It is okay to scrape websites for data. This is a vital part of doing business and growing as data can affect how brands make decisions and whether or not those decisions will bring in more profits and support expansion.
However, what is not okay is stealing copyrighted content or scraping a website in a harmful way. So that while scraping is not illegal, the way you ransack a website or server may be.
Therefore, it is important to follow certain rules and regulations, also known as web scraping best practices, whether you are using Python or C# web scraping (Oxylabs ran a recent post on the matter) or other known languages.
What Is The Importance of Web Scraping?
Web scraping can be defined as the automated process of collecting an enormous quantity of data from multiple data sources.
Web scraping needs to be automatic to remove the challenges that come with manually trying to gather data, and some of these challenges include:
- Web scraping is mostly repetitive to collect as much data and as often as possible
- Data quality may be altered when the process is slow
- High rate of human errors that occur from manual data extraction
- Geo-restrictions that stop people from certain regions from accessing some server
Businesses use web scraping and its tools to overcome the above challenges, and below are some of the most important reasons brands scrape data:
Brands have to monitor themselves online to see where they are getting mentioned. This helps them stay on top of reviews and comments while protecting their assets against piracy and infringement.
Brands that neglect this often damage their image and reputation online, leading them to lose sales, customers, and important assets.
Price and Competition Monitoring
A major importance of web scraping is in collecting prices across different marketplaces, websites, and platforms. This allows a brand to compare its prices against other sellers and make necessary adjustments to increase its profit margin.
Price monitoring can also develop unique custom strategies such as dynamic pricing that allows the brand to sell at different prices in a different market or during different hours.
Web scraping is used for collecting a large amount of data across different markets to conduct market research.
This data could include demand, supply, and customer behavior and sentiments.
This data can then be used to make informed decisions such as whether to produce a new product or enter a new market.
Best Practices to Follow In Web Scraping
Some websites spend a fortune setting up mechanisms that prevent many users from interacting with their content or trying to extract their data.
Sometimes, this is done to protect copyright content. Other times, it is done to prevent excessive traffic that can overload and crash their servers.
Either way, they are fully in their rights, and below are some of the best practices to follow to ensure you are respecting these websites:
- Be kind and gentle
- Respect the Robots.txt
- Always change the crawling pattern
- Space your requests
- Route multiple requests through proxies
- Use caching mechanisms
- Set large scraping for off-peak hours
- Never violate copyrights
Overview of The Best Practices in Web Scraping
- Be Kind and Gentle
It takes a lot to have content. It also takes much to make that content available to you. Therefore, it is only common courtesy that you stay and act kind and gentle whenever you embark on web scraping.
Things like scheduling scraping for off-peak hours, delaying each subsequent request, or even spreading many requests across separate IPs can help protect a server from excessive traffic and eliminate crashes.
- Respect the Robot.txt
Some websites don’t allow scraping, while others provide instructions on how to scrape them.
All that information is often contained in the text file known as robot.txt. It is important that you confirm with this file before you proceed to scrape any website.
- Always Change Crawling Patterns
If you want to scrape a website successfully, you must be as human as possible, even if you use a bot. This means being fast but remaining unpredictable. A website that cannot predict your scraping pattern is a website that cannot ban nor block you.
So whether you are using C# web scraping tools or those designed by other languages, you will need to switch patterns as often as possible.
- Space Your Requests
A general trait of web scraping bots is that they are faster and quicker than humans. This is an advantage yet a major giveaway at the same time.
You will need to construct a way to space your request at least 10 seconds intervals or more. Not only does this help you appear human, but it can also prevent the server from overloading.
- Route Multiple Requests Through Proxies
Proxies are software that mediates between you and the target server. They forward your requests and deliver results back to you.
Their key benefits include keeping you anonymous, maintaining your privacy and security, and balancing traffic on servers to prevent crashing.
- Use Caching Mechanisms
Caching mechanisms help store information on previous searches so that the data is pulled instead of interacting with the server once again on subsequent requests for similar data.
Using this mechanism can save you time and reduce server traffic.
- Set Large Scraping for Off-Peak Hours
Peak hours are generally when the servers are busy the most, and scraping at such times can cause problems for the servers and, consequently, for their regular users.
To avoid this, always set larger scraping exercises for off-peak hours when not much is done with the servers.
- Never Violate Copyrights
All the rules above may not border on legalities, but this one does. Copyrighted content is intellectual assets that require too much effort, time, and other resources to create.
They are the sole property of the original owner (unless otherwise stated). It is illegal to violate them or use them without explicit permission.
Web scraping helps businesses grow by making available relevant and useful data quickly and in abundance. However, it needs to be done right, and to ensure you are not breaking any rules, kindly follow the best practices described above.