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How to Find HTML Elements by Class for Web Scraping

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When web scraping, one of the most common tasks is locating specific HTML elements on a page to extract data. The easiest way to consistently find elements is by using their class name attribute.

In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll cover multiple methods to find elements by class name using CSS selectors, XPath, and JavaScript.


  • What is a Class Name and Why Use It for Scraping?
  • CSS Selectors to Find Elements by Class
    • Select by Full Class Name
    • Select Elements Containing Partial Class Name
  • XPath to Query Elements by Class
    • Exact Match on Class
    • Contains Class Name
  • JavaScript Functions to Get Elements by Class
    • document.querySelector()
    • document.getElementsByClassName()
  • Tips for Using Class Names in Scrapers
  • Example Scrapers Using Class Name Selectors
  • Pros and Cons of Finding Elements by Class
  • Other Locator Options Beyond Class Name

What is a Class Name and Why Use it for Scraping?

In HTML, the class attribute allows you to assign one or more class names to any element. These classes can then be used to target the element with CSS or JavaScript code.

For example:

<div class="product-listing">
   <h2 class="product-title">Item 1</h2>
   <p class="product-description">This is a nice product</p>

Here the div, h2, and p tags all have the class names product-listing, product-title, and product-description respectively.

Web developers utilize these class names in several ways:

  • To apply common styling to similar elements
  • To mark semantic relationships between elements
  • To provide hooks for JavaScript selection and manipulation

It‘s this last purpose that makes class name such a useful concept for web scraping.

Since class names are commonly added to related content, they give us a way to consistently locate and extract elements we want from the HTML.

For example, let‘s say an ecommerce site has hundreds of product listings, all with the same structure:

<div class="product">

  <img src="product1.jpg" class="product-image">

  <h2 class="product-title">Product 1 Title</h2>

  <p class="product-description">
    Product 1 description text

  <span class="product-price">$29.99</span>


To scrape the price of every product, we just need to grab all the span tags with class product-price.

This is much simpler than having to analyze the positions of elements and write fragile locators based on parent/child relationships.

So by leveraging class names, we can:

  • Rapidly find related data we want to extract
  • Build robust scrapers resilient to site changes
  • Greatly simplify the selection process

Next let‘s look at the various methods to actually find elements by class name.

CSS Selectors to Find Elements by Class

CSS selectors are string patterns used to target HTML elements for styling.

They provide a concise, flexible way to search the DOM and identify elements to scrape. The two main syntax options are:

Select by Full Class Name

You can directly match on the full class name using:

.class-name {
  /* styles */  

For scraping, this would look like:

# Python example
products = response.css(‘.product‘)
// JavaScript example 
const products = document.querySelectorAll(‘.product‘);

This will find all elements where the class name exactly matches product.

Select Elements Containing Partial Class Name

You can also find elements whose class contains a given substring using the *= attribute contains operator:

[class*="name"] {
  /* styles */

For example:

# Python 
panels = response.css(‘[class*="panel"]‘)
// JavaScript
const panels = document.querySelectorAll(‘[class*="panel"]‘);

This will match any elements with class containing the string "panel", like sidebar-panel, main-panel, etc.

This provides more flexibility to handle cases where elements may have multiple classes.

XPath to Query Elements by Class

XPath is a query language for selecting XML/HTML nodes. It can be used directly in some scraping libraries as an alternative to CSS.

XPath offers similar facilities to target elements by class attribute.

Exact Match on Class

To find nodes where the class exactly equals some value:


This will match any element with class equal to box.

Contains Class Name

To match nodes whose class contains a substring:

//*[contains(@class, "box")]

This finds any elements with box present in the class attribute.

JavaScript Functions to Get Elements by Class

In the browser, you can also use JavaScript DOM methods like:


Finds the first element matching a given CSS selector:

const result = document.querySelector(‘.some-class‘); 


Returns a list of all elements containing the given class name:

const items = document.getElementsByClassName(‘some-class‘);

These provide an alternative to CSS/XPath when scraping directly in the browser.

Tips for Using Class Names in Scrapers

Now that we‘ve seen the syntax options, here are some best practices for locating elements by class in your scrapers:

  • Scan the HTML source – Inspect the page structure and class names to identify optimal scraping hooks before writing your locators.

  • Prefer specificity – Use long, semantic class names like product-price over generics like price.

  • Combine with IDs – For unique elements, use IDs as well for speed and simplicity like #product-1234 .product-title.

  • Limit nested rules – Avoid long descendant selectors like .site .product-list .item .price which are prone to breaking.

  • Qualify generically named classes like item by chaining the tag name like div.item to prevent matching unintended elements.

  • Apply filters – Further refine results by chaining additional criteria like to match only elements with both classes present.

  • Plan for variability – Anticipate changes in class names on sites and have fallback locators ready like partial matches.

Example Scrapers Using Class Name Selectors

Let‘s look at some examples using class name locators to extract data:

JavaScript Scraper

// Extract product data 
const titles = document.getElementsByClassName(‘product-title‘);
const prices = document.getElementsByClassName(‘product-price‘);

// Build result array
const results = [];

for(let i = 0; i < titles.length; i++) {

    title: titles[i].innerText, 
    price: prices[i].innerText


This scraper finds all product titles and prices by class name, then combines them into structured result objects.

Python Scraper with BeautifulSoup

from bs4 import BeautifulSoup
import requests

URL = ‘‘

page = requests.get(URL)
soup = BeautifulSoup(page.content, ‘html.parser‘)

items = []

product_elems =‘.product‘)

for product in product_elems:

  title = product.find(‘h2‘, class_=‘product-title‘).text
  description = product.find(‘p‘, class_=‘product-description‘).text
  price = product.find(‘span‘, class_=‘product-price‘).text

  item = {
    ‘title‘: title,
    ‘description‘: description,
    ‘price‘: price


Here BeautifulSoup‘s select() method and find() are used with CSS selectors to extract information from each product element.

Pros and Cons of Finding Elements by Class


  • Simple and readable syntax
  • Fast lookup of related content
  • Class names tend to change less than other attributes
  • Can mix and match CSS, XPath, and JavaScript solutions


  • Still possible for class names to change after site updates
  • Overly generic names like item lead to brittle locators
  • Classes may not exist or be applied consistently across all pages

Other Locator Options Beyond Class Name

While class names are a great starting point, here are some other common locator strategies:

  • IDs – Unique, fast lookups for one-off elements
  • Attributes – Match elements based on attributes like name, href, etc
  • Text content – Find via inner text or specific formatting
  • DOM relationships – Traverse the tree relative to known nodes
  • Indexes – Select based on numeric position amongst siblings

Choosing the optimal locator is a key web scraping skill. Oftentimes utilizing a combination of approaches is the best way to create robust, maintainable scrapers.


Finding HTML elements by class name is a straightforward yet powerful technique for web scraping.

Class attributes provide memorable semantic handles to consistently locate and extract related data from pages.

Mastering selector syntax like CSS and XPath gives you a versatile set of tools to target elements relying on their class names.

Combined with good practices like analyzing source code and anticipating changes, scrapers built around class name locators will be resilient and scale across many sites.

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