Many websites have restrictions that block web scrapers that appear to have malicious intent. If such sites note that your IP address is being used for lots of scraping activity, they block the IP due for suspicious activity. Other sites also restrict IP addresses from certain locations.
If you are restricted from several such sites, the data you scrape ends up as either inadequate or unreliable.
You can, however, overcome such barriers by using proxies that hide your real IP address. The unrestricted access improves the quality of data you scape and overall internet experience.
About Web scraping
Web scraping is the mining of large amounts of data from websites. The harvested data is then stored in a local storage system or database. A comprehensive analysis of the data will give you insight into the specific market dynamics that you wish to study.
Some website owners share the data of their websites openly while others are against the practice and try to block scrapers. It would, therefore, be difficult or near impossible to extract important data from such sites manually.
In automated web scraping, a computer program accesses the target websites, extracting the data, and store it in your device for future use.
Scraping software is very specific, i.e., for a particular website or to extract specific data from several sites.
Some site owners have set up systems to protect them from web scraping programs. When such a site notices that your IP address is accessing severally in a pattern that appears to be scraping extracting data, it restricts your access. This can be quite a setback for web scrapers.
Any serious and experienced web scraper, therefore, uses proxies to overcome such restrictions and mine data they need.
What are Proxies?
A proxy is a digital intermediary that connects your browser to the site that you want to access while masking your real IP. It retrieves information from the site for you without revealing your IP address since the website notes the proxy’s IP instead.
This allows you to bypass any restrictions that the website owner might have put in place to prevent your browser from accessing the site.
For instance, if you are in the UK and a certain site has restrictions barring IPs from the UK, you could get a proxy whose IP is from a different location e.g., the US. The proxy will allow you to access the site as an individual located in the US would.
For businesses, such unlimited access opens up markets and offers valuable business information from sites that would otherwise be unreachable.
Types of Proxies
There are two main types of proxies used in web scraping: data center proxies, and residential proxies.
When you contract an ISP to provide you with internet services at your place, you are allocated a residential IP. When you use the residential IP supplied by ISPs to conceal your IP, it is known as a residential proxy. The proxy IP, therefore, has an unchangeable physical location, unlike data center proxies.
Residential proxies have several advantages:
- They offer more anonymity thus higher security status
- It is harder for websites to identify them as proxies, therefore, less likely to be blocked
- Since they are harder to detect, they offer more stable service especially when scraping large or more protected websites
They are, however, quite expensive and hard to find, thus not common among regular scrapers.
Data center proxies
Data center proxies are IP addresses of servers that are hosted in data centers servers. When you access a site, rather than your IP address, only the IP of the company that owns the data center will be displayed.
If you want to scrape for your business, data center proxies are the best option because:
- They are easier to find and purchase
- You can get proxy IPs for almost any location in the world
- They are more affordable
- They are faster and are more responsive to even a poorer internet connection
Despite their numerous benefits, you should be extra careful when using data center proxies. Websites can detect the IP address as belonging to a company. If you use one IP to access the site at an abnormal frequency, it will be marked for suspicious activity and may be blocked.
You should, therefore, keep alternating the data center proxy IP’s you use to avoid detection by security systems.
How businesses utilize web scraping
In business, data is very important, especially when it relates to the markets, customers, and competition.
Here are ways you can use web scraping to boost your business:
This is also known as price scraping, and some people consider it unethical. You may need, however, to consult a lawyer on its legality in your area.
This practice aims to find out how businesses you may be competing with are pricing their products or services. The scraping bots go directly to the competitors’ database and extract their pricing data. You can then use this information to set competitive prices.
There are industries and markets in which prices don’t play a major role in persuading customers to buy the product. Make sure you are not in such an industry before wasting your resources to price scrape.
Today, companies have a lot of sensitive information in their digital databases. Accessing information about your potential customers, and your competitor’s customers, products, or catalogs can give you a big advantage in the market. The mined data can help you position your products better for a bigger market share.
There are constant online conversations about products and brands. Through web scraping, you can identify the news and online conversations that could affect your brand. Based on the information, you can remodel your business’s image and brand to suit the market expectations and avoid damages.
More data is always better for your business. With web scraping, especially using proxies, you can get all the data you need about your industry just using your company’s computer system. Get the software from a reliable source and teach yourself about all the ways you can web scrape and use the data to your advantage.