web scraping tips

Web scraping, if done correctly, can help you extract tons of useful data from your competitor websites. You can use this data to derive SEO insights, public opinion, and a brand’s online reputation. 

Scraping is an entirely automated process that requires minimal human effort. Though it might sound beneficial, this automation can post some challenges. Most websites have anti-scraping detectors in place to detect such programmed crawlers. 

Let’s take a look at how you can dodge these detectors and scrape websites without getting blacklisted. 

1. IP Rotation

If you send multiple requests from the same IP, you’re inviting a blacklisting action. Nowadays, most websites have scraping detection mechanisms in place that detect scraping attempts by IP address examination. When a site receives multiple requests from the same IP, the detector blacklists the IP address. 

To avoid this, use IP rotation. It’s the process of distributing IP addresses assigned to a device at randomly scheduled intervals. 

Using a proxy is the easiest way to distribute IP addresses. These programs route your requests through different IP addresses, thereby masking your real IP. 

2. Use the Right Proxy

As discussed, using a proxy server can protect you from being blacklisted. It sends multiple requests to the target website using different IP addresses, which prevents the scraping detector from triggering. 

However, it’s essential to use the right proxy server. Using a single IP in the proxy server won’t protect you from getting blocked. You’ll need to create a cluster of different IP addresses and use them to randomize your routing requests. 

It’s also vital to pick the right type of proxy server. Cheap alternatives, like public and shared proxies, are available. Though these proxies are cost-effective, they are often blocked or blacklisted. For the best results, always opt for dedicated proxy servers and residential proxies. 

browser fingerprints

3. Browser Fingerprint

Websites include anti-scraping links that are invisible to regular website visitors. Also known as honeypots, these links are in the form of an HTML code and are visible only to web scrapers. These links are also called honeypot traps because website owners use them to “trap” the scraper. 

As discussed, these links aren’t visible to human visitors. If a visitor accesses the honeypot, the website identifies that it’s an automated scraper and not a human. The anti-scraping tool then fingerprints the properties of your requests and blocks you immediately. 

Therefore, when developing a scraper, double-check for honeypot traps. Make sure your scraper only follows visible links to avoid anti-scraping triggers. 

4. Headless Browser

Anti-scraping detection mechanisms have advanced a lot. Websites can easily detect minor details like browser cookies, web fonts, and extensions to ascertain whether the requests are coming from a real visitor or a programmed crawler. To overcome this hurdle, use a headless browser.

A headless browser doesn’t have a graphical user interface (GUI). These browsers offer automated control of the website page in an environment similar to regular web browsers. But you can execute them with a network communication or via a command-line interface. 

Puppeteer and Selenium are some popular tools that enable you to control a web browser like a real user. However, making these tools undetectable can be exhausting and resource-heavy. 

5. Detect Website Changes

Website owners change the layout of their websites constantly. It can be due to many reasons, as redesigning website layout offers several benefits. It rejuvenates the website, optimizes it, and makes it load faster, thereby improving website performance. 

However, changes in website layouts can affect your scraping efforts. If your scraper isn’t prepared for the change, it’ll abruptly stop the scraping process when it enters a new environment. 

To avoid this issue, run thorough testing of the website you plan to scrape. Detect all the changes and program your crawler accordingly to ensure it doesn’t stop in a changed layout. 

time your web scraping requests

6. Time Your Requests

Businesses want to complete their scraping activities as soon as possible. They wish to fetch masses of data in the shortest possible time. However, when a human browses the website, the action is considerably slow compared to an automated program. This makes it easy for anti-scraping tools to detect scraping attempts. 

You can resolve this issue by adequately timing your scraping requests. Don’t overload the site with too many requests. Put a time delay between requests and limit coincident page access to 1-2 pages only. In all, treat the website nicely and with respect, and you’ll be able to scrape it without any issues. 

7. Deploy Different Scraping Patterns

How do you browse a website? Does it include random clicks and views or a set pattern every time? Humans have an arbitrary browsing pattern. They’ll stay in a section for ten minutes; then they’ll skip the next couple sections, and then wait in another section for five minutes. 

Web scrapers, however, follow a predefined, programmed pattern, which is easily detected by the anti-scraping tools. To avoid this, make your web scraping more human. Change your scraping pattern from time to time. Also, include mouse movements, waiting time, and random clicks. 

Conclusion

Anti-scraping detectors are the only roadblock to a seamless web scraping process. Scraping is legal, but it can be resource-intensive on the website being scraped, reducing its performance and speed. 

Therefore, it’s critical to respect the website you’re scraping. Don’t abuse the website with tons of requests at a time. Also, add a human element to your scraper to dodge anti-scraping tools.

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