Crawler - Definition and possible Applications

More and more companies want to automate their processes. Crawling and scraping are buzzwords that come up in this context. And rightly so! The potentials of crawlers for adding value and efficiency in companies are enormous. Those familiar with our work and articles know that we are into process automation, and crawlers are a well-functioning approach for various use cases. But what are crawlers, how can they be used wisely, and when are these bots even the right tool? Finally, we will also dispel a myth at the end of this post.

Crawler - Possible Applications

The keyword bot brings us directly to the topic. Before we describe concrete use cases, here are a few quick basics: 


What is a crawler?

Crawlers are bots that analyze content and create information in databases and indexes. Since these bots move around comparable to a spider in its web for a major part of their work, they are also referred to as spider bots. The term “spidering” in this case refers to searching for information. Other names are web crawler or search bots. The algorithms in the code give the crawlers clear tasks and commands. The bots then repeat these functions automatically and continuously.

Spidering


The definition stands. But as indicated, there is more to search engines than just crawlers. So: 


What are the relevant types of crawlers?

  • Personal website crawlers
    are simple variants, which are used by individual companies. These crawlers perform specific tasks, such as monitoring the occurrence of certain search terms or the accessibility of certain URLs.
  • Cloud website crawlers
    store data not on local servers, but in a cloud. The name says it all here. Being independent of local computers, it is possible to log into the analysis tools and databases from any device. Most often, these variants are sold commercially as a service by software companies.
  • Desktop website crawlers
    are small web crawlers that run on your own PC or laptop. This variant is inexpensive, but its use is limited. These crawlers can usually only evaluate small amounts of data and websites.
  • Commercial website crawlers
    on the other hand, are complex software solutions. These are offered by companies as tools for sale. Tailored to specific use cases, they can save a company time and money.

So... the basics are in place. In the following, we will go into detail about the advantages and application examples.


The advantages at a glance

Web crawlers take on time-consuming and costly analysis tasks. They can scan, analyze, and index content faster, cheaper, and more widely than humans. This saves valuable resources. 


Another advantage is handling. Implementing crawlers is simple and fast. Nevertheless, the bots guarantee comprehensive and continuous data collection and analysis. The machines never sleep!


The wide range of possible applications is also an advantage:

  • Companies can use crawlers to analyze customer and company data that can be found online and draw conclusions for their own marketing and corporate strategy. 
  • Competitors’ publications can also be evaluated in this way.
  • New employees can be found more easily or screened in advance by having crawlers comb through application portals. 
  • Specific customer groups can be addressed through data mining and targeted advertising. 


Enough of the theory! … 


What do concrete projects with a crawler look like?

An investment fund always wants to discover the best investment opportunities before the competition. The old-fashioned way is manual research on common websites, databases and career networks. This repetitive and well-defined work can be automated with an army of crawlers. Best of all, the crawlers keep running. They find new investment opportunities while the competition is still sleeping. The workforce can now focus exclusively on evaluating the crawled data and further tasks. 


Automatic order search 

Another example. A company in the construction industry is looking for orders. The research and evaluation of construction tenders is time-consuming. The solution is a crawler that searches relevant sources on the Internet on a daily basis and stores all tenders. Using filters and self-learning algorithms, the program selects the best tenders and displays them to the sales specialist in a modern view. A clear advantage that leaves the competition far behind.


Data transfer without interfaces 

Crawlers can also significantly improve the user experience. Let's take a look at the next example. A company wants to store real estate data (price, living space, etc.) from various portals in its own tool. However, there are no interfaces. Users would have to transfer all the data themselves. An integrated crawler, which does the work for the user and can automatically read out and transfer the real estate data, can be a remedy at this point. 


The Myth: Crawler vs. Scraper

Crawler vs. Scraper

Companies are increasingly taking notice of the helpful bots. "Let's scrape this.", or "Let's build a crawler for this." are common phrases in meetings. After all, you have to distinguish between scrapers and crawlers, right? As a software agency, we often get such requests. Yet, the differences between crawlers and scrapers are fluid from a purely technical perspective. In the tech community, the difference doesn't exist at all. The distinction rather originates from communication in business meetings. In everyday business, different functionalities are attributed to the terms scraping and crawling. For example, scrapers are often attributed primarily with the task of extracting content. Crawlers, on the other hand, are primarily attributed with searching, analyzing and indexing web content. 


Conclusion

Crawlers are ideally suited as elements of process automation and can cover various use cases. In particular, these bots are highly efficient for repetitive processes. For example, this can be topics where your employees regularly visit the same websites and databases to retrieve and store new information. Even within your own application, efficiency can be increased and the user experience can benefit greatly from the bots.