Data plays a key role in the business processes of many companies, and retrieving data online has become a priority, but how much does web scraping cost? That's a hot question whose answer depends on various factors.
Read this guide to dive into the different data extraction options available, find out the tips to make the best choice and save money!
Options for Web Scraping and Their Cost
There are several approaches and technologies for scraping the internet, each with strengths and drawbacks. Take a look at the table below to compare them when it comes to costs:
|Option||How It Works||Cost Range|
|Code your scraper from scratch||Build a custom scraping application||From 100s to 1,000s USD/month|
|Use a web scraping API||Use an API designed to extract data from any site||From 10s to 1,000s USD/month|
|Get a no-code web scraping tool||Scrape data from an intuitive tool with a point-and-click interface||From free to 10s to 100s USD/month|
|Outsource your scraping project||Hire a third-party company to build and manage your scraper||From 100s to 1,000s USD/month|
Option A: Code Your Scraper from Scratch
Creating a scraper from scratch involves building a custom solution to get data from the web, but it's the best approach when you need high customization. Coding your own spider provides great flexibility for any scraping scenario.
The main reason for going this path is that it gives you complete control over the scraping process. You wouldn't be relying on external services except for selected scraping libraries.
To code a scraper, your development team needs to follow the steps below:
- Analyze the target sites: Inspect the target websites to identify the data of interest and how to extract it based on their structure.
- Choose the programming language and scraping libraries: Select the best programming language for web scraping and adopt the right libraries for your requirements.
- Implement the scraping logic: Develop the code to connect to a web page and retrieve the desired information. This includes selecting HTML elements and getting data from them.
- Bypass all anti-bot measures that come along the way, which might represent most of the development time and require an additional cost for a web scraping service, such as residential proxies.
- Process and store the scraped data: Clean the collected data, store it in a database, or convert it to a more useful format, like CSV or JSON.
The cost of such a development process varies depending on many factors. These include the complexity of the target sites and the level of expertise needed. Based on that, building a web scraper in-house ranges from a few hundred to several thousand dollars a month.
The main problem with this solution is the maintenance needed to tackle site changes. Plus, developers have to deal with the anti-scraping measures themselves. That's challenging and time-consuming.
Option B: Use a Web Scraping API
A scraping API provides the highest flexibility for the lowest cost of web scraping. It consists of extracting data by performing API calls while letting your provider take care of the complex aspects, like bypassing anti-bots and managing the headless browser infrastructure.
This approach eliminates the need for complicated code and a large list of dependencies, saving time and effort. Web scraping APIs are an all-in-solution solution that offers powerful features for developers, such as proxies, IP rotation, changing headers and built-in anti-bot bypass.
To create a scraper based on this solution, the basic steps are:
- Select a scraping API service provider: Choose a reliable vendor offering features and pricing plans that meet your requirements. ZenRows is one of the most popular ones.
- Integrate the API into your application: Follow the provider's documentation to integrate the API into your code.
The cost of a web scraping API depends on the provider and the number of requests or data volume needed. Pricing models may include free tiers, pay-as-you-go plans, or subscription-based options. Prices range from a few dozen dollars to thousands of dollars per month for large projects.
In the case you already have a scraper built, the only drawback of this solution is that your current stack might not fully integrate with all your current libraries.
Option C: Get a No-Code Web Scraping Tool
No-code scraping tools have an intuitive visual interface that guides users through the process of collecting data from sites. These solutions simplify data scraping, making it accessible to even non-technical users.
No-code tools have only a point-and-click interface, while low-code options also support scripting. Thus, no-code is for users with no coding experience, while low-code is also for advanced users.
These tools are useful for individuals or businesses that need to extract data from a site fast. When you don't want to invest time in the development process or have no coding skills, they're a great option.
Note that such tools are usually limited in the complexity of scraping tasks they can handle or the specific data you can collect. You can't expect to use them for scenarios that need high scalability, for example. Additionally, you'll be fully dependent on the tool provider for updates and support.
These are the steps involved in setting up a no-code/low-code web scraping tool:
- Install and launch the tool on your computer (although some are cloud-based).
- Learn how to use the tool.
- Use the built-in browser to visit the target page and define the data extraction task.
- Execute the task and export the scraped data in the desired format.
Some of the biggest players in the market are Octoparse and ParseHub. These companies sell plans that provide access to different levels of functionality. The web scraping cost ranges from free for limited features to a few hundred dollars per month for complete capabilities.
Option D: Outsource Your Scraping Project
Outsourcing a scraping project means hiring a third-party company to build your scraper. This implies you can focus on other aspects of your business, leaving the scraping operations in the hands of experienced agencies.
Outsourcing is a good choice if you don't have the technical expertise or resources required. In this scenario, it's better to delegate the task to experts who have what it takes to achieve your scraping goal.
Keep also into consideration the communication overheads that such a choice involves. Also, finding a reliable and trustworthy outsourcing agency is far from easy.
As with any other outsourcing project, you need to:
- Define the project requirements: Articulate your scraping objectives in a detailed way.
- Find a team with the right skills and expertise: Hire freelancers or rely on a specialized agency to form your scraping team.
- Communicate the project details: Share project specifications and requirements with the outsourced team.
- Monitor the progress and provide feedback: Stay engaged throughout the project and address any concerns that arise.
- Receive the final code or output: Launch the scraping process and review the results to make sure it meets the requirements you agreed upon.
Outsourcing to developing countries is a cost-saving solution. For a few hundred to several thousand dollars a month (for more protected sites), you can hire a team of experts. Yet, different time zones and the language barrier are likely to hinder the end result. Hiring professionals in your country can cost you thousands per month.
Tips to Make the Best Choice
There are some crucial aspects to take into account to make an informed decision and save budget. Let's see them.
The amount of data to retrieve has a crucial impact on the difficulty and cost of a web scraping project.
For in-house scrapers, the design and development effort grows as data volume increases. With a web scraping API, the development effort is lower, and volume affects costs proportionately.
No-code tools are generally not designed to handle large volumes of data. Meanwhile, outsourcing involves trusting the team's experience to deal with large data traffic, which requires an infrastructure and capacity that not everyone can handle.
The complexity and cost of scraping depend on the specific target sites and their diversity. You'll need to understand their page structure and technologies used, as that's part of the project requirements.
Coding the scraper offers the highest level of customization and adaptability. You can tailor your code to tackle any site structure and scenario. However, different sites or pages may have different anti-bot solutions, and some can get tough. That's where a web scraping API comes to the rescue.
Free no-code tools commonly support only standard site structures and need a paid plan for unique layouts.
How Fresh and Updated the Data Is
Scraping historical data that don't change over time isn't expensive. You only need to run a scraper once, and that's it. In this case, using a no-code tool is usually the best approach for a relatively small amount of data, and a free plan may even be enough.
If you instead have to handle data that changes often, that's a different story. Here you need to build a system that runs 24/7, and the coding approach is the only solution possible.
Scope of the Project
The scope of a project has a direct impact on the web scraping cost. The more extensive and complex it is, the more expensive it becomes regarding time and money.
The scraping task objectives, deadlines, and size affect the level of expertise required. Big projects involve larger teams and specialized expertise, resulting in higher costs. Small projects can be carried out even by a single person, especially when targeting poorly protected websites.
It's essential to balance the project scope with your budget and desired outcomes. Adopting the right tool or technology helps achieve the desired results over time.
This in-depth guide has shown you what options are available to build a web scraper within budget. You've explored the most common solutions and are now a web scraping cost expert!
Now you know:
- The data scraping approaches available.
- How much each of them can cost.
- The aspects to consider to make an informed decision.
Regardless of the option you choose, don't forget that sites use anti-bot systems. Relying on workarounds found by your team or external experts to avoid those measures leads to apps that don't work forever. The solution is ZenRows, a scraping API with best-in-market anti-bot bypass capabilities. Try it for free today!