Bots, which are fast and accurate, carry out automated data collection. But in 2021, 27.7% of all global website traffic originated from bad bots, compared to 14.6% from good bots. With bad bots being linked with problems such as scalping, account takeover, account creation, unethical web scraping, credit card fraud, denial of service, and denial of inventory, web developers are increasingly wary of bots. As a result, they have incorporated anti-scraping measures as part of their sites’ codes. That said, there are ways you can still undertake automated data collection. And in this article, we will detail 7 hacks.
Web scraping primarily refers to the automated process of retrieving data from websites. Still, it can define manual methods such as copy and paste, but it is rarely used in that context. Also known as web data harvesting or web data extraction, web scraping is carried out by bots/software, known as web scrapers, which are trained on how to extract data from websites.
Benefits of Web Scraping
Web scraping offers access to data that enables businesses to:
- Understand the market by identifying competitors and their products
- Come up with competitive pricing strategies by scraping pricing data
- Optimize products and services to better suit consumers’ needs
- Retrieve customers’ publicly available contact information for use in lead generation
- Formulate search engine optimization (SEO) strategies that enable their websites to rank among the first entries on search engine results pages (SERP)
- Monitor their reputation by identifying brand mentions on news articles and reviews
- Identify investment options
- Retrieve smarter insights that propel improved, faster, and more confident decision-making
Simply, web scraping provides competitive advantages. To find out more about how web scraping works, be sure to check out this page.
7 Hacks for Success During Automated Data Collection
Here is a breakdown of the main tips for success:
1. Use a Headless Browser
A headless browser is a browser that ships without a graphical user interface (GUI). To operate it, you have to use a terminal or solutions such as Puppeteer that are developed exclusively to control the browser. This type of browser has all the other features and functionalities of a normal browser, such as user agents and the ability to send headers. As such, its use prevents a webserver from associating the requests with a bot or unusual activity. Simply, a headless browser creates a sense of normalcy.
2. Use a Proxy Server
A proxy or proxy server is an intermediary that intercepts requests originating from a browser, assigns them a new IP address, and directs them to the target webserver. They, therefore, anonymize web traffic. For improved chances, the proxy server should be used alongside a rotator, and this constitutes our third hack.
3. Rotate IP Addresses
A rotating proxy or proxy rotator periodically changes the IP address that has been assigned. This way, it limits the number of requests sent by the same IP address. In addition, the rotation prevents IP blocking. Sometimes, the blacklisting covers an entire subnet, effectively rendering multiple IP addresses unusable.
4. Mimic Human Browsing Behavior
Web servers distinguish humans from bots using various approaches, one of which is assessing the number of requests. Realistically, a human being can only make a limited number of requests per minute. If this number is exceeded, the chances are that a bot is responsible. For this reason, it is important to mimic human browsing behavior by limiting the number of requests that the scraper makes per second, minute, or hour.
5. Go Through Robots.txt File
The robots.txt file outlines webpages that bots should not access – it defines the robots’ exclusion protocol. Thus, the scraper should be programmed on how to scrape data from websites as well as how to extract data from only authorized webpages.
6. Utilize CAPTCHA-Solving Solutions
While proxy servers and rotators solve inherent problems, there is only so much they can do. This, therefore, calls for the use of CAPTCHA-solving services, which solve puzzles that websites display upon detecting unusual activity. These solutions improve the chances of success.
7. Look out for Honeypot Traps
Some websites often include links that are not visible to human beings but can be followed by bots. When a request is made to access this link, the web server automatically knows that a bot is behind the request. So, naturally, it will block the IP address linked to the bot. To avoid honeypot traps, use a scraper designed by a reputable service provider. Such a scraper has multiple features, such as built-in proxies and headless browsers, that help it achieve this function.
Automated web scraping can significantly benefit businesses. But success is only guaranteed when you employ specific tips. In this article, we have detailed 7 hacks for success when undertaking automated data collection. These include using proxies, proxy rotators, headless browsers, and CAPTCHA solving tools, as well as being wary of honeypot traps and mimicking human browsing behavior.