Website Automation: What it Is and What it Can Do

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I've been hearing a lot about automation as a hot technology and I began wondering if it can help a solo web entrepreneur do more in less time. So I did some research on what website automation is and what it can do.

What is website automation? Website automation is simply the process of replacing human work with software. The types of tasks that are being automated are website testing, data research typically in the form of web scraping, integrating websites with other software like spreadsheets, filling forms, and connecting the processes between different apps and software.

Below we will explain more of these tasks in detail and how you might use them to save time and money. Then we will mention some available tools you can start using right away to begin automating tasks.

Website Related Tasks That Are Being Automated

 

Website Testing

Website testing automation is simply using tools to test various performance metrics of a website. This could be testing security, page speed, uptime, duplicate content checking, broken link checking, mobile friendliness, human interaction on different website features, and error checking.

You could hire someone to do these things for you (who would probably use software tools anyway) or you could save the money and simply invest in your own tools to diagnose issues.

One thing to take note of is that website testing can't completely replace the use of humans. Software can't foresee problems it wasn't programmed to handle. Output from these tools still needs to be analyzed, interpreted, and acted upon if necessary.

Still, wherever possible, automation should be used to offset costs of human work wherever it makes sense for your particular situation.

Web Scraping

Market research can be extremely time consuming on the Internet. Researching where to find the right data, exporting it, and saving it to a spreadsheet can suck up hundreds of costly human hours. What if you could do it all automatically for free?

Let's say you wanted to do some research on how well a particular course sells online. You could go through the process of manually researching the data available publicly on certain sites and log all of it. Or you could use a webscraper to extract all the data for you and input it in a spreadsheet.

Another use for web scraping is monitoring competitors. A web scraper could help you monitor pricing on certain products across numerous websites. For SEOs, you could monitor top ranking pages and find out when changes have been made or new content added to blogs. News sites could be monitored for brand mentions (Google Alerts is one automation tool that has been used for this purpose for quite awhile now).

Web scrapers have been around for a long time but many solo and small business Internet entrepreneurs probably haven't made good use of it. Scrapers used to be something you had to program yourself but no longer. Now there are plenty of tools available for someone who has no coding experience at all.

Web Content from Spreadsheets

Most websites now are automated through integrations with databases like MySQL. But it really isn't too hard to automate certain web content right from spreadsheets.

Here is an example that my team used many years ago. We decided we wanted to use data from a product testing website (think something like Consumer Reports) that we would then integrate into our site in order for our visitors to help evaluate products. My web guy created a simple script to pull the data from the testing website, dump it in a spreadsheet, and then call the data with our site and use it however we wanted. When new updated data came out the following year, all he had to do was press a button and the new data was integrated into our site. Our users could then sort products based on this testing data.

The great thing about a lot of data is it isn't necessarily protected from copyright. You can use all sorts of data, especially from government websites, by scraping it, importing it into a spreadsheet, and then pulling that data into a website for your own use and the benefit of your visitors.

Filling Forms

Filling forms on websites might only take a few minutes at a time but when you do it over and over throughout the week, that time really adds up. Better to invest some time up front in finding an automated solution and then reap the benefit of the time savings it brings long-term.

Fortunately, form filling software has become fairly prevalent whether it is offered through a browser like Firefox or a dedicated application like RoboForm.

Still, there can be times when a more custom solution is necessary. If you interact with other businesses or entities that have non-standard forms that need to be filled frequently, designing a program that can automate that task may be a great way to free up human resources. If you have dedicated people that spend too much time filling forms, its time to find an automated solution.

Connecting Software and Apps with Each Other

If you use several apps to complete tasks, it may be possible to automate the interaction between them to save you time. Programs like Zapier were created to foster integration between apps.

Check out this video from Zapier that explains what the tool can accomplish:

Here are some examples of what Zapier can do:

  1. Get a new email from Gmail, copy the attachment to Dropbox, create an alert in Slack that a new attachment is in Dropbox
  2. Alert your Slack channel that a new Facebook post has been published
  3. Create Google calendar events automatically when new data is entered on Google Sheets
  4. Automatically add new ClickFunnels contacts to Google Sheets

These are examples of simple integrations but Zapier can do so much more. On their website you can choose the programs you want to integrate and then Zapier will give you examples of what you can do.

If you use a lot of apps and spend time outputting data from one and into another, you may be able to automate that task with Zapier. Right now, it may be worth your time to think through tasks like these you or your team do on a regular basis and see if any of that time can be eliminated through automation.

Software Examples Used to Automate Tasks

 

Zapier (App Integrations)

We already mentioned Zapier above as a premier tool that can integrate the processes between over 1300 apps. We highly recommend you look through this tool and see what you can automate. The basic service is free and pricing starts at $20/month based on how many automated tasks you set up and what features you want. It may sound a tad expensive but evaluate this tool based on how much human time cost you can save and it might be worth every penny to you. – https://zapier.com/

EveryStep (Website Testing)

EveryStep uses a real browser to test websites based on human interactions. The tool can test all kinds of web technology like Flash, Silverlight, Java, HTML5, Ruby, PHP, WordPress, and more. EveryStep can also monitor the performance and speed of your website and report any problems it detects. – https://www.everystep-automation.com/

Octoparse (Web Scraping)

Octoparse allows you to scrape website data fast without having to know any code whatsoever. The tool is very easy to use. You input a URL, click on the target data, and then run the extraction. The data can be exported in CSV for spreadsheets, Excel, API or saved into a database. Scrapes can be scheduled at any time you want. It even includes an IP rotation tool to help circumvent countermeasures that might block scraping tasks. – https://www.octoparse.com/

Screaming Frog (Web Scraping, Website Testing)

Screaming Frog has been well known in the SEO world for quite some time now. It is essentially a web crawler/spider that can find broken links, analyze page titles, discover duplicate content, and generate site maps. Clever SEOs have been using it for a long time to find sources of broken links on other sites that could then be used in link building outreach campaigns. If you have a large site, use Screaming Frog to find any problems quickly. – https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/

RoboForm (Form Filling)

I hate filling forms and remembering passwords and have been using RoboForm for years to automate these tasks. It saves a lot of time and headache and is very easy to use. Its not a tool for programming custom forms and more for typical consumer purchasing and login management. If you aren't using a tool like this, you are probably wasting a lot of time. – https://www.roboform.com/

Moosend (Email Marketing)

Email marketing has evolved a lot since its inception over 20 years ago. The latest trend is marketing automation – sending emails based on certain client actions or other triggers. Moosend happens to be the most affordable email marketing automation I have found. It does a lot of cool things which you can read more about here (Moosend email marketing automation).

 

Related Questions

 

What is the Selenium Automation tool? – Selenium is actually a set of software tools that automates browser actions primarily for testing web applications. There is definitely a learning curve with Selenium but there are tutorials available. It is open source and free to use.

Is automation worth the cost? – Calculate the cost of your time. How much are you worth? If you have the ability to generate $50 an hour on average, calculate how much of your time an automation solution will save you. If a solution saves you a couple hours per month, that solution may be worth $100 a month. Plus it is one less task occupying your mind.

Or calculate the cost of hiring this task out to a freelancer. If you can hire someone overseas to do the work at $4.50 an hour, that changes the equation. But remember, that when managing people there are always unforeseen time costs due to training, answering questions, paying, people quitting, people not doing their jobs, etc. If the costs are close and the results are similar, automation is probably more strategic.

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Jim Rosenquist

Jim Rosenquist

Jim started earning a living online in 1999 and became a solo entrepreneur in 2001. He started Solo Intel in 2019 as a way to help solo entrepreneurs and small operators become more strategic with their online business.

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