Web Scraping vs. Web Crawling

The terms web scraping and web crawling are terms we often use to explain the same thing. Even though they have some similarities, these two methods have very different applications. They are both used by businesses as a monitoring tool, and we often use them together.

But before we get into the details, we have to explain how each technique works and what it’s used for specifically. Stay with us, and we’ll give you a detailed breakdown of web scraping and web crawling and explain why you should definitely implement both of them into your online business.

Defining web crawling

Web crawling is a process of using so-called spiders or bots to identify and store all website content into archives or for indexing purposes. It’s used by search engines such as Google to find all information a website holds and create an index to include it into the general search engine.

Whenever you open Google and type in a word for it to search for, it uses one of the most advanced web crawlers to quickly identify all websites and pages with the word(s) you want. Google’s web crawlers download all of the content from every website and create their own indexing library for easier access to information.

Defining web scraping

Web scraping is a process of extracting specific data from a website, page, or multiple websites. Once you specify the information you want to scrape, the tool will gather everything that fits your description and transfer that data into an excel spreadsheet in a readable format. You could do the same thing manually, but it would take too much time, and you would probably miss some key information.

Specific tools such as python web scraping can help you generate tons of high-quality data you can then use to improve your own website. It’s widely used by businesses, companies, and retail shops to monitor competitors, prices, and other useful information.

The similarities and differences between the two concepts

Now that you know the definition of web scraping and web crawling, let’s take a closer look at their differences. The first and biggest difference between the two is their use. While crawling is a process of scanning different websites for better indexing, scraping is used to pinpoint specific data and download it to your device.

Web scraping requires you to know what information you want to find, while crawling is more oriented towards research. With that said, you should know that scraping’s purpose is usually to monitor competitors, prices, collect user reviews on products and services, and so on. Furthermore, scraping works without an online connection. You can use python web scraping to extract information from a local machine, server, or database, while crawling is only possible on the internet.

The two go hand in hand

In most cases, web crawling and web scraping work together for the best results. For example, you can use web crawlers to identify and extract data from multiple search engines, websites, and eCommerce platforms, and then use a web crawler to filter out the information you need.

Web scrapers have a broader application as you can use them without a web crawler. For smaller amounts of data, we can manually scrap them, while large amounts of data are usually first broken down into smaller pieces with web crawling and then filtered out with scraping.

The main applications of the two techniques

Since web crawlers and scrapers are often used together, we’re going to go over each tool’s specific applications. Here’s a quick overview of the primary applications.

Web scraping applications

Web scraping is a process widely used in retail marketing, equity research, machine learning, and so on. Retailers use it to monitor competitors, prices, and reviews. It’s also very good for extracting valuable data for further operation optimization. Scraping can also help pinpoint specific products, images, and other details for improving an online business.

It’s also very good for collecting information on companies and the value of their stocks. It can help you identify future trends and make better-informed purchasing decisions on the markets. You can use web scrapers to understand the marker’s state better and use the data to score better deals. The practice can also use machine learning to improve the end result. As scrapers feed tons of data to the computer, it identifies patterns and improves overall operation.

Read more about Python web scraping in this article and learn how to build a web scraper.

Web crawling applications

Search engines such as Yahoo, Bing, or Google would never exist without web crawlers. Over time, these crawlers became much more accurate, so today, they are able to crawl through a massive number of websites very quickly. They crawl through billions of web pages instantly to give you the results you wanted. They can also find the content of specific qualities, as they are the most important factor in providing accurate results.


Both web crawling and web scraping work together to provide us with the internet we know today. Since they are both very important parts, they are often confused with one another. Now that you know their differences and uses, you should include both methods in your business operation for better results.

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About the Author: John Vick

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