The worldwide web is among the most influential innovations of the last decades, which has completely changed our way of life. Throughout the years of its development, the influence of the internet has grown in size and diversity. One of its great influences has become apparent after the advancements of big data analytics. Web scraping is a crucial tool for business intelligence today. But as with many such tools, a time comes to look beyond. Such a step beyond in this case is web data integration. This is a process by which data collected from online sources is completely prepared for usage and insight extractions.
Preparation of the data
The Internet is a bottomless well for data and web scraping is how one draws from this well. Since the realization that alternative data can be used in many different ways to advance business goals, web scraping has been used extensively to collect such data.
Raw data scraped from the web pages can be acquired as such and then used for various purposes. But there is also another way, through which data from different online sources is first combined and further prepared to produce a more readymade product.
This is the way of web data integration. It is a series of procedures supplementing web scraping. There are many data sources online that are on the one hand different, but on the other can be viewed as homogenous. For example, various data catalogs, PDFs, spreadsheets, and, of course, websites. Data integration does exactly what its name says – integrates the data from these sources to create a coherent dataset.
Data is integrated by such processes as data cleansing, normalization, and standardization. All discoverable issues are removed to ensure data quality and hidden data units are unlocked. Then the information is prepared and fused into an easily accessible data product, ready for insight extraction.
Benefits of web data integration
Integration seems like a rational step to take to advance the goals of web scraping. What web scraping extracts in great quantities, integration turns to something of great quality.
This intuition is proven by the benefits of web data integration. Here are 5 of the most important of these benefits.
1) Better data quality. Quite obviously, since data integration includes processes aiming specifically at fixing quality issues of datasets, the result is higher data quality. Data cleansing and normalization bring out the inaccuracies and redundancies of data and correct them. This also makes for more consistent datasets and better conditions for maintaining high levels of data quality.
2) Speed and efficiency. Integrated data allows to get to work immediately. Whether our aim is insight extraction for investment, development strategies or lead generation, when we have already integrated data we will certainly move along more quickly. We will not need to move between different databases and manually do essentially the same thing that integration does for us. Higher speed and efficiency of workflow means achieving goals sooner and growing faster.
3) Convenience. Related to the benefit above but also standing on its own as an important advantage is the added convenience of data integration. Making data easier to use not only saves a lot of energy and nerves of the users but allows them to see the possibilities of what can be done with the datasets.
4) Protection from errors. Data presented in a normalized and integrated form also means that it is much easier to avoid errors. Both human errors due to hardly readable data and computing errors due to various inaccuracies and updating anomalies can be very costly. And both of these types of errors can be avoided by integrating data into a more easily readable format.
5) More data for better decisions. As web scraping is at constant risk of missing a lot of data, web data integration means more total information. This means that the decisions based on integrated data are better-informed. Naturally, every other benefit of data integration also adds to and culminates in decision enhancement.
From quality in process to quality in outcome
The advantages of the integration process make its use cases for business quite apparent. Integrated data increases the quality of every business operation that utilizes data.
But to truly seize its fruits, the quality of this process itself has to be ensured. Web data integration is a multileveled and nuanced procedure where something could be done wrong at every step. And even slight errors may seriously diminish the quality of the result if not erase its value completely.
Thus, data integration has to be done professionally by experts who understand every procedure involved. The high quality of the process is the only guarantee of the high quality of the outcome.
When integration is done right, carefully and responsibly the aforementioned benefits are sure to prove it worthwhile. Only then the integrity of integrated data is preserved for another step that is all about quality – high-quality utilization.