Data lies at the heart of every successful business. You need relevant competitor data to outperform your direct competitors. You need customer data to understand your target market’s needs and desires. Job market data helps you improve recruitment processes, and pricing data enables you to keep your products and services affordable to your audiences while maximizing your profits.
At first, glance, collecting relevant data seems easy enough – all you have to do is Google the information you need, and you’ll find thousands of results. However, when you need larger volumes of data, such a manual approach will not cut it. You’ll need to automate this process with web scraping bots, and you’ll need to use a proxy service to do it right.
Learn why proxies are critical to your web scraping efforts and how they can help you make the most of the data you have available.
First thing’s first, you need to understand what web scraping is. Put plainly, it’s the process of gathering and later analyzing data that’s freely available on one of the millions of websites that are currently online. It’s valuable for lead generation, competitor research, price comparison, marketing, and target market research.
Even manual data extraction, such as searching for product pricing information yourself and exporting it to your Excel file, counts as a type of web scraping. However, web scraping is more commonly automated since manual data extraction is slow and prone to human error.
Web scraping automation involves scraper bots that crawl dozens of websites simultaneously, loading their HTML codes, and extracting the relevant information. The bots then present the data in a readable form that’s easy to understand and analyze when needed.
Depending on your needs, you have access to several different types of web scrapers:
Like any other type of browser extension, such as an ad block, web scraper browser plug-ins simply need to be installed on your browser of choice. They’re affordable, easy to use, and effective for smaller data volumes.
Installable scrapers are much more powerful. Installed directly on your device, they can go through larger quantities of data without a hitch. The only problem is that they tend to be somewhat slower.
The best of the bunch is cloud-based scrapers. Built for significant data volumes, they are fast, reliable, and more expensive than the rest. They can extract data into any format type you prefer and completely automate every aspect of scraping.
You can also build your own scraping bots from scratch if you have the required skills.Also read: How to Calculate Your Body Temperature with an iPhone Using Smart Thermometer
Although web scraping seems like a cut-and-dried process, it’s rarely so. You’ll come across numerous challenges when you first get into it, some of the greatest ones being:
Few sites will willingly allow bot access as it can cause many problems. Bots create unwanted traffic, which can overwhelm servers and even cause analytics issues to the site in question. Not to mention that there are numerous malicious bots designed to cause Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, steal information, and more. Therefore, if a site identifies your web scrapers as bots, your access will immediately be prevented.
Whenever you connect to a website, it reads your device information, including your IP address. If the activity from your IP address is slightly suspicious – such as making a large number of information requests within a short time frame – you’ll likely be presented with CAPTCHAs. If the activity is highly suspicious, you might even encounter IP blocks that completely prevent your access to said site.
Geo-restricted content is any type of content that’s available in some geographical regions but not in others. Netflix, for instance, is known for its geo-restrictions, giving users in different parts of the world access to different types of shows and movies. If your IP is in a location restricted by the site, you won’t be able to access it.
If you want to go around the aforementioned web scraping challenges, you need a dependable proxy service, such as Oxylabs. Proxies are the middle-men between your device and the internet, forwarding all information requests from you to the site you’re trying to scrape and back.
In the process, the site you’re scraping never gets to read your device’s information and its actual IP address. Instead, it reads the proxy server’s information, keeping you largely anonymous.
Depending on the proxy server you choose, you can receive multiple fake IP addresses that help hide your actual location and allow you to scrape data seamlessly.
By hiding your IP address and giving you a new, fake one, proxies can help you overcome the main challenges of web scraping:
Your proxy can provide you with changing IP addresses, allowing you to present yourself as a unique site visitor every time you make an information request. The site will have a more challenging time identifying whether you’re using bots or not.
Even if your assigned IP gets blocked while you’re web scraping, you don’t have to give up. Your proxy will provide you with
another IP address, allowing you to continue scraping without issues.
As needed, your proxy will provide you with a location-specific IP address. If a site is only available to US visitors, for instance, and you’re somewhere in Asia, you can use the proxy’s US servers to access the site in question and gather relevant information.
Web scraping without proxies is virtually impossible. Many sites use advanced technologies to prevent bot access, so you’d quickly find your IP blacklisted and blocked. A proxy provides a simple solution by keeping your real IP address hidden and allowing you to launch your web scrapers without concerns.
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