Web Scraping Best Practices: What You Need To Know
You likely know the incredible value web scraping can bring to your business — the process of extracting data from websites by parsing HTML or XML can give you powerful data to make informed decisions. Web scraping doesn’t have to be complicated, but it’s crucial to scrape responsibly to ensure you don’t get blocked by the target websites.
Web crawlers can retrieve all different types of data, such as prices, contact information, or stock quotes. But if you’re not using web scraping best practices, you won’t get the desired results.
This guide discusses some of the best practices for web scrapinh2g that every organization should follow.
Best Practices for Web Scraping
Web scraping can be quite beneficial for businesses, especially in terms of cost savings and higher return on investments. There are various ways to web scrape, depending on the requirement and desired results.
No matter the site you’re gathering information from, here are some of the best web scraping practices for data collection.
Read the Robots.txt file
The robots.txt file is one of the important files that you need to check before performing web scraping. It contains directives specified by site owners for bots and crawlers. Carefully read the file to understand whether the website allows or blocks bots, their origin, and how frequently they can visit the website.
Most websites allow bots to crawl content but block crawlers from indexing it or scraping the data from the web pages.
If a website has disallowed bots, you can still carry out crawling as long as you follow robots.txt directives. If you don’t follow the instructions in the robots.txt file, the website’s anti-bot tool will detect your scraper. This is because bots are predictable while human users are not. You’ll likely be blocked from the site.
One of the best web scraping techniques is to limit the number of scraping requests you send to the target website. Web scrapers fetch data very quickly, so a website will detect that a bot is sending requests since humans cannot send requests at such speeds.
You can make your web crawler look more ”human” by delaying requests.
If you don’t scrape too quickly, your scraper can continue crawling data without getting blocked. Additionally, you can wait for the minimum time between page requests.
Many experts recommend that web scrapers wait at least 20 seconds before fetching data from a new webpage or performing any scraping activities on an already crawled website.
Vary the crawling pattern
If your web scraper follows a similar pattern, the target website will detect it since bots are easily predictable. Meanwhile, real humans are unpredictable since they make random requests while browsing.
To make your web scraper seem less suspicious, make sure you change the crawling pattern. You can incorporate random actions in the crawling pattern to confuse the target website’s anti-scraping technology.
Use a headless browser
Using a headless browser is among the best practices for web scraping. A headless browser is software that can browse the web without a graphical user interface.
Some websites block specific browsers from accessing their content. However, headless browsers do not have any user interface, so they can bypass most websites’ security mechanisms.
Rotate user agents
The user agent is one of the most important parts of a web scraper. It includes information about your operating system, browser type, and other details.
Most websites block web scrapers with user-agents that contain specific words such as ”crawl”, ”spider”, or ”bot”.
To prevent your scraper from getting blocked, you can use different user agents.
You might prefer to use a pre-loaded user-agent list with your web scraper software. This way, you’ll never have to worry about rotating user agents and make sure that the scraped data is free from errors and bugs.
Rotate request headers
A request header tells the web server about your HTTP request.
Most websites block bots by detecting suspicious request headers, which can be present in your crawler software. Web scraping tools usually come with custom-built request headers to ensure that you can scrape data without any problems.
Make sure you rotate request headers to avoid blocking and detection by the target website.
Scrape data during off-peak time
During peak hours, a website is already getting many requests. If a web scraper sends an excessive number of requests during this time, the web server will have a hard time managing them.
This will slow your scraping efforts and the website’s response rate. Alternatively, scrape data during off-peak hours to ensure that you do not affect the target website’s performance.
You can use proxy servers to scrape data from websites that don’t allow bots or scrapers. Proxies are effective since they make it appear as if your scraper is located in a remote location, away from the target website.
For example, if you want to scrape data from a website hosted in the U.S., you can configure your proxy with a U.S. IP address and enter the website’s URL on it. Your scraper will now appear to come from the remote server and not your computer.
Advantages of using a proxy
Here are some advantages of using a proxy server:
- Hides IP address: When you use a proxy to access a website, the website sees the IP address of the proxy server and not yours. Proxies are common for providing anonymity on the internet.
- Enter multiple proxies: You can enter multiple proxies in your web-scraping tool to boost efficacy and ensure that you scrape data properly, even if some proxies fail to work.
- Increase security: Proxies also promote security by hiding your actual IP address.
- Access geo-blocked content: Geo-restrictions disallow you from accessing content hosted in a different country or region. Proxies let you access blocked content by making it seem like the request is coming from a different geographical location.
Common types of proxy servers
You can use different types of proxy servers based on your requirements. Here are some commonly used types of proxy servers:
- HTTP proxy server: An HTTP proxy server is used to fetch websites encoded using the HTTP protocol. It enables you to access blocked content since most websites use HTTP.
- SOCKS proxy server: SOCKS proxy servers are widely used for P2P file sharing and torrents. You can use a SOCKS proxy server to scrape data from a website if it uses HTTPS or another encoding protocol.
- Anonymous proxies: An anonymous proxy doesn’t provide details like the IP address, location, and host of the web scraper. It is more secure since it prevents websites from tracking your actual IP address.
Best proxy servers for web scraping
Blazing SEO’s residential proxies give you the IP addresses of real residential users. Since these requests come from residential areas, target websites are less likely to block them.
Meanwhile, data center proxies are beneficial for advanced web scrapers, which make thousands of requests per minute. These proxies are shared among multiple users, but each request is unique to ensure that target websites can’t block your bot or scraper. Blazing SEO’s data center proxies allow you to scrape data from price monitoring, competitor analysis, sentiment analysis, and a range of other purposes.
Hide your web crawler using Tor
There are many ways to hide your web scraper’s identity, even if it contains custom-built request headers.
One simple technique is to use the Tor browser since it hides your identity online.
You can install the Tor browser on an internet-enabled device, such as a phone or computer, and access your web scraping tool via the Tor browser. You can configure the proxy settings on the Tor browser based on the website you are scraping data from. This will keep your identity hidden since you are working through someone else’s IP address.
Use CAPTCHA solving tools
One of the best practices in scraping data from the web is using a tool or service that can solve a CAPTCHA.
Many websites use CAPTCHA to prevent scrapers from running on their platform. It is a challenge-response test that asks you to enter a set of characters displayed in an image to ensure that you are not a bot.
While humans can solve these, bots get stuck when they see a CAPTCHA. A CAPTCHA solving tool can help your web scraper get past this hurdle.
Avoid honeypot traps
A honeypot trap refers to a technique that some websites use to detect bots and scrapers. In this technique, a website includes hidden fields not seen by a human user to identify if the request comes from a web crawler.
If you enter your code in these fields, it will flag the website’s security mechanism and block your access permanently. To avoid it, use a honeypot-resistant proxy list.
Rotate your proxies
If you use proxies to scrape the web, it’s important to rotate them now and then to prevent target websites from identifying them.
Additionally, you can try using different proxy types when scraping the web. Scraping Robot is a remarkable web scraping tool that automates proxy rotating, saving you the hassle of doing it manually.
Since Scraping Robot manages the proxies and rotates them as required, you merely have to give it a list of target websites, and it will do the rest.
Don’t scrape data behind a login
If a website has a login page, you need permission to access the web pages. A human user would do that by making an account on the website.
Meanwhile, a scraper will have to send cookies or certain information with every request to access the web page behind the login. That makes it easy for the website’s anti-scraping tools to detect that such repetitive requests are coming from a certain address.
This could lead to your account getting blocked or suspended. It’s best to avoid scraping web pages behind a login.h2
Why Using Web Scraping Best Practices Is Crucial
As a business, it’s crucial to use the best web scraping techniques to collect data.
Here are some reasons to exclusively use the best web scraping practices:
- Reduce Cost: With poor scraping practices, you’re likely to spend more time and money to manage web scrapers. On the other hand, using best practices reduces your financial burden by allowing you to scale your efforts quickly.
- Improve Data Quality: Collecting data from target websites without using scraping techniques may lead to inaccurate results due to duplicate content. Using the right scraping tools helps you scrape data accurately and quickly.
- Gather More Insightful Data: Subpar scraping practices can make it difficult for you to scrape all the data you need from target websites. However, if you follow the practices mentioned above, you’ll be able to collect complete and accurate data with ease.
- Avoid Blocks: If a target website detects your bot, it may block it from crawling the web. But if you use the best practices in scraping data from the web, such as proxy rotation, you can avoid getting blocked.
More importantly, following these web scraping techniques will ensure that you remain ethical. Keep in mind that when you scrape a website, you gather its data for insights that you’ll subsequently use to improve your business process.
While web scraping, you shouldn’t exploit other websites and should be mindful of the ethical implications of the practice. Web scraping copyright concerns are becoming increasingly common as businesses don’t want their competitors to use their data without permission. Avoid web scraping copyright claims by following the practices mentioned above, and you’ll be able to scrape data from anywhere without an issue.
Certain techniques can make your web scraping efforts more fruitful. One of the best practices for web scraping includes following a protocol to prevent web scraping copyright claims, such as changing the scraping pattern or scraping during off-peak hours.
You can also leverage proxies, headless browsers, and other techniques to stay anonymous. Make sure you’re only scraping the data you need from target websites without going overboard. It’s important to be ethical while collecting data from target websites by not exploiting them or their users.
In conclusion, the best web scraping practices can help businesses collect data that can be used in academic research, real estate, data analysis, lead generation, price comparison, and competition monitoring.
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