How to start collecting public data online

As data became the world’s most valuable commodity, even surpassing the overall value of the world’s oil reserves, there is no doubt that we’ve entered the “data age”. 90 percent of the world’s data was created the last couple years and most of it was created by users, also known as UGC (user generated content).
Smartphone customers on 4G network
The information available openly on websites and ecommerce marketplaces is often used by brands for market research and marketing purposes.

But more data is definitely not better especially as most of this data is unstructured. Knowing exactly what information you need, how to retrieve it, analyze it, and use it is more important than sheer quantity.

Where To Get Public Data?

If you are online, public data that can be leveraged for marketing is everywhere. Finding out about products, consumers, competitors, and the economic environment is relatively simple.

But most websites restrict data collection to real users and block web scraping efforts.

In order to avoid these restrictions, developers often use residential IP proxies and other tools like puppeteer to emulate real user behaviour and  retrieve data efficiently.

The real decision is zeroing in on the right content from various sources and then following data mining tips. You can find data that can be analyzed for actionable insights from:

# Social media pages
# eCommerce platforms
# Review sites
# Competitor websites
# Financial news sites
# Surveys

All of these sources are useful, but depending on your goal, you may need more or less from each type of source. For instance, if you focus on consumer sentiment, focus on scraping information from social media pages, and review sites. Reviews are also useful for product development as well as looking at your competitors’ offerings on their websites and eCommerce sites.

Once you have identified the sources of data you need, get the tools and process in motion to start retrieving data. Here are some tips to get started.

Use Proxies for Anonymity and Scale

Of course, you have every right to retrieve information from your competitors’ websites. After all, it is public and open to everyone. Most websites want to increase their traffic, but the kind of visitors they do not necessarily welcome are competitors.

For this reason, you will want to visit competitors’ websites anonymously. Not that, but web scraping involves numerous actions on a website, such as downloading and accessing HTML, that will draw attention. When too many actions occur on a website at once, the activity seems suspicious, and the website owner may ban the IP address.

To avoid getting blocked, a web proxy is useful as a go-between and because it forwards your commands to the website. The web proxy’s IP address will be visible, but the user’s IP will be hidden, so you can continue scraping anonymously.

Set Clear Targets

Before you begin retrieving public data, set clear targets about what kind of data you need, how much you need, and where you are going to retrieve it. Tools and web scrapers should be scalable so you can adjust your goals as you expand. Being specific about the variety and amount of data from the outset can save a significant amount of time.

Once you start retrieving and analyzing data, you will need regular updates. Adjust your goals and targets as your marketing strategy develops, and numbers grow.

Tap Into Relevant Sources

The best method of getting accurate, relevant data is to obtain it as close to the source as possible. Fortunately, if you are researching products, competitors, and consumers, this data is not difficult to find.

We all see and produce UGC or User Generated Content, from Instagram posts to reviews on Amazon. You can collect information about your website’s visitor behavior and see how many people landed on your site, which pages they stayed on, and links they clicked.

Find relevant information by examining rival products on Amazon or Shopify, reading product features along with comments and reviews. The key is to collect it and analyze data efficiently.

Get the Right Tools

Having a web proxy is essential for anonymous browsing and web scraping so you can research without interference. Google Analytics is a staple of successful marketing strategies and provides a quick analysis of visitors to your site and the actions they performed.

Google Analytics tracks your promotional campaigns and ranks them. You can learn what visitors are searching for on your site and where they are located. A sentiment analysis tool saves hours of reading reviews and social media posts. Sentiment analysis uses AI and machine learning to interpret texts’ tone and attitude and evaluates how consumers feel about your brand and products.

Make It Legal

You can leverage information and at the same time not violate the law or ethics. To be compliant, it is essential to display a Privacy Policy, which is required by most jurisdictions. Cookie consent, CCPA Opt-out, and an I Agree checkbox provide visibility to users about what data can be used for and asks for their consent.

In the EU, these requirements are outlined in detail. Websites must provide notice when data is being used, state its purpose, ask for consent that it be used, guarantee safety and accountability and allow users to revise their data if they wish.

Hiding in Plain Sight

There is no need to lurk and try to gain access to sensitive information. Not only does this policy raise ethical questions, but it is not necessary. Although many people worry about having their data seen and used, they have a little problem opening up online and expressing frank opinions on social media and review sites. This information is valuable for upgrading products and finding new ways to appeal to shoppers. By leveraging this data, analyzing it, and producing actionable insights, you can attract customers and boost your sales.

Baburajan Kizhakedath


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