Scrapping data online is a great way to get the numbers and statistics you need to make accurate business decisions. However, there are specific ways to go about this that will ensure a more streamlined and effective process. Let’s look at several tips for improving your data scraping and making it more effective.
Understand Human Behavior
The most effective web scrapping software will consider that humans behave much differently than machines. For example, a machine will always take the quickest route online through a database or the sales funnel. This isn’t how humans work. Instead, you want software that will take the most “human” route through the various pathways it must follow. This will give you more accurate data concerning human behaviour and how that can be leveraged to your advantage in your business.
How to Handle Being Blocked
Most websites and databases don’t want to allow access to scarper software. This means you will sometimes run into anti-scraping measures that will block your software from doing its job. Don’t worry; this happens. The good news is that you can overcome this by recording and reviewing your logs. This will let you know when you’ve been blocked when you’ve been sent fake data, and when you’ve been stealth blocked by a program that causes your scraping software not even to know it has been blocked.
The key to overcoming this problem is rotating the information your scraping software uses. This is because many websites will build up a visitor profile for the visitors it gets and record things like browsers, operating systems, and pages they are visiting. By having your scraper rotate this information, it will appear more human and be less likely to get blocked. It can get onto sites that have previously blocked it using this method.
Using an Asynchronous Scraper
Most web scraping software operates synchronously. In other words, they will scrape one website thoroughly before it moves on to its next target. This leads to a lot of wasted time that could be spent gathering valuable data. The key to overcoming this problem is using an asynchronous scarper. This type of scraper will use its downtime to move on and collect data from other targets it has lined up. This will allow you to increase your scraping speed exponentially for a more productive scarping flow.
Dealing With CAPTCHAs
CAPTCHA programs are specifically designed to prevent nonhuman interaction on a website. This being the case, they can be a significant problem for web scrapers. There are several ways to get past a CAPTCHA, but one of the most common is by using an OCR (Optic Character Recognition) such as Tesseract. This uses machine learning to recognize the CAPTCHA images and input the right choices.
Selecting the Right Objects
One of the keys to efficient scraping is ensuring your program knows which objects to select when doing its job. Generally speaking, this is done using XPATH or CSS. While XPATH has its uses, such as instances in which you’re crawling up the page instead of transversing the DOM (Direct Object Model), it can be problematic because its engines can be different in different browsers. This will lead to inconsistent results. On the other hand, CSS selectors work better because most applications are already built with CSS.
IP Address Rotation
Logging and blocking your IP address will end your scraping quickly online. Just about any website can do this, resulting in your scraper needs to be more helpful. Fortunately, overcoming this problem is as simple as using proxy IPs and rotating them accordingly. Remember, you want your scarper to appear as human as possible, which means using different IPs to simulate the activity of many different people. Using a program that rotates your IP address will fool sites into thinking that your scraper is more than one person, so it doesn’t get blocked.
An effective data scraping process starts with not getting blocked, shadow blocked, or sending fake data. Once you overcome those issues using the above tips, you can work on tweaking your scraper to make it as efficient as possible by mimicking human behaviour more closely and reducing its downtime. You’ll get loads of valuable data with your scraper if you can do that.