, our account managers will be there for you to offer the best proxy solution based on your use case scenario. 

But why use proxies in the first place? Well, the websites that you are about to start crawling and scraping might have all sorts of anti-crawling/scraping politics that will make it significantly harder for you to proceed without special tools and proxies. Otherwise, such hurdles and challenges can become critical and halt your entire operation.  

If you are engaged in pure crawling (data indexing) without any data extraction, you will be better off with datacenter proxies vs residential IPs that will provide you with the highest possible speed of data mining.

Once you are done with crawling and move to scraping (data extraction) you will likely raise red flags unless you start using pretty good proxies to cloak your activities. Now, if your geographical location is important, you will need to proceed with a static residential proxy that will show the web resource that you are a legitimate user from the same geo domain. 

And if you have an extensive data mining project involving data collection from various sources and a range of sites (including social media and search engines), you will likely benefit from the functionality of backconnect or rotating proxies where you will be able to set the parameters of IP rotations for each session of you web scraping proxies

Consider PrivateProxy Your Trusted Partner 

Over the past decade we at PrivateProxy have provided thousands and thousands of proxies to our customers based on their particular needs and business niche requirements. 

We have carefully studied the cases related to data mining related to web crawling and web scraping. So, we can certainly claim that now you can have the best the technology has to offer when it comes to picking the right proxies for such missions. 

If you want more details, you can choose a particular business niche from the menu above to learn how our proxies can help you in Lead Generation, Price Intelligence or Sales Monitoring. But if you feel like asking a direct question, our tech support is always online to handle any proxy-related question. Just start a conversation in the chat box below and you will get the feedback you need. 

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the key difference between web scraping and crawling, you will have a better understanding of describing your mission requirements to your private proxy provider. 

We hope that the recommendations we gave you above on how to proceed with proxies in each case will be helpful, however, you are always welcome to clarify the needs for your particular use case with our seasoned team of account managers. Our goal is your successful online mission execution and long-term cooperation with your business.

So, happy crawling or scraping and good luck with our proxies! 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Please read our Documentation if you have questions that are not listed below.

  • What’s the difference between web scraping and crawling?

    Essentially, web crawling is all about data indexing. This is what search engines do to make your search queries possible. And scraping is a process of data extraction from particular URLs (or locations on the web) matching your needs or parameters. Web scraping can include web crawling as its integral part.

  • Is it safe to buy all my proxies for web scraping or web crawling from a single source?

    Yes, absolutely! All you need is to establish a track record of successful cooperation with your proxy provider. Once you are confident in your provider, you can move all of your proxy-related business to him and enjoy great service.

  • What types of proxies should I use for web scraping or web crawling?

    Depending on your use case requirements you can proceed with web crawling having a crawler powered by datacenter proxies. For more geo-specific scraping missions you may need residential proxies to be under the hood of your scrapers. And for scraping social media or search engines you may need backconnect proxies. Still in doubt? Contact our tech support to guide you through the process of proxy selection for web scraping or crawling.

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