In today’s increasingly data-driven society, accessing data is more of an obligation than ever. Whether you are a journalist, a venture capitalist, marketer, or an eCommerce company, you need the latest data to formulate your strategy and move forward.
In a nutshell, web scraping is the process of scraping data from the web and turning it into structured data that can be easily used and analyzed. Web scraping can be done in a format of your choice, like manually, automatically, or hiring a service to do it for you.
The bottom line — web scraping ultimately helps generate leads, which in turns generates sales. Since the Internet has changed much of how we do business, people consume more data on a day-to-day basis — approximately 2.5 quintillion bytes (IBM, 2016).
Businesses today are leveraging this data to help them gain more leads. While manual web scraping certainly does the job, automated web scraping helps the process go by faster and more efficiently.
Enter web scraping and PHP.
Both web scraping and PHP are more similar than you think; both work quickly and effectively with the aid of additional services and tools.
While some articles may boast “the best way” to web scrape using PHP, the process entirely depends on what you want to achieve. There are numerous PHP web scraping libraries, and it’s important to choose the right one carefully. Clients like Guzzle, cURL, and Goutte are just a few popular PHP web scraping libraries.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of scraping sales leads with PHP and where to start.
Web Scraping to Generate Leads
Let’s be hypothetical for a second.
Say you’re running a startup business. In order to reach out to potential customers and make sales, you need to develop a way to generate leads.
This requires the retrieval of basic information, like the name of a business, the street address, email, contact number, and so on. While this kind of data is easily accessible online, the trick is extracting that data. Manually grabbing such data would be a pain. Hence, web scraping.
With web scraping, you can automatically scrape data and extract sales leads you need for your business.
First, You Must Understand HTTP
The first step in this PHP web lead scraper procedure is understanding HTTP, or Hypertext Transport Protocol. This is the most commonly used form of communication when browsing the web and the foundation of data exchange.
The collecting of resources — like HTML documents — also falls under HTTP.
HTML, or Hyper Text Markup Language, describes the structure of a document displayed in a web browser. HTML pages are composed of HTML elements, which are called tags. For example, “paragraph,” “header,” “title,” and “body” tags are used in the coding of a page, which are not visible to average web users.
To better understand how HTML relates to web scraping, click here for a comprehensive tutorial from Zenscrape.
Step 1: Using Simple HTML DOM
To make this process much easier, we recommend using PHP Simple HTML DOM, or an HTML DOM parser that is written is PHP5+ to let you manipulate HTML in a simpler way. An HTML DOM allows you to retrieve and collect contents from HTML with a single line of code.
So before anything else, download Simple HTML Dom Parser and extract the zip file, leaving you with the remaining “simple_dom” folder.
Step 2: Create Your New PHP File
Now we can begin the web scraping process using PHP.
First, create a PHP file and name it “simple_dom.” Be sure to include the “simple_html_dom.php” file at the top.
You’re now ready to extract the data from whatever site you choose.
Step 3: Extract and Scrape
To extract the HTML page of the URL, use the “file_get_html” function.
Next, you’ll use the HTML tags and scrape the appropriate data.
To identify the class of each tag, go to your browser’s URL (we recommend using Chrome), right click, and select “inspect element.”
Next, scrape all the necessary information from HTML according to CSS (or Cascading Style Sheets; CSS describes how to display HTML elements on screen or paper).
Now, review the output.
Step 4: Storing Output
Now it’s time to store the output onto an xml file.
First, we’ll use the “SimpleXMLElement” class to convert the PHP arrangement into an xml element.
Create a file and name it appropriately (“_____.xml”). Then, store the extracted data into this file.
Step 5: Review
Now that you’ve finished scraping, you may review the output and xml file you just created. This will ensure you’ve extracted all the proper data.
Other than that, you’re done! Repeat these steps to extract more data as needed.
In this day and age, where users consume data at a rapid rate, web scraping is a necessity for businesses.
Anything and everything requires data. Whether it’s market research, SEO monitoring, drawing up a sales strategy, or lead generation, you need data. In all aspects, web scraping can contribute to your business’s success by automated data extraction.
When it comes to scraping sales leads, businesses start by identifying their target audience. Then, they locate where the majority of their audience tends to gather. Identifying publicly available resources helps them narrow down which sources they need to scrape and locate potential sales leads.
However, web scraping a large amount of data for your business needs may cause you to encounter some difficulties:
- You may experience blocking.
- You may experience difficulty when scraping data from an active website.
- You might get stuck on lengthy pages.
But Zenscrape solves a lot of these problems. You can extract large amounts of data without getting blocked, making the HTML extraction process so much easier.
Zenscrap’s web scraping API responses quickly and effectively — all while maintaining high-performance regardless of how much data you extract. And to make things easier, Zenscrape guarantees the first 1,000 API requests free of charge.
Zenscrape is a reliable and efficient web scraping service that tackles all the potential challenges that come with the process.