Technology is becoming increasingly sophisticated. With it, business data analytics tools that interrogate large amounts of data to identify trends, patterns, and exceptions are growing in popularity and usefulness, especially given that they inform business strategy or are inputted in predictive models to guide business decisions. But the business analytics tools cannot exist in isolation as they rely on data collection solutions. And with companies adopting digital operational strategies, web scraping has never been more crucial.
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping refers to the collection of publicly available data from websites. There are two types of web scraping: manual and automated. You essentially undertake manual web scraping whenever you copy text or numbers from a webpage and paste it into a new tab or document. But from the sound of it, this form of data extraction is slow and can sometimes be prone to inaccuracies due to the possibility of making errors. Enter automated web scraping.
Automated web scraping entails using bots, known as web scrapers, to extract data from websites. The bots can be developed in-house or obtained from software companies at a fee. Unlike manual web scraping, which is slow and error-prone, automated web scraping is fast and accurate. Still, some circumstances may hinder the success of this form of data extraction, which is why it is crucial to adhere to specific proven web scraping tips, which we have discussed below.
Uses of Web Scraping
Web scraping is used for:
- Market research
- Competitor analysis
- Price and product monitoring
- Search engine optimization (keyword research)
- Academic research
- Review and reputation monitoring
5 Essential Web Scraping Tips
To successfully scrape data from multiple websites and webpages, you should combine several technological solutions. Not only should you use a reliable web scraper, but you should also use proxy servers, a headless browser or an anti-detect browser such as GoLogin, and more. That said, here are 5 essential web scraping tips:
1. Route Requests through Proxy Servers
A proxy is an intermediary that is found between a web client (browser) and a webserver. It routes outgoing HTTP/HTTPS requests through itself before directing them to the target websites. In doing so, it masks the requests’ IP address and assigns them a new IP address. Similarly, all incoming requests go through the proxy before reaching the browser.
Proxies help you bypass geo-restrictions. For instance, if you wish to extract data from websites that only allow residents of China to access them, you can use a China proxy. This proxy will assign your connection a China-based IP address, meaning that your web scraping requests will appear to be originating from China. Here you can read more about proxies in China offered by Oxylabs, probably one of the best proxy providers on the market.
2. Use a Headless Browser or Anti-Detect Browser
On the other hand, an anti-detect browser, such as GoLogin, spoofs browser fingerprinting, enabling you to create different iterations of your online identity using the same device. Specifically, the anti-detect browser allows you to change over 50 configurations, including the screen resolution, active extensions, browser type and version, language, time zone, and more. It thus deceives a website that the requests are originating from different users. Furthermore, anti-detect browsers offer an unmatched level of online anonymity that promotes seamless web scraping when used in tandem with proxies.
3. Mimic Human Browsing Behavior
Focus on ensuring the speed at which you send your web scraping requests mimics how humans ordinarily would. This way, the webserver will not associate your internet traffic with bot activity.
4. Utilize Rotating User Agents and Headers
A user agent (UA) is a part of the HTTP request header that contains information about your computer’s operating system, browser, version, and device. Basically, it helps a webserver create an identity of the user making requests. Rotating the UAs and headers, therefore, creates different identities, promoting seamless web scraping.
5. Adhere to Bot Exclusion Guidelines (Robots.txt file)
Some websites prohibit data extraction from specific webpages. These pages are listed in the robots.txt file. Thus, your scraper must first go through the robots.txt file to identify out-of-bounds pages. This way, you can avoid being flagged or blacklisted for flagrant disregard of guidelines.
Web scraping is essential as it provides businesses and investors with information that can generate useful insights. But successful data extraction is not always guaranteed, so it is important to follow these proven web scraping tips. These include using proxies (such as a China proxy if you wish to extract geo-restricted data from the Chinese market), headless browsers or anti-detect browsers, and rotating user agents, as well as simulating human browsing behavior and following the bot exclusion guidelines.