Steps to being a champ at data extraction and web scraping

  • 08/09/2017

Data is omnipresent. Data is everywhere, in everything.

Data is the new oil!

Just like oil, extracting data is quite a strenuous job in itself and as though this wasn’t enough, refining it into consumable information is all the more stressful – in most cases.

Read on to know how can you be a champ at data extraction.

You need data for almost everything. Do you want to increase sales? Data. Do you want to cut costs? Data. Do you want to strategize your new product launch? Data.

Now, while you may be seeking to extract answers to simple questions, the answers aren’t straightforward.

Here are a few steps that’ll set you right on track on being a champ in data extraction and web scraping.

Step 1: Identifying the right sources

You need data, but from where? Identifying the right data source is of utmost importance while starting off your data extraction exercise. While there may be thousands of sources, you need to identify the reliable ones.

Your data sources could be in-house or else from an outside source.

Your in-house data could include self-generated and maintained database, reports, records and other data-sets that have been generated and maintained within the organization

Outside sources include public domain data that is available over the internet for free and general use.

Step 2: Examine the quality of data

Just data is not sufficient to aid you in your decision-making processes, what really matters is superior quality data. It is very important for you to verify the source as a supplier of good quality data. Good quality data sources are essentially reliable, accurate, relevant and timely in nature.

The activity of testing data quality is a small but important one. One can test the quality of data by extracting a small set of data and testing it on grounds of quality and sufficiency. There can be a case where certain data-points go missing giving rise to data insufficiency issues. In such a case, one must identify an alternative source of good quality data to plug the gaps.

Step 3: Data extraction and web scraping should be automated as a process

While many may want to jump to the previous steps to immediately hit the ground running, but as Abraham Lincoln had once said – “If I have six hours to cut a tree, I’ll spend four hours sharpening my axe”, one must automate not only data extraction but quality data extraction.

Automating the data extraction process includes setting up a process flow beginning right from determining the source of data, frequency requirement, people to be allocated towards this task, software to be used, data sanity checking process and right up to database management and final data presentation.

Step 4: Build an internal quality control mechanism

Things go well till they go well; the real problem begins when things begin going wrong.

Initially, the quality control process for web scraping and data extraction can be basic. However, as time progresses and systems evolve, it is required for processes to evolve as well. The quality control mechanism can begin with a simple manual effort to keep an eye on whether things are going as it is supposed to go – this is a process-oriented function.

Gradually, the mechanism can graduate to monitoring and enhancing quality of data extraction in terms of higher frequency of data extraction, using multiple sources to cross-verify reliability of data and also to maintain a check on how the process can be made more efficient.

Step 5: Data consumption – the right way

The whole point about this entire process is to receive data and transform it into consumable information that will further drive thought and strategy. Data in its raw form makes no sense unless it is translated into meaningful information. Again, information needs to be processed and scanned for relevance before it is used for analytics and deriving thought-processes.

It is important to flag inconsistencies and continuously reiterate and enhance the process. Improvement should never stop. This is what we at Botscraper believe in. Web scraping and data extraction is crucial for enterprises – and we deliver superior quality.



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