What's the difference between Web Scraping and Crawling?

Web crawling and web scraping are two intertwined concepts in the world of data gathering, each with unique exploration capabilities.

What is Web Crawling?

Web crawling is a web scraping process used by search engines and data scientists to visit websites and systematically "crawl" through various pages to gather information.

It has broad exploration logic that allows it to navigate through a multitude of website domains and diverse web structures.

Web Crawling Vs. Web Scraping

While web scraping and web crawling are related, they have distinct differences.

Web scraping focuses on extracting specific data from the web pages - for instance, "a list of product URLs from X e-commerce website."

On the other hand, web crawling goes a step further by not only extracting the specific data but also exploring and indexing the website, akin to how search engines work.

Implementing Web Crawling in Web Scraping

In most cases, web scrapers employ some level of web crawling functionality.

For instance, if the aim is to scrape product details from an e-commerce website, the process would involve first scraping the page containing product URLs (such as product category pages or search results), then moving on to scrape each product page. This would be a form of web crawling in web scraping.

Broad Crawling: An Extreme Form of Web Crawling

A more extensive form of web crawling is called "broad crawling." It involves crawling and scraping across numerous website domains and varied web structures.

This approach is commonly used by search engines like Google and Bing. These platforms use broad crawling to scour the internet, index the contents, and provide accurate search capabilities.

So, to summarize web crawling is a form of web scraping but more often than not both of these techniques are closely related as scraping and crawling are often used together.

How to Crawl the Web with Python

For more on crawling, see our full introduction tutorial for web crawling with Python

How to Crawl the Web with Python

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This knowledgebase is provided by Scrapfly — a web scraping API that allows you to scrape any website without getting blocked and implements a dozens of other web scraping conveniences. Check us out 👇