Web Scraping Best Practices
Extracting data from the World Wide Web has several challenges as more webmasters are working day and night to lower cases of scraping and crawling of their data in order to survive in the competitive world. There are various other problems you may face when web scraping and most of them can be avoided by adapting and implementing certain web scraping best practices as discussed in this article.
Have knowledge of the scraping tools
Acquiring adequate knowledge of hurdles that may be encountered during web scraping, you will be able to have a smooth web scraping experience and be on the safe side of the law. Conduct a thorough research on the types of tools you will use for scraping and crawling. Firsthand knowledge on these tools will help you find the data you need without being blocked.
Proper proxy software that acts as the middle party works well when you know how to work around HTTP and HTML protocols. Use tools that can change crawling patterns, URLs and data retrieved even when you are crawling on one domain. This will help you abide to the rules and regulations that come with web scraping activities and escaping any legal issues.
Conduct your scraping activities during off-peak hours
You may opt to extract data during times that less people have access for instance over the weekends, during late night hours, public holidays among others. Visiting a website on several instances to retrieve the same type of data is a waste of bandwidth. It is always advisable to download the entire site content to your computer and thereafter you can access it whenever need arises.
Hide your scraping activities
There is a thin line between ethical and unethical crawling hence you should completely evade being on the top user list of a particular website. Cover up your track as best as you can by making use of proxy IPs to avoid any legal problems. You may also use multiple IP addresses or VPN services to conceal your scrapping activities and lower chances of landing on a website’s blacklist.
Website owners today are very protective of their data and any other information existing under their unique url. Be keen when going through the terms and conditions indicated by websites as they may consider crawling as an infringement of their privacy. Simple etiquette goes a long way. Your web scraping efforts will be fruitful if the site owner supports the idea of sharing data.
Keep record of your activities
Web scraping involves large amount of data.Due to this you may not always remember each and every piece of information you have acquired, gathering statistics will help you monitor your activities.
Load data in phases
Web scraping demands a lot of patience from you when using the crawlers to get needed information. Take the process in a slow manner by loading data one piece at a time. Several parallel request to the same domain can crush the entire site or retrace the scrapping attempts back to your local machine.
Loading data small bits will save you the hustle of scrapping afresh in case that your activity has been interrupted because you will have already stored part of the data required. You can reduce the loading data on an individual domain through various techniques such as caching pages that you have scrapped to escape redundancy occurrences. Use auto throttling mechanisms to increase the amount of traffic to the website and pause for breaks between requests to prevent getting banned.
Following these practices, I have built some very interesting scrapers. Take your time to check them.
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Through these few mentioned web scraping best practices you will be able to work around website and gather the data required as per clients’ request without major hurdles along the way. The ultimate goal of every web scraper is to be able to access vital information and at the same time remain on the good side of the law.