12 [Common] Mistakes to Avoid When Scaling Up Your Web Scraping

Scaling up your web scraping operation alone isn’t easy. It requires a lot of planning and preparation to avoid common pitfalls. If you try to do everything yourself, it will take longer and will be m

By Admin @September, 7 2022

12 [common] mistakes to avoid when scaling up your web scraping

12 Mistakes to Avoid When Scaling up Your Web Scraping

 

Scaling up your web scraping operation alone isn’t easy. It requires a lot of planning and preparation to avoid common pitfalls. If you try to do everything yourself, it will take longer and will be more challenging.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth you trying to scale web scraping alone. On the contrary, web scraping means avoiding those pitfalls.

But how simple is it to avoid getting blocked while web scraping? Continue reading to walk through the 10 mistakes to avoid when scaling up web scraping.

What Is Web Scraping?

Web scraping is a process that involves extracting information from a website by using automated tools and software. It is often used in BI (business intelligence) and data science applications to harvest data for analysis.

It is not limited to websites but can be applied to different data sources. For example, web scraping can involve crawling the web, reading the contents of a web page, or extracting structured data using APIs (application programming interfaces).

This is a short definition of web scraping. Now, let's look at the 10 common mistakes to avoid while scraping the web.

1. Not Saving Raw Data

A critical step in data extraction is permanently saving raw data. Raw data contains all the information in a file, including metadata and other details that are usually stripped out when files are processed by a file-processing tool. This extra information can be helpful when trying to identify and understand patterns in a dataset and so on.

Another critical step is to ensure that this raw data is securely saved, so it doesn't get lost or damaged. It's also important to note that not all file-processing tools strip out this information, so it's essential to check before beginning an analysis.

2. Not Aware of the Ethical Implications of Scraping

Scraping is frowned upon by many companies. They’ll often send you a cease and desist letter when you’re scraping their data. It’s essential to keep this in mind when you’re scaling up your scraping operations.

If you’re scraping data from websites that don’t want you to scrape their data, it might be better to scrap the data differently.

For example, suppose you’re scraping data from websites that use CAPTCHAs to block crawlers. In that case, you might want to deploy an optical character recognition (OCR) service to bypass CAPTCHAs. This is one way to scale up your scraping operation while avoiding legal issues.

3. Not checking if the Website Has Its Own API

Before scraping, check the developers' console tab network and choose the best method to obtain the needed data. Doing this ensures you're not doing more work than what's necessary.

In addition, the data you need may be easily accessible. So, Double-check first to see if reliable, well-formatted, and accessible information is already there.

4. Not Using a Consistent API for Data Storage and Retrieval

If you’re storing data in multiple places, you increase the risk of data loss. So instead, you should store data consistently across all data storage options.

For example, suppose you’re storing data in a SQL database, a NoSQL database, or an Excel spreadsheet. In that case, you might want to use a consistent format for the data across all repositories. This will make accessing and using the data easier across all repositories.

5. Scraping Too Fast and Not Keeping Unpredictable Intervals in Between

It is well known that the crawling speed of websites by bots and humans is different. Bots will scrape websites at a speedy rate.

Making random requests to a website is not suitable. As a result, websites crash due to overloading requests. To avoid this problem, make your bot pause programmatically between scraping activities. This will make your bot appear more like a real person to the anti-scraping apparatus and will not harm the website.

First, make concurrent requests to minimize the number of pages scraped. Then, continue scraping after a timeout of about 25 to 35 seconds.

Treat the robots.txt file with respect. Turn off auto throttling mechanisms, which will automatically control crawling speeds in response to the load on both the spider and the website.

After several trials, set the spider to the best crawling speed. Of course, the environment changes as time goes by, so make adjustments periodically.

6. Utilizing Proxy Servers That Are Unsecured

There are plenty of free proxies to choose from. However, beginners may connect to them without the proper credentials.

There are several types of proxies, so you will always have one to match your requirements. You may browse for proxies without knowing their source, but remember that proxies collect information and reroute it via an alternative IP address.

Free proxies are excellent for scraping the web, but they are not secure. A malicious proxy may change the HTML of the web page you request and relay false information, as well as the possibility of disconnection and IP address blocking. To ensure web scrapers are reliable, they should be using dedicated proxies.

7. Looking Past IP Blocks

You should not forget about how to overcome IP blocks when web scraping. It's the last thing you want to happen.

However, you should address this issue as soon as possible. Using a rotating proxy service, you can avoid getting blocked because it routes your requests through millions of residential proxies.

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8. Not Switching Your Web Scraping Pattern and Not Looking Out for Website Changes

It is pretty uncommon for humans to perform repetitious tasks when visiting a site. On the other hand, bots that web scrape will always follow the same path because that's in their nature. Programmed bots perform the same task continually.

In addition, some websites have fantastic anti-scraping mechanisms that can be used to block your bot.

Now that we've covered some ways to avoid your bot being detected, how can you keep your bot safe? By clicking randomly on the webpage, moving the mouse around aimlessly, and performing randomly chosen actions, your bot can appear as if it is a human. To ensure that your bot receives the information you want, you must monitor the site carefully and detect any modifications in its layout.

9. Not Mindful of Headers

Your browser sends a ton of headers when you request a site. Headers provide information about your identity. So, it's crucial to be mindful of them.

You can use these headers to make your web scraper appear more human. You need to copy them and paste them into the header element of your code. Your request will then look like it comes from a browser that's real.

In addition, utilizing User-Agent and IP rotations will make your scraper long-lasting. With these techniques, you can scrape any website, whether it is dynamic or static.

10. Not Aware of How to Get Around Captchas

RECAPTCHA from Google is utilized by many websites to check if there is human involvement in the procedure or not. If the test is successful in a specified time frame, you are believed to be a real person rather than a bot.

When you're web scraping a site on a massive scale, it eventually blocks you. In addition, you may begin seeing captcha pages on the site instead of web pages.

You can bypass these restrictions by utilizing CAPTCHA solving services. However, many of the CAPTCHA solver services are relatively slow and costly. So you may want to reconsider if it remains economical to scrape websites that require a constant CAPTCHA.

11. Using Personal Laptop Instead of Cloud Servers

If you run a web scraping operation on a large scale, it is advisable to avoid using personal laptops. This is because laptops usually have limited resources, such as CPU and memory, which can cause your web scraping operation to slow down or even fail.

Instead, you should consider using cloud servers. Cloud servers usually have more resources than laptops, so they can handle large web scraping operations more efficiently.

In addition, cloud servers can be easily scaled up to meet your needs. This way, you can adjust your web scraping operation according to your changing requirements.

12. Not Mindful of the Other Factors Needing Increasing to Scale the Number of Requests

So, when scaling up your web scraping, be sure to take into account the need for a larger proxy pool, more storage space, and so on. By doing so, you can ensure that your operation will be able to handle the increased load without any issues. If you don't increase these other factors when scaling the volume of requests, you'll likely find that your web scraping operation will suffer from decreased performance and stability. 

Doing It All Yourself – The Hard Way

Doing everything yourself can be a long, drawn-out way to scale up your web scraping. But, unfortunately, that is not the best way. It takes too long.

It's risky, and it may get you blocked. There are better ways to scale up and get the desired results you're looking for quicker.

Are You Ready for an Easier and More Efficient Method?

There is an easy way to scrape the web. One of the most significant advantages of easy web scraping is that it's effortless. It doesn't require any technical expertise and can be done by anyone with basic computer skills.

It's also an effective way to gather data from websites that are difficult or impossible to reach manually. For example, it's beneficial to collect data from websites that have restrictive permissions, don't allow logging in, or require complex navigation.

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