Web Scraping Craigslist Data: Reasons, Issues, Solutions, and more

Foreword on Web Scraping Craigslist Listings

Craigslist is a web-based network that offers users a universal database for classified ads and forums from all over the world. Multiple Craiglist listings have varied sections devoted to housing, jobs, resumes, items wanted, personals, services, community, discussion forums, and much more. Almost anything can be found on Craigslist, from apartment to rent to a missed subway connection. Craigslist full website contains so many listings that it is hard to shift through all of them and efficiently compare data. That’s why web scraping Craigslist you can extract all the details you are interested in and process them further on.

Why Scrape Craigslist Data?

The reasons to extract Craigslist search results and data, in general, may be variable, the most popular ones are:
Research/AnalyticalData is always needed for writing reports. Whether you are a student or an investigative journalist, parse the posts in a given section and analyze data from them. Most likely Craigslist would not even mind it.
PersonalIn case you are looking for a new car, for instance, you may want to Google and pull up Craigslist data on used cars to correlate prices, locations, and model details about the vehicles. DataOx reasons to scrape Craigslist
For profitCraigslist parser can help you gain data about some items you would like to buy and resell. Commonly, it’s about event tickets for some events that are sold out. Finding a ticket below a certain price point, you can then resell it somewhere else, like eBay.
For businessCraigslist scraping can be used for lead generation, meaning you can search for those who need your product or service and offer it to them directly.

How Can you Pull Up Craigslist Data?

When it comes to web data scraping, it turns out to be a challenge to download Craigslist data, since the site is one of the most difficult resources to scrape, it only allows to post data, unlike the other sites providing APIs to pull data. Craigslist is structured so that harvesting read-only information from it would be impossible. It makes businesses and individuals advantageous positions from posting on the site. However, nothing is impossible nowadays and there are tools and ways to parse listings on Craigs list as well. Let’s talk a bit about the measures taken by the site to prevent scraping and then proceed to the tools available.

Measures Taken to Deter Craigslist Search Results Scraping

The site developers tried their best to make the task of Craigslist scraping impossible.
  • Craigslist terms of use prohibit scraping data from the site.
  • Basic anti-spam measures are taken.
  • The users are allowed to post on Craigslist only through a web browser or a special API.
  • Web browsers and emails only allow Craigslist access.
  • Data is protected from scraping by spiders, crawlers, scripts, or bots.
  • Users’ personal data and contact details are protected.
So, scraping Craigslist, you should be ready for certain complications in the process and possible consequences.

Craigslist Scraping Solutions

When choosing a Craigslist scraper, you need to consider the data you want to harvest and choose the tool accordingly. There are plenty of tools that are ready to be used, but some solutions stand out, and we are going to look closer at them.
Scrapy Scrapy is a Craigslist free scrap tool, that is one of the best solutions, being as all-purpose software easy to configure.
Python Craigslist Data Scraper This is another free scrap on Craigslist since it’s an open-source code tool. This Craigslist extractor is one of the most popular ones because it’s coded in one of the easiest languages and thus easy to learn and use.
Cloud Crawler It’s a free open-source project, but unfortunately, this cloud-based web spider is quite difficult to use. However, if you are not afraid of difficulties and don’t want to develop a scraper from scratch, you can try it.
Visual Web Ripper It’s an incredible and powerful tool that can be used as a Craigslist data extractor. It is simple and intuitive, pointing out directions to the users and providing tutorials for beginners. Unfortunately, it has some drawbacks—with a free trial, only a hundred elements can be scraped from a Craigslist web page. Then you have to pay 350 USD, but in case you need to scrape data from Craigslist regularly, this may be a reasonable investment, since you get the lifetime upgrades for this Craigslist data scraper.

Issues with Craigslist

There are certain issues that complicate Craigslist scraping additionally to the measures taken. Post titles, for instance, can include Unicode symbols. It makes texts more attractive and effective and helps headlines stand out, but creates problems for scrapers. Since the scraper either has to find the way to parse these special characters or remove them at all. DataOx Craigslist Issue 1 Screenshot Ads may nowadays include phone numbers with a format like (five…3,,,7) 4three….five-four36’’’’8. Even a human can comprehend them with a bit of difficulty, but a bot finds it impossible to parse such a telephone number. DataOx Craigslist Issue 2 Screenshot The other type of ads have no contact information at all, but only a poster to contact the company or the person, anonymized email address provided by Craigslist is used as a forwarding address. So an automated solution fails to harvest contact information from such ads. DataOx Craigslist Issue 3 Screenshot The problem of Spam is actual for certain more personal Craigslist sections, like Free, Jobs, and the entire Personals category since they are less moderated. Thus, the data scraped from these sections should be carefully checked and cleaned. The only advantage of Craigslist is that in 2013 the site removed the opportunity to customize ads with HTML features and the data in posts became more standardized, and thus it’s now easier for a robot to pull data from a browser window.
 

Final Word on Craigslist Scraping

As you can see from the above, the Craigslist site is not only a treasury of valuable data but also a well-protected site with a number of additional issues. The developers made their best to make scraping impossible, and that’s why we insist that such a job should be done by professionals. Experienced data experts, like DataOx’s team, can do all the job carefully, effectively, and hassle-free. We have lots of tools and technical tricks to cope with the challenge in a lawful manner. To discuss the details – schedule a free consultation with our expert.
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