If you run a website in the finance niche, getting your hands on financial data is a must. Of course, that can be easier said than done. You don’t have the time to visit one website after the next, so how do you get the data you need? You can get that data quickly and easily with the help of a web scraper. Check out some tips to make financial data extraction with a web scraper much easier.
First, how do you know where to get financial data? And actually, what is financial data in the first place? Basically, it is any information that deals with money. It could be past sales, sales projections, liabilities, investments, etc. Depending on your needs, you can find information for past, present, and potential future. For publicly traded companies, much of this data is required to be available by law. Finding the information you need can be as simple as searching for the entity in question and the kind of data you are looking for. To learn more about this process, use the table of contents below.
Table of Contents
Get Your Finance Data With a Scraper
Figuring out how to scrape financial data means learning about scrapers. You have many options for getting a web scraper for financial data extraction, but they really fit into three categories.
First, you can build the scraper yourself. If you are a tech whiz, this is a great option since you won’t have to worry about anything hidden in the code. You will know exactly what you are getting out of your scraper. A lot of people build scrapers with Python (for example, many Craigslist scraping tools use this language). If you know how to do it, go ahead and make your scraper that will get the financial data you need. You can customize the scraper so it does everything you need, without any issues.
Your next option is a free scraper. There are lots of free scrapers out there, many of which are open-source software or extensions. Even though they are free, you can find some great options. Just do your homework before you download a free web scraper, and always have your antivirus software updated and turned on just in case it comes with a virus. You never know that someone might do when distributing a free product, so it is always a good idea to be safe.
Your final option is a paid scraper. These range in price from a few bucks to thousands of dollars. Most people do not require a high-end, expensive scraper. These scrapers often have a bunch of extra tools that people don’t need. If you are running a big business and need those extra bells and whistles, definitely get them, but it probably isn’t necessary for your financial data extraction needs. Instead, you can find an affordable scraper that gets the job done. If you go with a paid option, make sure it offers updates throughout the life of the scraper. Websites are constantly looking for new ways to shut scrapers down. If your scraper doesn’t offer updates, it might not work after a few months.
Tips on Using Your Finance Data Scraper
Financial websites are more sensitive than most websites out there. The site owners are very concerned about getting hacked, so they have a lot of systems in place to watch for attacks. What you might not realize is a bot can act just like someone who is engaging in a DDoS attack. That’s because bots often make several requests at once, and those requests can be mistaken as attempts to shut down the website. On top of that, lots of requests put a big load on the website’s servers, and that can cause it problems.
Avoid getting blocked and hurting the website by adding some time in between your requests. Use a low number of concurrent requests and add in some additional delays between crawling pages. For instance, crawl five pages and then have a small delay. It will make it harder for websites to detect you, and it will keep their server loads down. That’s a win-win.
Spoof your user-agent
Financial websites don’t just look at how fast you’re crawling or your IP address when determining who you are. They also look at your user-agent header. Many people don’t realize this, but every web browser request contains a user-agent header. You can do everything right, but if your user-agent is the same with each request, websites might begin to get suspicious. Then, you will get shut down.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go to a lot of trouble to engage in user-agent spoofing. Use the User-Agent Switcher from Chrome to take care of this for you. This add-on spoofs and mimics user-agent strings so you can switch between user-agents quickly when scraping. This is a free tool, so install it and give it a try. Once you set it up, you can forget about it and move forward with your scraping tasks. If you don’t use Chrome, you can find tools that work with other browsers, as well.
Diversify your actions
Many people don’t realize that websites often have sophisticated tools that analyze usage patterns. Robots typically follow the same pattern all of the time, while people vary their patterns. If your scraper engages in a bunch of repetitive tasks, it is very likely that you will get shut down. There is a solution to this. Go with a web scraper that has the ability to vary its patterns. Then, set it up to do so. That way, the scraper will act more like a human and less like a bot.
Reduce server load by caching pages
You don’t want to put too much of a load on your servers or on the website’s servers. You can reduce the load for both by caching pages after you scrape them. This is especially necessary when you are crawling a large financial website. When the page is cached, your scraper can access it without going back to the website. That means if it has to go back to that page to grab more information, it won’t have to connect with the servers. This will speed up the process and it will help you fly under the radar.
Create a Finance Proxy Plan
Before you begin scraping financial data, you need to come up with a business plan. Decide what you are going to do with the data. This will allow you to answer two questions. First, you will know what data you need. You should only take what you need, and nothing else. The more data you take, the longer the process will take. By only taking what you need, you can get in and out much faster. Plus, you won’t be stuck going through a bunch of data that you don’t need.
Second, your plan will let you know how often you need to scrape the data. Since most sites provide real-time streaming of financial data, you might need to scrape the sites several times a day, depending on what you need. You should figure this out from the get-go so you can automate the process. Then, your scraper can go out and get the data as needed. You will get it, go through it, and use it as needed.
Do you need a CAPTCHA solver?
While some web scrapers come with CAPTCHA breaker add-ons, they probably aren’t necessary. Most financial data isn’t hidden behind CAPTCHAs. In fact, if you start seeing CAPTCHAs, it’s probably because the website believes you are scraping data. If that happens, you need to go back through this list and look for ways you can hide your activity. Something you are doing is standing out, so vary your requests even more and slow them down. CAPTCHAs are just one sign that the websites are onto you. You also might notice a content delivery delay that doesn’t make sense or a lot of pages coming back with errors. Timeouts are also a sign that you’ve been banned. Again, go through the tips, figure out what you’re doing wrong, and make the necessary changes.
Once you get the data, it is very important that you use it properly. If you take nothing else out of this post, memorize this: Never use data to compete with the website that owns them. For instance, if you crawl Yahoo’s stock pages, do not use the data you get to compete with Yahoo. You cannot take data from a site and then use them to take down that site. That is unethical, and the website will likely go after you. Only use data as a tool. They cannot be your entire business model.
Get Your Finance Proxy Ready to Go
Your web scraper is going to help you gather data from websites, but it isn’t going to keep you anonymous in the process. The fact of the matter is that most websites have rules against data scraping. If they notice that you’re scraping data, they will shut down. There are several ways they can detect you. One of the most common is through your IP address. If the same IP address comes up over and over again, the website will take note and block it. Proxies allow you to go online anonymously. Proxies hide your identity and provide you with a new IP address.
If you just go with a single proxy, though, you will have the same problem you would have if you used your own IP address. A single proxy will use the same IP address over and over again, and eventually, it will get banned. Instead of getting a single proxy, get several and rotate them out. Every time the proxies rotate, the websites will see a new IP address. That means it will look like a bunch of different people are accessing the site instead of the same person. That’s a really simple fix for what used to be a really complex problem.
How to choose your rotating proxies
Before you buy your proxies in bulk, you need to check for software restrictions. Some companies have restrictions that will make it impossible to use your web scraper. Go with a company that doesn’t have restrictions so you can get up and running without any issues. You also need to check the country of origin for the proxies. If you’re in the United States, you want to choose a finance proxy that originates in the United States to reduce lag time.
Make sure that the proxies can be replaced if they are banned. Sometimes, your IP address will get banned when scraping financial websites, even if you do everything right. You don’t want to have to go out and buy new proxies. Some companies will switch the proxies out for new ones, free of charge. This will save you money.
Financial data can make a huge difference in your business and personal decisions. When used correctly, it can be like having your finger on the monetary pulse of a company or industry. Knowing how to gather this data quickly and efficiently is crucial to stay on top of things.
Now, you are almost ready to start scraping. Get your proxies and your website scraper in order. Then, configure your data scraper using these tips. It won’t be long before you have all of the data you need right in front of you.
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