Websites often have a vast amount of data that we need to access for any reason. This data can be difficult to parse and organize in its raw form, such as stock prices, contacts, and product details. Web scraping is an invaluable technique for extracting available data from a website and turning it into a more digestible form.
While web scraping can be done manually, in most cases, a short code would be used to extract the data automatically and turn it into the format you prefer, such as an excel file. Some programming languages used for web scraping include Node.js, Ruby, PHP, Python
This article will cover python web scraping and how you can use it to gather financial data.
What Do You Need to Start?
There are three main tools that you’ll need to start web scraping:
– Python development environment
– Web browser
The development environment will be used for writing your code. This code will later be run on the web browser of your choice using Selenium.
Selenium is open-source software designed to support automation software on web browsers.
The first step to perform web scraping in Python is to set up your project. In this case, as we are using Selenium to run Python on the browser, the code should begin with installing Selenium. The python code for installing Selenium is “pip install selenium”.
Now, remember that Selenium requires a driver to work properly. You’ll need to find the Selenium driver for the web browser you are using. The driver will imitate the actions of the user. Once the driver is downloaded, place it in a folder on your system’s path.
Writing Your Code
Once your project is set up, it is time to import the modules. In order, you will need modules to:
- Launch your browser
- Emulate your keyboard
- Search within parameters
- Wait for the website to load
- Wait for expected conditions before the code is executed
Remember the driver we downloaded earlier? This is the moment to add it to your code. Selenium uses the driver to imitate a real user on a web browser. As every web browser is slightly different, you will need the specific driver for your chosen web browser.
When writing the code for initializing the WebDriver, remember to call back to where you saved the driver.
Using the Web Browser
Next, you’ll be installing the code for using the web browser. First, you will need to use driver.net to direct Selenium to the website you wish to scrape.
Next, you will write the code to have Selenium find the search box on the website. You will do this using the “find_element(s)_by_*” tool. This tool can find an element given certain attributes.
For example, say you want to write code that will find the search box on Reddit. In the inspector tool inside the web browser, you’ll find that Reddit has given the search box the attribute of “name=q.”
Lastly, you will include code to insert the search terms you are looking for. You may want to include code to have Selenium wait a few seconds to ensure that all of the results are loaded before you begin scraping.
Begin Web Scraping
The last part of your code will include the actual scraping. From here, you will tell Selenium what date you would like extracted (such as headings), where you would like it extracted to, and how to format it.
Web scraping is an invaluable tool for gathering and organizing information quickly for research. Python is ideal for this as automation is built right into the language.
Visit MindxMaster for more information on web scraping and Python.