“Knowledge is power.” This aphorism has stood the test of time because history has proven it again and again. Look no further for an example than the United States. The tiny colonies created an intelligence network to fight an imperial superpower. The development of this network helped transform the young nation into the most powerful in history.
The maxim applies to business as well, especially now in the Information Age. eCommerce stores could try to get by without any knowledge of their situation. However, this leaves them vulnerable to forces beyond their control. They should recognize that they’re not isolated in their own domain. Instead, they're part of an industry, with rivals vying for their target audience.
Merchants can gain the advantage over competitors if they have access to the right knowledge — the right data. The effort is easier said than done, though. People create new data with every click and keystroke. Much of it is virtually worthless, at least for the purposes of enterprising entrepreneurs.
Modern technology can help them sort the proverbial wheat from the chaff. Here, we’ll look at one such tool, web scraping, and how online businesses can benefit from using it.
What is Web Scraping?
Imagine a metal detector with some unusual, ideal properties. Its sensor doesn’t chime for aluminum cans, rusty silverware, or other garbage. Instead, it goes off when you find gold, precious metal, jewelry, or anything you want it to find. Now imagine that it does more than detect. It plucks these objects out of the ground, places them in storage, and organizes them for you.
Web scraping software behaves much like this magical metal detector. When you want to see and collect a certain type of data, you can deploy the software onto a web page. There, it will automatically sift through the HTML code and only extract what you desire. The software stores that information in handy spreadsheets or databases. You can refer to them any time and do what you want with your newfound knowledge.
Does this sound illegal? It can be if you try to scrape private information or copyrighted material. Some websites also forbid it in their Terms of Service, and they can sue violators. Others only permit it after receiving a request. Just about everything else, though, is fair game.
Customized Web Scraping Services
Web scraping software is flexible. It can be exhaustive, collecting and structuring an enormous amount of data. It can also be simple, targeting and gathering a few pieces of easily understood information. The scope may cover one website or many, perhaps including one’s own website.
No matter what, where, or why people want to scrape, they must use tools that can do the job. Web scraping software often works best when it is customized to match the project. You can commission web scraping professionals to design a solution for you. That way, it will meet your goals, get the data you want, and create a structure you can understand.
Using Web Scraping in eCommerce
Analyzing data is integral to eCommerce success. Site owners should regularly measure traffic, conversions, bounce rates, and more. They can assess the information to see which practices work and which ones could be better. Then, they can edit their website and adjust their sales strategies as needed.
In essence, web scraping is conducting analytics on other websites. Cunning and bold store owners could collect data on their competitors. Where are they finding their greatest successes? Where are they facing their greatest challenges? With some cleverness, they can learn to outmaneuver these rivals and gain the upper hand.
That description only scratches the surface. Web scraping can empower eCommerce entrepreneurs in many ways. Here are some specific functions and activities that you can do with this software.
Price Monitoring: Charging Less and Making More
How much do you charge for the products in your store? You must be careful when marking up your prices. This predicament hits hardest for stores that do not sell unique items.
When online shoppers have something in mind, they almost always seek the best deal for it. If you charge too much, they will turn to any competitors who offer the same item at a lower cost. In your attempts to boost profits, you would end up not profiting at all.
Of course, you could be on the other end, charging less than your rivals. With that said, competitive pricing can be its own trap. Store owners buy merchandise in hopes of making much more than what they paid. Minimal profits may leave you unsatisfied. Worse, it may leave you unable to cover shipping and other costs.
You could determine how much to mark up without losing customers by taking a cue from your competitors. Price monitoring is one useful function that web scraping offers. The right software can create a spreadsheet comparing your current prices to those of other eCommerce sites for the same products. It can go model number by model number or select entire categories.
Anyone can try to entice customers with prices that they believe are more affordable. With a single glance at a single chart, you could make more informed decisions. That way, the changes you do would make your store look better without any decrease in profits.
Bonus Advice: Price Monitoring for Marketplaces
Aside from dedicated eCommerce stores, many merchants peddle their wares on online marketplaces. These environments, which include sites like eBay, Amazon, and Facebook, have their benefits. However, they are also notorious for aggressive competition. Any advantage a merchant can get over their thousands of rivals would help, at least a little.
On the plus side, price monitoring can benefit marketplace vendors as well. This tool compares their prices with their competitors, so they can optimize as needed. They may lose a bit of profit from the markdowns, but they may gain a lot of new traffic and more sales. Web scraping may be the biggest step towards dominating their marketplace corner.
Content Comparison: Beating Your Competitors at SEO
When your website appears on the front page of Google search results, you've made it. Most people prefer to change their search terms than check the second page. If your store reaches this coveted spot for a popular keyword, then it will see more organic traffic.
Unfortunately, the front page only has room for ten links. Search engine algorithms have strict standards for which pages deserve that honor. The practice of editing your website to meet those standards is search engine optimization (SEO). It should be a crucial part of any online store’s marketing strategy.
It should definitely be part of any new business's strategy. Their more established competitors have a huge head-start. The smarter ones already use plenty of SEO techniques in their page copy and blog posts. To even start competing, you must be clever and target only the most popular keywords. That still might not be enough to beat out your foes in the rankings.
In the end, it comes down to the knowledge you have. Well-funded rivals have plenty when writing their content. With web scraping, that same information can be yours. Here is what you can do:
- Look for keywords with high search volume
- Search those keywords on Google and see the top results
- Commission software that analyzes web pages for the SEO techniques they use
- Collect data on the ten sites from the first results page
- Synthesize and improve on the other sites’ practices within your content or copy
With this data, your copy is much more likely to match the algorithm’s criteria. The resulting pages may shoot up the rankings, netting more organic traffic along the way. Keep in mind that even a small increase in SEO value can go a long way.
Bonus Advice: What to Analyze in the Copy
SEO encompasses a variety of techniques, including for writing. You should tackle as many as possible in your website’s text. When you request web scraping software for analyzing SEO, here are a few details that it should look at:
- Secondary keywords. You should already have the primary one from your research. Adding more high-traffic keywords can help increase your page’s ranking for other popular search terms.
- Semantically related words. Search engine algorithms boost the rankings of websites that it considers authoritative. Sprinkling enough of these recurring terms could be enough to win it over.
- Recommended backlinks. Your domain authority increases when other websites link to yours in their text. Competing pages may have a few backlinks, and you should try to get some as well.
- Recommended length. Longer content is generally better for SEO. Web scraping can reveal a word minimum for this keyword that can give you a leg up.
Lead Generation: Winning Over New Customers
Catching up with more established competitors is an important goal. However, the true goal should be surpassing them. One of the best ways to do this is lead generation.
This effort is a fancy name for convincing people to visit your website. Attracting more visitors should translate to making more sales. If your efforts are robust enough, then you could beat out rival stores in both traffic and orders.
Web scraping can do more than show you what other businesses are doing. A lead generation solution software can teach you more about your target audience. Pursuing potential customers and converting them into buyers becomes much easier.
The social media accounts of your competitors can be a great place to start. Unsatisfied customers often seek recompense, or just a place to vent, in the comment sections. Custom web scraping software can collect intel and create a chart with the most common complaints. They all present opportunities for you to swoop in with a solution. Those unhappy customers could find contentment with your business.
Online portals provide other ideal places for scanning and scouting new leads. Crawlers could scour directories like Yelp and recruitment sites like LinkedIn for you. They would pull up more information than a human being could on their own.
Once you have the leads, you and your team can target them. Knowing their interests can inspire more effective marketing efforts. That alone may be enough to push more people than ever through your business’s sales funnel. The journey could end in more sales, plus a greater position for your store in the industry. It can all begin with web scraping.
Bonus Advice: Other Lines of Research
Web scraping gives the near-unlimited ability to gain the most knowledge in your industry. Deeper research can provide greater insight into your target audience's tastes and mindset. Here are some topics and questions you could investigate with the software:
- Customer preferences. What products do your current customers like? What products do people who like your current offerings tend to buy? What requests might consumers have, and how could you meet them?
- Market trends. What types of products are seeing the greatest demand in your chosen industry? Which types seem to be seeing a rise in demand, but have not become popular yet? In short, what waves could you ride, or even foresee?
Summary: eCommerce Web Scraping Actions
Web scraping can put a significant amount of data at your disposal. A single targeted scan of another website yields so much useful information. Savvy business owners may analyze their charts, make better decisions, and create a stronger sales strategy.
Among many other uses, people can commission customized web scraping services to help them:
- Track changes in prices that competing merchants set for similar products
- Get ahead of rivals in SEO rankings
- Generate leads and convert them into customers
Knowledge is power, without a doubt. Hopefully, the knowledge you gained from this eCommerce web scraping article can empower you.