There is unlimited data on the internet, but only a few web scrapers maximize the access they get. As a business owner, you can’t joke with efficiency. However, maintaining efficiency during web scraping is easier said than done.
To prevent web scraping, website owners put many measures in place, which distorts and frustrates the data extraction process. It’s, therefore, become necessary for you, as the web scraper, to also put measures in place towards efficiency. This article will look at tips to help you get the most out of web scraping.
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What are the major obstacles to web scraping?
Just like you can choose to scrape websites for data or not, website owners can also decide to allow or restrict web scraping. For some websites, their restriction is against automated web scraping. The restriction is to prevent competitors from trying to gain a business advantage.
Web scraping also affects a website’s performance due to the large traffic volume resulting from automated scrapers within a short time. This is another reason website owners use bots to prevent web scraping on their platforms.
Captchas have a primary purpose of siting bots’ traffic from humans’. These filter software pose logical problems on an interface before users access a specific page. The logical problems are easy for humans to solve but almost impossible for bots (software themselves) to solve.
Thus, captchas help websites prevent spam. These gateway-like filtering interfaces also make basic scraping scripts fail. Though, there are new tools and tips to solve captcha problems ethically.
3. Design changes
For websites constantly updating their structure and design, it can take time to catch up. Such structural changes require modification to the web scraper’s codebase, as the data extraction tool could have been coded concerning the previous structure.
Frequent changes give the scrapers a hard time. Most web scrapers will try to forge ahead with their assignments, but the quality of data they get may drop. Sometimes, the web scraper won’t get the entire data set it needs. So, you must keep tabs on website changes.
When a browser sends numerous requests to a website quickly, web servers may flag and ban such browsers. Automated web scraping will always involve trying to get data at a rate impossible for humans.
Hence, as a web scraper, you should have measures and tools to counter this defense mechanism. Most importantly, some tools can make it such that your web scraping remains ethical.
Web scraping is important to businesses. It’s even more important for it to be done in real-time. Businesses often have to make decisions in real time, and the lack of updated data to make such decisions may be costly.
For instance, an ecommerce business will be faced with changing product pricing based on several moving market levers. If the business can monitor the real-time realities of price, it becomes easier to make the best decision.
Tips to improve your web scraping experience
Here are some best practice tips that can help you have a better web scraping experience.
1. Pay attention to the Robots.txt files.
The robots.txt files on a website detail the behavior of software scraping and crawling through the platform. Even Google pays attention to robots.txt files. Before scraping a website, check the robots.txt file to know what’s expected of your crawler.
2. Don’t damage the servers.
Servers have varying capabilities. As a web scraper, ensure that your traffic falls within the acceptable load for the target server. If you send too much traffic to a server, it can crash. Overloading the server till it crashes does not serve anyone well. You lose data access, and the website owner has to waste resources bringing the server back up. It’s best to be gentle with the traffic from the outset.
3. Avoid peak hours
Peak periods are when many users naturally head toward your target website. So, before you scrape a website, find out its peak hours and avoid sending your robots in that period. Web scraping during peak hours will be less effective and may cause the server to crash. The best time to scrape a website is when its users are asleep.
4. Use headless browsers
Numerous headless browsers exist. Headless browsers are those without a Graphical user interface (GUI). They are executed on the command line of your computer. They can also be executed via network communication.
All of which makes web scraping easier than traditional browsers.
5. Optimize HTTP headers
When you optimize your common HTTP headers, it helps streamline communication between your browser and web servers. To help your web scrapers better function on web scrapers, you should optimize more. Optimizing your HTTP headers reduces the chance of being blocked while improving the data quality you get from websites.
Common HTTP headers can also increase data transfer speed, making your web scraping traffic look more organic. Click here to read more about the most common HTTP headers.
Some important HTTP headers include;
- HTTP header referer
- Accept request header
- Accept-encoding request header
- User-agent request header
Website owners have gotten smart with preventing web scraping. So, you must keep updated with their antics, making necessary optimizations to your web scraping setup.