There’s no denying that businesses rely on information to drive them toward success. How we conduct business and collect information has changed drastically recently. The more information a business has, the better decisions it can make. But how can you effectively and responsibly collect all of this information? The answer is web scraping.
In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the importance of web scraping as a data collection method. We’ll look at how to get the most out of your web scraping tools by pairing them with a residential proxy. Keep reading to discover the use cases and benefits of this data collection method for businesses.
What Is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is the process of automatically collecting information across multiple websites using a specialized tool. Web scrapers can be built manually by someone who has programming knowledge, or you can use pre-built solutions such as Octoparse, Crawly, or ParseHub.
The benefit of using a scraping tool is that the process is completely automated. This also means it’s much faster than any human. You simply input the criteria of the data you need and the URLs that need to be scraped and launch the tool. The tool will scour all these websites and collect the information. Once done, they parse it and present it in your chosen format, such as a spreadsheet.
Web scraping can be used to collect a vast range of information. The collected data can be used to inform various aspects of your business. You can use web scraping for market research, pricing intelligence, competitor analysis, customer sentiment, and improving SEO, among other uses.
The Challenges and Solutions of Web Scraping?
While web scraping is a great solution to data collection, there are also a number of challenges. Things like geo-restrictions, IP bans, and anti-bot technology can seriously limit the data you can collect. As such, using a residential proxy alongside your scraper is highly recommended. Combining these tools will mean more efficient data collection, fewer challenges, and more accurate information. Let’s look at some challenges and how residential proxies help overcome them.
Challenge 1: Data Extraction without Blocks
One of the most common challenges with web scraping is IP blocks. When a website sees multiple requests from the same IP, it might become suspicious of bot activity and can block your IP address. This means you won’t be able to access the site from that IP again. This results in incomplete data.
A residential proxy will assign a new IP to your scraper. This IP will be from a real device, making it look like a real user. Even if your IP does become blocked, you can choose a different IP from your proxy pool and continue your data collection activities.
Advantage Solutions offers various sales, marketing, and retailer services. One of their brands, Canopy, collects and analyzes research data for their clients. However, Canopy soon realized that there were several challenges that blocked their efforts. When they implemented a residential proxy, they were able to collect more data that was accurate and unbiased.
Challenge 2: Accessing Region-Specific Data
If your business wants to expand and move into new markets, you’ll first need to research the new markets. This can be challenging for web scrapers as your IP is bound to your location. Often, data in other locations is restricted so that only local users can see it. With residential proxies, you can choose an IP in the new market you want to investigate and start collecting local data.
The recruitment company Mathison gathers candidate data from across the world to help businesses recruit new talent. However, they quickly noticed that geo-restrictions kept them from sourcing region-specific talent. To solve this problem, they used residential proxies alongside their scrapers and chose IPs in the various markets they were collecting from.
Challenge 3: Bypassing Anti-Scraping Technology
Website owners are becoming more intelligent when it comes to their users. They understand that simply having a high number of views isn’t enough to consider your business successful. As such, they’re paying closer attention to the visitors to their sites. Spammers and other types of bots are a threat website owners look out for. If they notice your scraper accessing the site, they will block it under suspicion of being a harmful bot.
Residential proxies can solve this by making your scraper look like a real user. Most high-quality proxies also have the added ability to bypass anti-bot technology such as CAPTCHAs.
This was another challenge that Mathison discovered quickly after starting to use web scrapers. Many websites recognize bot activity, including automation tools, quickly. They will also impose various anti-bot measures to protect their site. However, when they used a proxy, they were able to bypass these anti-scraping tests, and if the IP was banned along the way, they just assigned a new one from the proxy.
Implementing Web Scraping With Residential Proxies
Pairing a proxy with your web scraper is a much simpler process than many believe. Since proxies are such a powerful tool alongside web scrapers, most of them have made it easy to link the two. As such, you’ll notice that most web scrapers have a proxy section within their settings. All you need to do is add your proxy credentials (which you get from your proxy provider) into the required fields. Once completed, your web scraper will run all requests through the proxy.
Ethical Consideration of Web Scraping
As with many automation tools, they can be used for good or bad reasons depending on the user. However, if you want to ensure that you’re using the tool ethically, consider the following advice:
- Never collect personal information
- Never collect data that’s protected behind a login screen or that requires other forms of authentication
- Never try to pass off any of the collected data as yours
- Never send multiple scraping requests to the same websites simultaneously, as it could overwhelm the webserver and shut down the site. Try to scrape during the hours when the site isn’t busy (such as late at night or early morning)
Web scraping is a great way for businesses to start collecting valuable data. However, your results will be inaccurate or incomplete if you don’t use it alongside residential proxies. A residential proxy will help you overcome challenges such as blocks, geo-restrictions, and IP bans so that you can collect all the data you need in the most efficient way.