A century ago, oil became the new gold. The petroleum industry spawned a fast-growing and lucrative enterprise, which gave rise to the multibillion-dollar oil magnates that we see today. The tide is quickly changing, and the new gold now is data. Just like oil drew in large groups of investors and regulators all bidding to control its flow, the big data arena is now where new money is mined.
Today online giants such as Alphabet, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft are collectively worth more than the economy of the UK. Most of these businesses have grown on the backs of the free data available online.
The saying that if it is free, then you are the product summarizes the business ethos of these companies. The digital self has become a predictor of future behavior, and businesses are heavily investing their time and money in data scraping to stay ahead of the competition.
How businesses use web scraping to their advantage
Facebook and Google, for instance, make over $61 billion every year, from targeted digital advertising. Amazon, known as the king of the e-commerce industry, made over $280 billion in revenue in 2019. Its platform holds business data very critical to e-commerce businesses.
Retailers, therefore, enlist the help of web scrapers to help them access and analyze market trends and customer temperament, from the massive amount of data stored in platforms such as Amazons. These businesses, however, do not make web scraping easy.
While data collection from public sources is legal, most websites generally discourage the action. They have stakes in the data, so they do place anti-scraping measures in place such as;
- Changes in page structure for various products to ensure that scraper logic or code fails
- Internet Protocol blocks that rate limit computers from making multiple requests on websites
- CAPTCHAS to prevent automatic access to data by bots
- Logins to stop easy access to HTTP stateless protocol data access
- Embedding of information in media formats such as pdf, movie, or image
- Creation of honey pot web pages that trap web crawlers
Methods of bypassing these blocks
1. Rotating of IP addresses
Competitor data scraping is often very difficult to accomplish because the competition employs every manageable tool in its arsenal to prevent successful web scraping. Most of these websites will, therefore, ban any IP address that performs any suspicious activity on their web pages.
An IP address is a numerical identifier of a web device and can be monitored from any location on earth. It is, consequently, easy to identify a computer that is performing web scraping, because the process involves sending a continuous stream of queries to one website.
To ensure that you do not raise suspicion while web scraping, you need to veil your IP address using a proxy server. Proxy servers act as intermediaries between your computer and the internet and channel all web requests to and from your computer through their servers.
Every query and response will, therefore, only show the proxy server’s IP address instead. When web-scraping, you also need a rotating pool of IP addresses to ensure that one of your proxy server’s IPs do not catch the attention of the website’s anti-scraping tool.
Some websites go over and beyond the usual anti-scraping tools, and use robust advanced proxy blacklists. To web scrape from such websites, use top-notch rotating residential proxies. These proxy types are real IP addresses, unlike datacenter proxies. They, therefore, will pass for regular web activity when scanned by the advanced proxy blacklists tools. If you want to learn more about rotating proxies, check out Oxylabs website for more information.
2. Use of HTTP headers
You might ask, what are HTTP headers, and we have an answer. Also known as user agents, HTTP headers are designed to decipher browser types that are used to visit a website. HTTP headers can, therefore, easily block a web scraper if it logs onto the site using a unique browser. When web-scraping utilizes user agents that are more popular or use Googlebot User-Agent.
3. Maintain intervals between web scraping requests
Web scrapers tend to send requests at very regular intervals, which is very dissimilar to the sporadic activity of a human. Your web scraping activity should mimic human interaction with a website as much as possible.
You should, consequently, set random intervals between requests to dodge keen anti-scraping measures. Send polite requests and avoid overloading the website because too many demands can bog it down for everyone else on the website. Always check the website’s robots.txt file to check on the site’s crawl delay.
4. Use a referrer
Besides using HTTP headers, you can use an HTTP request header that will make your requests look as if they are coming directly from the local Goggle variant or popular social media sites. This makes the web scraping requests look more authentic.
5. Check page properties for honey traps
Webmasters hide traps in their CSS files that help them to detect web crawlers. It would be best if you looked out for these traps in links to prevent IP blocks. Monitor your target websites regularly also to keep up with any changes in code.
6. Use headless browsers
If your business is highly dependent on web scraping, you can design a headless browser that mimics actual browsers but prevents activity detection. The creation of the browser is time-consuming and CPU intensive, but they are beneficial for data scraping.
7. Use CAPTCHA solving tools
If your target website uses CAPTCHA, then you need a solving service to web scrape. Purchase fast, efficient, but affordable solving tools to ensure efficient data scraping from these pages.
Ecommerce has taken over the bulk of sales from traditional brick and mortar sales. Every business, therefore, needs to find the most efficient way to reach their target audience. Data holds these business secrets and is making web scraping a critical part of trade. Perform efficient web scraping by eliminating the hurdles involved and watch your business soar.