How to uncover hidden data online

Data Mining   |   
Published November 8, 2019   |   

The internet is an almost endless font of information and data. Most of us spend a lot of time each day interacting with the internet and learning new things from it. You may be surprised to learn that there is far more hidden data online than meets the eye. Gathering this information efficiently can give your business a competitive edge. Here are a few ways to capture hidden data online.

What’s there to learn?

Websites, especially well-maintained ones, have a lot of metadata. This is information about information. Nearly all of this information is hidden from you while you are browsing the internet normally.

Additionally, there is a lot of information that is hidden or obscured by styles. Some websites stuff keywords in hidden text. While this is no longer considered a good SEO practice, some websites still do it. Furthermore, some may have text hidden to force you to log in to an account. This is common on news websites.

Often there are hidden pages on websites that you may not be able to easily find. Many websites block search engines from finding some of their content. This information can be found with the right practices and tools. However, it would normally be hidden from visitors.

There are many more types of data that are visible to machines but not easily to people. Even the visible data is hard to parse efficiently without machine assistance. So, you can learn a lot by applying tools that will help you explore and understand the internet the same way a computer does.

How can you capture it?

There are many ways to capture this information. One laborious but simple way is to view the source of a given web page. Most browsers let you do this easily by right-clicking on a page or with a keyboard shortcut. Of course, this is hard to understand even if you are a coding expert. It takes a long time to read through source code and find the information you are interested in.

Examining website code and robots.txt files can help you to find hidden pages. This can be very interesting but is similarly complex to do manually. Plus, when you find information, you are still left with the challenge of how to capture it and use it.

The key is to use automation. Data scraping can help you capture that hidden data efficiently. Better yet, it will help you to gather and analyze the visible data too. Basically, scraping is using a computer program to read and record the website data the machines see.

The best tools make this very simple. For example, some let you just input a URL and the tool will do the rest. It is the most efficient way to capture lots of information from the web. Additionally, the data outputted by scraping can be easily organized.

How is this useful for your business?

Data drives business today. You can use this information to help you make decisions. For example, you may want to more effectively target your online advertising. This is easier to do when you have data on your audience.

Hidden data can be as useful as visible data for this. For example, you can use metadata to get more insight into the behaviors of your audience. When did a customer post a review? How was a blog about your product tagged? What is the short meta description of a competitor’s service?

This can also be helpful for SEO purposes. Again, identifying the hidden metadata can expose useful insights. You may find the keywords your competitor is optimizing for.

Exploring the web for hidden data can be both interesting and valuable. There is so much information hidden beneath the surface. The internet is like an iceberg. While only the top is visible, there is so much more underneath. With the right tools and practices, you can gather, organize and use this hidden information. Learn more today.