Web scraping – the process of automatically extracting/retrieving data from websites – can be an essential undertaking for businesses as it enables them to stay on top of things. For instance, by collecting reviews and customer feedback from review sites, social media, and e-commerce websites, companies can establish how to improve their product and service offerings.
At the same time, web data extraction provides access to competitors’ pricing strategy enabling businesses to set competitive prices for what they offer. Other benefits include the fact that web scraping facilitates market research, which, in turn, helps companies with strategic planning and bolstering their position. It also aids with reputation monitoring.
However, web scraping is not always straightforward. This is because various restrictions are built into websites that can slow down data harvesting or hinder data extraction altogether. Fortunately, there are ways around such constraints, as we will discuss in this article. But first, we’ll explore the various kinds of restrictions you are likely to encounter while web scraping.
Web Scraping Restrictions and Limitations
In automatic web scraping, advanced data extraction tools such as the web scraper API issue numerous requests depending on the number of web pages making up a website. If multiple scrapers make such voluminous requests, the web server might be overwhelmed, especially if the site’s owner has not undertaken load distribution. As a result, the server becomes unresponsive, meaning the web-based services grind to a halt.
This scenario explains one of the reasons web developers integrate restrictive measures to thwart large-scale web scraping efforts. These restrictions include:
- IP flagging, blacklisting, or banning
- Honeypot traps
- Dynamic content
- Complicated structure
Web hosting providers commonly offer security features such as network monitoring, back-ups, distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection, and more. The network monitoring feature, in particular, analyzes the traffic originating from each network.
If it identifies an unusual number of requests, the web host will flag the IP address, requiring the user to complete a CAPTCHA. If the unusual traffic continues, the web host may ultimately ban the IP address rendering it unusable.
This scenario describes what can likely happen during web scraping, especially given the numerous requests that accompany data extraction.
A CAPTCHA is a security measure in the form of a puzzle that helps web hosts tell computers and humans apart. While humans can easily solve the puzzles, automated software such as web scraping solutions may not.
A honeypot trap is a virtual trap, invisible to human users, that targets attackers and automated programs. It is used to bait such users, meaning that web scraping tools can fall into the trap, consequently stopping further data extraction.
Some websites, such as e-commerce sites, are created to update/change their content dynamically in the background. This feature makes them convenient for human users but presents a problem when web scraping.
Nowadays, websites feature complicated structures that unnecessarily make data extraction difficult.
Tips for Successful Web Scraping
While these restrictions described above might ordinarily prevent you from scraping useful data from websites, you can still circumvent them. How can you achieve this feat? By simply following these tips:
- IP address Rotation: advanced web scraping tools such as the web scraper API offer a proxy rotator functionality that regularly changes the IP address. This measure ensures that a single IP address is only responsible for a limited number of web requests. In this regard, the web scraper API helps you avoid getting blacklisted.
- Using a trusty proxy provider along with the most suitable proxy for the web scraping task: there are different types of proxies, including datacenter proxies, residential proxies, HTTP proxies, and rotating proxies, among others. Notably, each of these proxies is well suited for a particular task. For instance, datacenter proxies, which use virtually generated IP addresses, are easily blocked by websites. Websites can block all requests associated with a given data center if they establish that numerous requests originate from a specific datacenter IP.
- Space your data extraction requests: always ensure the web requests made by your web scraper mimic the behavior of a human user. This way, you will avoid getting blacklisted.
- Use headless browsers: this type of browser does not have a user interface but behaves like a normal browser when accessing a target website. Using a headless browser prevents your web scraper API from getting blacklisted.
- Deploy CAPTCHA solving solutions alongside your web scraper API
- Set a User-Agent header: this header contains information about the browser you are using, your computer model, and your operating system. Using this header creates a situation whereby the website thinks that the requests are being sent by an average user while, in reality, they are from a web scraper API. This way, you will avoid getting blacklisted.
If you are interested in trying a trusty web scraping solutions provider, take a look at Oxylabs.
Web scraping may not always succeed because websites have inbuilt security measures to restrict automated data extraction. Fortunately, you can circumvent these restrictions by using a reliable proxy service provider and the right proxy server, setting a User-Agent header, deploying CAPTCHA solving tools, among others.