A successful business always tries to gather as much quality data as possible to gather valuable insights into their customers and competitors. Having data leverage is crucial when you want to outgrow your competitors and increase the visibility of your product.
However, the rising popularity of web scraping has caused an increase in anti-bot mechanisms implemented by websites to prevent scraping bots from extracting data.
In this article, we will discuss the common web scraping challenges experienced by data miners while extracting data from the web.
What difficulties are encountered in Web Scraping?
Frequent IP bans, CAPTCHAs, and changes in website structure are some of the obstacles developers and data miners face to collect data from the internet. Moreover, overcoming these anti-bot mechanisms requires advanced techniques, resources, and expertise.
Let’s take a deep dive into these challenges and understand them step by step while addressing their solutions.
IP Bans are the most commonly adopted methods websites implement to avoid bots extracting data from their websites. An IP can be banned permanently or for some time to avoid excessive requests on the website server and put an end to the scraping process.
Usually, this can also occur to avoid malicious or illegal attacks on the website server or if an IP address belongs to a restricted location from which a website may not allow the traffic because of the rise in illegal activities.
To avoid frequent IP bans, you can integrate web scraping APIs in your solution to extract data from any location without experiencing any IP blockage.
To prevent being blocked, one can also pass cookies, rotate headers, and introduce delays between requests.
CAPTCHAs(Completely Automated Public Turing Tests to Tell Computers and Humans) are the most popular type of protection to differentiate between humans and scraping bots.
The anti-bot mechanism will throw the CAPTCHA every time it detects something fishy with the current user. It requires the user to identify images and solve puzzles to prove their human identity. A successful test will allow the user to access the site resources, while a failure to clear this test will direct the user to solve the CAPTCHA again.
It is difficult for a bot to clear this test. There are several CAPTCHA-solving services present in the market that can solve this problem. However, the latency of your scraper will be affected drastically, and the scraper can become prohibitively expensive for data miners.
The alternative solution is to use high-quality residential proxies with optimized headers, allowing your bot to mimic an organic user and bypass any onsite protection effectively.
Modern websites that use AJAX requests to load the content on their web page can’t be scraped with a simple GET request. Websites like Twitter and Instagram make multiple API requests to load content dynamically, giving a tough time to bots to extract data from their websites.
Parsing HTML Data
Dealing with unstructured data is the major challenge after successfully scraping a website, as web scraping often returns raw HTML data that needs optimization to make it accessible.
Clean and usable data can be challenging to extract if a website doesn’t adhere to standard HTML formatting, leading to inconsistency and data gaps that reduce the quality of information.
However, you can always parse the raw HTML using libraries like Cheerio in Node JS or Beautiful Soup in Python, which are easy to use and work efficiently even for large-scale projects.
Change in Website Layout
Websites like Google, Amazon, and Walmart keep updating their website structure to make it more engaging for the end users. But for developers behind web scrapers, this is another nightmare. Change in tags and attributes causes a decrease in the accuracy and consistency of the information.
When your company’s critical decisions are based on the data you are fetching, it is crucial to avoid data loss at all costs, as this can result in inaccurate marketing decisions affecting your company’s revenue and growth in the long term.
The solution to this problem is simple. You can keep a check on the returned data regularly and separate the data points that are empty but should be complete based on the parameters you have passed to scrape data from the URL.
A honeypot trap is a mechanism developed to lure and deceive potential attackers from the website to avoid unauthorized access to the content. They are used to observe malicious actors, spammers, and malware in a controlled environment to gain insights into their methods and techniques to harm the website.
Honeypots are also used to protect valuable content on the website by diverting the attention of the hacker or spammer to less valuable material on the website.
They are generally found in the form of links, which are visible to bots but not to actual users. If a scraper tries to interact with this link, it will be immediately blocked from the website and will not be able to get the desired data from the website.
The high volume of requests on the website server can slow down the response rate. This will not be an issue for organic users as they can wait till the website reloads. However, it can be a major issue for a scraper, which may break down its scraping process or need to retry the request on the website server due to a timeout.
A Headless Browser is an effective way to tackle this problem. It allows you to load all the components on the screen, set timeouts, retries, scrolls, click buttons, etc. Such features enable developers to set up their scrapers according to diverse conditions.
In this age of information, web scraping has emerged as a popular tool, allowing enterprises to tap into the vast mine of resources available on the web. However, it is essential to use ethical strategies to extract data as the path to web scraping is burdened with obstacles.
While the path is filled with obstacles, web scraping offers thousands of opportunities to those prepared to deal with the complexities using skills and integrity.
In this article, we learned about some major web scraping challenges. If you think we can complete your web scraping tasks and help you collect data, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
I have prepared a complete list of blogs to learn web scraping that can give you an idea and help you in your web scraping journey.