Brennan Whitfield | Jan 08, 2024

Web scraping is one of the most important skills you need to hone as a data scientist; you need to know how to look for, collect and clean your data so your results are accurate and meaningful. When you want to choose a tool to scrape the web, there are some factors you need to consider such as API integration and large-scale scraping extendability. This article presents you with five tools that you can use for different data collection projects.

5 Free Web Scraping Tools

  1. Common Crawl
  2. Crawly
  3. Webz.io
  4. ParseHub
  5. ScrapingBee

The good news is that web scraping doesn’t have to be tedious; you don’t even need to spend much time doing it manually. Using the correct tool can help save you a lot of time, money and effort. Moreover, these tools can be beneficial for analysts or people without much (or any) coding experience.

It’s worth noting that the legality of web scraping has been called into question, so before we dive deeper into tools that can help your data extraction tasks, let’s make sure that your activity is fully legal. In 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit fully legalized web scraping publicly available data. That is, if anyone can find the data online (such as in Wiki articles), then it’s legal to scrape it.

Is Your Web Scraping Legal?

  • Don’t reuse or republish the data in a way that violates copyright.
  • Respect the terms of services for the site you’re trying to scrape.
  • Have a reasonable crawl-rate.
  • Don’t try to scrape private areas of the website.

As long as you don’t violate any of those terms, your web scraping activity should be on the legal side. But don’t take my word for it.

If you’ve ever constructed a data science project using Python, then you probably used Beautiful Soup to collect your data and Pandas to analyze it. Here’s five web scraping tools that don’t include Beautiful Soup, but will help you collect the data you need for your next data science project, for free.

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1. Common Crawl

The creator of Common Crawl developed this tool because they believe everyone should have the chance to explore and analyze the world around them to uncover patterns. They offer high-quality data that was previously only available for large corporations and research institutes to any curious mind free of charge to support the open-source community.

This means, if you are a university student, a person navigating your way in data science, a researcher looking for your next topic of interest or just a curious person that loves to reveal patterns and find trends, you can use Common Crawl without worrying about fees or any other financial complications.

Common Crawl provides open data sets of raw web page data and text extractions. It also offers support for non-code based usage cases and resources for educators teaching data analysis.

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2. Crawly

Crawly is another amazing choice, especially if you only need to extract basic data from a website or if you want to extract data in CSV format so you can analyze it without writing any code.

All you need to do is input a URL, your email address (so they can send you the extracted data) and the format you want your data (CSV or JSON). Voila! The scraped data is in your inbox for you to use. You can use the JSON format and then analyze the data in Python using Pandas and Matplotlib, or in any other programming language.

Although Crawly is perfect if you’re not a programmer, or you’re just starting with data science and web scraping, it has its limitations. Crawly can only extract a limited set of HTML tags including, title, author, image URL and publisher.

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3. Webz.io

Webz.io is a web scraper that allows you to extract enterprise-level, real-time data from any online resource. The data collected by Webz.io is structured, clean, contains sentiment and entity recognition, and available in different formats such as XML and JSON.

Webz.io offers comprehensive data coverage for any public website and archived sites dating back to 2008. It can also be used to monitor for cybersecurity threats over dark web networks. Moreover, Webz.io offers many filters to refine your extracted data so you can perform fewer cleaning tasks and jump straight into the analysis phase.

The free version of Webz.io provides access to data feeds from news, blogs, forums and review sources, its advanced features and filters as well as ongoing technical support.

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4. ParseHub

ParseHub is a potent web scraping tool that anyone can use free of charge. It offers reliable, accurate data extraction with the click of a button. You can also schedule scraping times to keep your data up to date.

One of ParseHub’s strengths is that it can scrape even the most complex of webpages hassle free. You can even instruct it to search forms, menus, login to websites and even click on images or maps for a further collection of data.

You can also provide ParseHub with various links and some keywords, and it will extract relevant information within seconds. Finally, you can use REST API to download the extracted data for analysis in either JSON or CSV formats. You can also export the data collected as a Google Sheet or Tableau.

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5. ScrapingBee

Our final scraping tool on the list is ScrapingBee. ScrapingBee offers an API for web scraping that handles even the most complex JavaScript pages and turns them into raw HTML for you to use. Moreover, it has a dedicated API for web scraping using Google search.

ScrapingBee can be used in one of three ways:

  1. General Web Scraping such as extracting stock prices or customer reviews
  2. Search Engine Result Page (SERP), which you can use for SEO or keyword monitoring
  3. Growth Hacking, which can include extracting contact information or social media information

ScrapingBee offers a free plan that includes 1,000 free API calls for unlimited use.

Collecting data for your projects is perhaps the least fun and most tedious step during a data science project workflow. This task could be quite time consuming. If you work in a company or even freelance, you know that time is money, which always means that if there’s a more efficient way to do something, you better do it.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is web scraping?

Web scraping is the process of extracting and structuring large amounts of website data using a software tool. It is often done to help gather data insights for market research, media analysis or website performance monitoring.

Is web scraping legal?

Yes — web scraping is legal as long the practice only scrapes publicly accessible data, complies with the scraped website's terms of service, doesn't reuse or republish the data in a way that violates copyright law and utilizes a reasonable crawl rate.

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