Web scraping is a common practice because it helps companies gather priceless data. Whether it’s pricing data for e-commerce companies or real estate data for market research, this public information is valuable and can help companies gain a competitive advantage.
However, constantly running into various challenges can make data collection processes lengthy and expensive. Gathering large amounts of data requires skills and tools. Otherwise, you can waste your money and get very little to no return.
We listed the main web scraping challenges and explained how they occur. In this article, you’ll also learn about the best web scraping practices and find out how residential proxies can help you gather public data. Let’s start with the challenges.
Websites contain a robots.txt file that scrapers should check before carrying out any scraping job. The robots.txt can determine whether the website allows or denies web scraping. It can also provide information about scraping rate limits.
If the robot.txt file says that the website doesn’t allow scraping, the person looking to gather data can contact the website owner and ask for special permission. However, the website shouldn't be scraped if permission isn't granted.
Many websites have bot blocking mechanisms in place. How do these IP blocking mechanisms work? For example, when websites register many requests coming from the same IP address, the sites can block the IP to stop the requests.
To avoid this challenge, scrapers should use proxies and change IP addresses either with every request or in time intervals. This will help shield the IP address from which the requests are coming and avoid IP blocks.
Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, or simply CAPTCHA, is a test that shows up on the screen when a website suspects that the user accessing the site may not be human. CAPTCHAs can ask to identify specific images or rewrite a distorted text. In other words, they provide a puzzle that only humans would be able to solve in most cases.
There are ways for scrapers to solve CAPTCHAs, but the best and cheapest solution is to avoid them. Changing IP addresses and respecting website terms and conditions can help prevent CAPTCHAs.
Website Structure Changes
To solve this challenge, scrapers require constant upkeep. Developers may need to make changes in the scraper’s code to match the new website structure.
Websites often contain dynamic content that changes based on user behavior and their data. Examples of such elements can be lazy loading images or infinite scrolling. These elements are used to create a better user experience, but they can slow down or completely stop the scraping process.
Some websites contain honeypot traps that are created to catch hackers. They can also affect scrapers and can put them into an infinite loop of requests, this way stopping them from accessing website content.
Honeypot traps usually look like legitimate website elements and contain data that scrapers may want to target. Once a scraper tries to extract data from such an element, it falls into a loop of requests without returning the wanted data.
Website Loading Speed
A website may load slowly, which happens if a site receives many simultaneous requests. Slow loading sites can disrupt the scraping.
When humans run into such problem, they can simply reload the page and then successfully access it. However, not all web scrapers can do it, and an unstable load speed can break a web scraping process.
Real-time data scraping is well in demand because fresh data is the most valuable. It can be used for dynamic pricing, monitoring competitor changes, and identifying potential security breaches.
However, gathering data in real-time is challenging and requires a powerful web scraper. Fast and reliable proxies are also important because they can help quickly gather data.
What are Web Scraping Best Practices?
You can avoid the web scraping challenges by following the best scraping practices. Here are the main ones:
- Use proxy servers
- Maintain your scraper
- Utilize dynamic IP addresses
- Follow the website’s Terms and Conditions
- Comply with data security and privacy regulations
- Limit your scraping rate (you can sometimes find the scraping limitations in the robots.txt file)
Following these tips can help you reduce the chances of getting blocked while web scraping. If you’re wondering if you can get in trouble for web scraping, following these practices and respecting the websites you scrape will help you collect data without the need to worry.
Solve Scraping Challenges with Residential Proxies
Proxies are an integral part of web scraping. Even the best web scrapers would break instantly without them, especially if they’re working on a large-scale data collection.
The type of proxies to choose for web scraping depends on your targets. However, residential proxies are an excellent choice if you want to avoid getting blocked. Residential IPs are connected to real residential home addresses and provided by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Most targets see them as organic users, so they’re less likely to be banned or receive CAPTCHAs.
Residential proxies can be used with most scrapers or a headless browser. Rotating residential proxies will help you solve various web scraping challenges because no website would like to ban regular users and lose traffic. And that’s exactly what residential IPs help your scraper look like - a regular user.
Online data is becoming more and more valuable. Companies collect and use public data for various purposes, and it helps them gain priceless insights. However, collecting large amounts of data is challenging.
Some of the most common data gathering challenges are robot.txt files, IP blocking, CAPTCHAs, web structure changes, dynamic content, honeypots, slow-loading websites, and real-time data scraping. These challenges can make the web scraping process slow and expensive or even stop it altogether.
Web scraping is a good idea because public data can bring a number of benefits, but we always recommend following the best web scraping practices. Following our tips can help avoid the mentioned challenges and improve the data collection process.
One of the solutions for avoiding challenges is using proxies because scraping with the same IP address will get it banned in no time. Proxies can shield your actual IP address and help collect data smoothly.