Mistakes That Businesses Make With In-House Web Scraping Systems

Web scraping is a resource-intensive endeavor. There are just too many variables involved and it can be challenging even for the seasoned coder. As an SEO agency, you might need to scrape the internet for data for test purposes. You will be faced with the challenge of whether going for a standard solution or developing the scraper from scratch. Both of the two options have their own advantages and disadvantages and it is important to do a thorough analysis before making a decision.

There are some situations where developing an in-house solution is recommended and they include:

·        The requirements are unique and overwhelming and the set of tools currently available are not enough to provide a robust solution

·        The company has sensitive information that can’t be shared with just anyone

·        The company has the needed resources to finance the development of the crawler for scratch

There are some common pitfalls that should be avoided when building an in-house scraper and we’re going to highlight some of them here.

Legal Risks

There are legal risks with web scraping, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are websites that clearly state that they don’t allow web scraping and you could be facing legal implications because of negligence. Make sure to check the terms of the website before you start crawling. This could be a serious challenge if you intend to crawl thousands of websites. Code can be written to ignore contentious websites but you can’t get it right all the time. That is why it is sometimes recommended that you look for a Scraping API vendor that has the legal bases covered.

Scaling Up

This is always going to be a challenge for any program, especially if it is not designed with robustness in mind. There is also the challenge of maintaining the scraper which can be exhaustive if you don’t have a big team to do the job. A crawler will need to be modified every time a website changes its structure. What happens when thousands of websites change their structure? The system requirements also become more complex with every increment in data. The infrastructure should be highly scalable to allow for changes in the future regardless of the complexity.

Opportunity Costs

As a company, you might be forced to assign the current IT staff to the development of the web scraper. There will obviously be trade-offs in such a scenario. Your IT team might already be occupied with other activities in the organization and you will be putting a strain on the resources if an external team is not hired. You don’t want the clients to be impacted just because you’re building a web crawler. The costs of delays, bugs, and new features also have to be put into consideration when developing the scraper.

Moving Away From the Core Business

You might be in the IT business but building web crawlers is not in your service offering. Since you might not know a lot about the process, it will be a steep learning curve and you can expect mistakes to be made. As a company, you should be primarily focused on your core business. Everything else can be outsourced, including building a web scraper. You don’t want to be wasting time on something that you’re not sure of and is not part of your main business. Crawling search engines is complex in nature and there are just too many variables involved. You’re better off hiring a company to develop a custom solution that you’re looking for.

Outsourcing The Development of the Web Crawler

Once you’ve decided that you’re going to outsource the development, the next challenge will be to get the right company for the job. The first thing you should be looking at is experience. You don’t want to be working with a company that is just starting out. Ask for references for similar work just to be sure that the company can deliver the job. Outsourcing will ensure that you’re focusing on the core business of your company.

Conclusion

As we’ve already mentioned, web crawling requires a lot of resources. That means it is a niche that demands a high level of expertise and experience. It might feel that you’re in control of things but it only requires a small tweak to a website to turn things upside down. When you work with a dedicated web crawling service provider, you’re assured that everything will be fixed in case of any changes. You also get quality services which might not have been possible if the work was done in-house.

Adam Hansen