In today’s economy, firms are constantly trying to get an edge over each other. The use of advanced technology has been emphasized greatly in this modern era and collecting data plays a major part in this. This is because data is one of the most vital assets for organizations in the industry.
Are you running a business and thinking of ways to attain valuable data? Web scraping may just be the solution for you. Keep reading this article to find 5 great tips that will increase the web-scraping capabilities of your company.
What Exactly is Web Scraping?
Web scraping refers to the process that utilizes bots to collect information, content, and data from websites on the internet. Furthermore, the web scraping bot will also attempt to download images from website, which are then exported into a format that can be of use to the person running the process.
This process can also be conducted manually, but automated tools are the best option since this can save time and money. The websites targeted for information harvesting can also come in many shapes and forms, meaning that web scraping is not always simple, and as a result, there are various functions and features that can be used.
Now is this process legal? Yes, it is, since organizations as well as individuals all over the world use web scraping programs to collect data to meet their needs. However, you do need to be careful as non-publicly available data extracted can be classified as an illegal activity. As a result, many legal cases have surfaced followed by the growth of web scraping.
How Does Web Scraping Work?
As websites are developed to be used by humans and not programs, web scraping also works in this way; simple yet complex in nature. This is because the program digs below the surface level which we see when opening websites and collects data through the code of the page.
This data will then be projected in a format that will be of optimal use for the user. CSV or Excel spreadsheets are common outputs for web scrapers but the more advanced options will also include JSON and API. Note, that web scraping can be a network as well as a CPU-intensive process, meaning that you should have an updated CPU and network connection for optimal efficiency.
Now that we have briefly talked about what web scraping is and how it works, it’s time to take a look at the tips to increase the web scraping capabilities of your program.
1. Make Your Web Scraper Human-Like
The first tip to increase the web scraping capabilities of your program is by making it seem more natural; more human to the website. The reason behind the need to remain inconspicuous is that websites will often monitor your logging activity.
Most websites can block out bots because of how differently they act from human viewers. They are quick and have little to no interactions with the website unless instructed. Here, gaining access to more websites will help you increase your web scraping capabilities.
Your scraper needs to be stealthy to avoid detection and seeming more human is the best way to do so. People interact with websites in different manners and so you can code your scraper in various ways in order to remain hidden. Firstly, you can make the bot slow down at random points, making it seem like a human is reading the contents of the website. A time delay of about 5-10 seconds will do just fine.
Additionally, you can make the bot navigate in a more human manner as well. Make the bot visit the parent page every time it finishes collecting data from a child page. This makes it seem like a person is reading a certain child page and then going back to the parent page to find another child page to research upon. Lastly, you should also add random clicking commands to the bot. After all, people tend to click on different parts of a website when roaming through them.
2. Prior Planning Will Bear Fruitful Results
As with operating most things, the best results are often obtained via a properly devised plan. What data are you looking for, and why do you need the data? Although the answer may seem simple in hindsight, it is truly critical for a successful web scraping session. This is why planning ahead is one of the most important tips to increase the web scraping capabilities of your organization.
You should also decide where you want to search for the info you require as there are scrapping tools prepped for different types of websites and choosing one program will be easier if you have the answer in mind. For example, a business might be looking at custom-designed websites by other businesses for their data input.
You can also inspect the sources yourself before putting your web scraper to work. Furthermore, you also need to know what the information will and should be used for as you will be able to pick the right output format for the harvested data. There are several questions out there that will help you devise the perfect plan and effective web scraping project so be sure to do your research.
One of the biggest roadblocks that your web scraper may encounter will decrease its capabilities CAPTCHAs. Although these might occur rarely, they can completely halt your plans in their tracks. Not only will your web scraper be stopped completely at the CAPTCHA page, but false data – data from the CAPTCHA page will be collected instead of the data you desired.
To tackle this problem, break it down into two fronts, prevention, and treatment. Prevention is by far the best option and there are several ways of doing this. For instance, you can use proxies. This will make it appear as if the request is coming in from a different source.
Otherwise, you can look for a web scraping tool that will have a CAPTCHA solver built in it. You can also integrate the solver yourself. This solver will allow the web scraper to solve the riddle that is presented in front of it and hence, will be able to access the information it’s trying to collect.
4. Use a Headless Browser
A headless browser is one without a graphical interface and instead, needs to be operated with a command-line interface. A headless browser is one of the best tools to add to your web scraper pipeline and hence, is one of the best tips to increase the web scraping capabilities to scrape up the information you require.
Without a proper browser environment, a scraper won’t be able to obtain the precious data that you’re searching for. Furthermore, websites can also tell if the incoming request is coming from a legitimate browser. This makes blocking your IP address much easier for the website. Hence, using a headless browser is the way to go. Some examples of headless browsers are Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
5. Change up Your Proxies
At last, we have the tip that we briefly touched on the 3rd tip, which is using proxies. A proxy can help you prevent your IP from getting banned by websites. You can also use them to access geographically restricted websites as well.
With the help of a server that rotates your proxy pool, you can send requests from different locations and a random IP address. This allows you to scrape up a website with each request looking new and so will not arouse suspicion. A good proxy tool will not get stuck either, one failed request will be covered up by several other attempts. A good tool will also retry if it fails.
The safest option to use is residential rotating proxies as they are the least likely to arouse any suspicions of web scraping. This is not always necessary of course. Unless you are encountered with heavy anti-bot protection, using a data center rotating proxy should do just fine. This is also a much cheaper option than the residential alternative.
Although using a web scraper may sound simple at first, the deeper you dive, the more complexities you’re likely to encounter. This is why this process should not be taken likely, especially since the benefits of a successful web scraping program can bear great benefits that will aid your business purposes.
We hope that this article has helped you with these tips to increase the web scraping capabilities of your program and we wish you good luck in your future endeavors.