External Data Source ConnectionThere is a question I’ve wanted to shed some light upon for a long time already: “What if I need to scrape several URL’s based on data in some external database?“.

For example, recently one of our visitors asked a very good question (thanks, Ed):

“I have a large list of amazon.com asin. I would like to scrape 10 or so fields for each asin. Is there any web scraping software available that can read each asin from a database and form the destination url to be scraped like http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/{asin} and scrape the data?”

This question impelled me to investigate this matter. I contacted several web scraper developers, and they kindly provided me with detailed answers that allowed me to bring the following summary to your attention:

Visual Web Ripper

An input data source can be used to provide a list of input values to a data extraction project. A data extraction project will be run once for each row of input values. You can find the additional information here.

Web Content Extractor

You can use the -at”filename” command line option to add new URLs from TXT or CSV file:

WCExtractor.exe projectfile -at”filename” -s

projectfile: the file name of the project (*.wcepr) to open.
filename – the file name of the CSV or TXT file that contains URLs separated by newlines.
-s – starts the extraction process

You can find some options and examples here.


Since Mozenda is cloud-based, the external data needs to be loaded up into the user’s Mozenda account. That data can then be easily used as part of the data extracting process. You can construct URLs, search for strings that match your inputs, or carry through several data fields from an input collection and add data to it as part of your output. The easiest way to get input data from an external source is to use the API to populate data into a Mozenda collection (in the user’s account). You can also input data in the Mozenda web console by importing a .csv file or importing one through our agent building tool.

Once the data is loaded into the cloud, you simply initiate building a Mozenda web agent and refer to that Data list. By using the Load page action and the variable from the inputs, you can construct a URL like http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/%asin%.

Helium Scraper

Here is a video showing how to do this with Helium Scraper:

The video shows how to use the input data as URLs and as search terms. There are many other ways you could use this data, way too many to fit in a video. Also, if you know SQL, you could run a query to get the data directly from an external MS Access database like

Note that the database needs to be a “.mdb” file.

WebSundew Data Extractor

Basically this allows using input data from external data sources. This may be CSV, Excel file or a Database (MySQL, MSSQL, etc). Here you can see how to do this in the case of an external file, but you can do it with a database in a similar way (you just need to write an SQL script that returns the necessary data).
In addition to passing URLs from the external sources you can pass other input parameters as well (input fields, for example).

Screen Scraper

Screen Scraper is really designed to be interoperable with all sorts of databases. We have composed a separate article where you can find a tutorial and a sample project about scraping Amazon products based on a list of their ASINs.