Optimizing HTTP Headers
What is Web Scraping?
Web scraping is a process of extracting valuable information from a website using a program or software. It is a method of collecting available and public information that can be used by businesses. The process mimics how people browse the Internet.
Because web scraping is automated, it is efficient and time-saving in gathering huge amounts of information. Nevertheless, a disadvantage is that it can crash a website or server. Because of this, a lot of websites do not allow web scrapers.
How Web Scraping Is Used in Business
Nowadays, businesses are using web scraping for a variety of reasons. They can use the gathered data to make sound and data-supported decisions for the business. For instance, by gathering important data, businesses can know more about their competitor’s products, techniques, and mistakes. They can then use this information to capitalize on the gaps in the industry.
Challenges that Web Scrapers Often Face
Although web scraping has become relevant for extracting big data, web scrapers face many challenges when undertaking this process. These challenges include:
- Entry of Bots
Before you extract data, you need to check first if the website gives access to bots. Through robots.txt, you can check if a website disallows web scraping. If the owner does not allow it, you can try explaining what your purposes and needs are. It is best to look for another site if the owner does not want it.
- Complex and Changing Page Structures
Because many web pages are from HTML, web designers have control over how to design the pages. Therefore, these pages are changeable. It is a must to create a web scraper for every website if you want to extract data from various websites.
CAPTCHA is a challenge-response system that is utilized to distinguish humans from web scrapers through images or logical questions. While humans will find these easy to answer, scrapers will not.
- Blocking of IP
This is a known strategy to avoid web scrapers from entering a website. This usually occurs when a website senses a lot of requests from a single IP address. It can result in completely banning the IP address or restricting the extraction process.
- Slow or Unstable Speed
If there are too many requests, websites can become slow or even fail to load. For humans, this is not an issue because they only need to refresh the page and wait for the page to load. For web scrapers, it may break up since scrapers do not know how to handle such a situation.
- Need to Login
For websites with secured information, it is likely a must to login. These websites can track who logged in because browsers automatically add various requests made from other sites.
Therefore, when scraping, it is recommended that cookies and requests are sent together to avoid this challenge.
Importance of Optimizing HTTP Headers When Scraping
Most web users are looking for ways to increase the quality of their data and avoid getting blocked by target users. Below are the reasons why HTTP headers should be optimized when scraping.
- Less Chance of Getting Blocked due to Scraping
As mentioned, one of the problems in web scraping is getting blocked. When you utilize and optimize HTTP headers, it can greatly help lessen the chance of getting blocked. Since HTTP headers have extra content to servers, it may seem that the request is coming from a human. Therefore, it is unlikely to get blocked.
- Data Quality
One of the most important components of web scraping is the quality of data. Although often assumed, data quality plays a crucial role in determining whether your business will have an edge or fail. Therefore, this is one element that should not be overlooked.
Moreover, optimized HTTP headers can make your business more relevant when the data gathered is clean and correct.
Most Important HTTP Headers to Know
With HTTP headers, it is possible for servers and clients to transfer details within the response or request. Basically, there are five types of HTTP headers that you need to know: HTTP header referer, user-agent, accept, accept-encoding, and accept-language. Let’s learn more:
This HTTP header relays information about the type of application, its operating system, version, and software. Moreover, access is given to data target to choose the HTML layout type to utilize for different devices such as smartphones, computers, and tablets.
This HTTP header is categorized into negotiating content. The main use of this header is to inform a web server about the kind of data format that can be sent back to the client.
When the request is managed, accept-encoding informs a web server what compression algorithm to utilize.
Accept-Language gives data that indicates languages that the client comprehends to the webserver. When the server responds, this header can specify the preferred language.
- HTTP Header Referer
HTTP Header Referer is another important HTTP header since it gives the IP address of the previous page before a request is relayed to a server.
If you want to dig deeper into the most important HTTP headers, then you should check the Oxylabs blog article and find out more.
We hope that you will have an easy time with your web scraping project now that you know what web scraping is and how important it is to optimize HTTP headers when scraping. Incorporating web scraping efforts will ensure that you have more chances of succeeding in extracting data.