The use of web scraping (data scraping) technologies is common today, especially with large companies that need a way to obtain relevant industry information to better manage their operations. Depending on the type of industry, companies need fast access to a lot of information from different public websites, so they use data extraction.
In simple terms, they use a program that extracts relevant website data in a form that is the most suitable and user-friendly. They can extract data manually by copy-paste steps, or this can be done automatically through web scraping.
For example, you can add a whole list of products by selecting the desired data and exporting them into an excel sheet. This feature is very useful for:
- Data collection on products and competition (prices, references, etc.)
- Providing statistics
- Market research and analysis
- Comparing prices in the market
- Tracking the latest news within a particular industry
Challenges of web scraping
Web scraping isn’t as easy as it seems and can be challenging, especially when we want to have the necessary information quickly and efficiently. Although today’s technology offers various tools that make it easier for us to surf and provide us with safe online time, it very often happens that our access to sites is restricted or simply blocked.
Let’s take a look at the main challenges that may occur with web scraping:
- The IP address will be blocked when the website is getting a lot of requests for the data from the same IP address.
- CAPTCHA is used when the website wants to ensure that you are not a bot by giving some simple tasks to solve before accessing the site.
- Honeypot traps catch scrapers by showing the IP address and disabling them from further scraping.
- Slow scraping speed may occur with too many requests for data.
- Login may be required at certain sites. That way, your browser attaches the HTTP cookie value that it sends to the website so it remembers that you are the same person extracting data multiple times.
Although sites use a variety of anti-scraping techniques, let’s go over five easy rules for going around most of them.
1. The power of HTTP cookies
When we talk about web scraping, we can’t help but immediately link it to HTTP cookies because these two things go hand in hand. To access a site, you often need to log in. Cookies contain information about the user’s interests, language, location, and by sending them to sites, it shows that the user is not suspicious or a bot.
The site receives information that the user was requesting the data earlier on this site and gives them access to the content. This way, companies can carelessly perform web scraping without blockages and restrictions.
2. IP rotation
As internet users, we only get one IP address from which we surf, and the automated data collection from one IP address really bothers the sites. Fortunately, using proxies that allow you to change addresses, you can give the appearance of scraping with multiple IP addresses, and that is enough to not give websites further doubts about the user.
3. Switching user agents
User-agent is a header that shows the website that the browser was used. Bowser sends a user-agent to a web page that recognizes it as trusted. If the site detects a lot of requests from the same UA, it can block it. It’s wise to rotate them often or use a list of popular user-agents to reduce the risk of blocking.
4. Setting time intervals when collecting data
For websites, it will be easy to spot if a user scrapes every day at the same time or at the same time intervals. Setting different and random intervals in requesting data will make the site “think” that the user isn’t a bot and will allow access effortlessly.
5. Slow and human-like scraping
We know that companies need fast and efficient web scraping, but that’s not a good idea when you want to avoid detecting sites as bots. Human-like or manual scraping isn’t as fast as automatic user-agents or bots can do it.
Limiting speed is more effective than risking a blockage. That also applies to patterns used in scraping. You can use robots for this, but make sure their actions are set by adding a human touch like click delays, mouse movements, or some random clicking.
No business wants to miss out on important content or, worse, be blocked. There is no universal rule for uninterrupted web scraping, but the most important thing is to follow all technical advice, not overload your web servers, and be patient.
Remember, any repetitive behavior can show the web page that scraping is done using a bot. If you avoid that, your business will successfully collect all needed data without any blocking.