How to Use Proxies for Web Scraping?

Julia Dekhtyar
Julia Dekhtyar
Community manager @ SOAX05 April, 2022

If you are planning on doing market or academic research, gathering information about competitors or running a marketing campaign, web scraping offers a variety of options for delivering such projects in an efficient way. Using proxies in this case adds a layer of protection and anonymity for the scrappers.

In this article, we’ll explore what web scraping actually is, what practical benefits it can offer to businesses and individuals, and why using proxy servers for web scraping is considered a best practice

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If you are planning on doing market or academic research, gathering information about competitors or running a marketing campaign, web scraping offers a variety of options for delivering such projects in an efficient way. Using proxies in this case adds a layer of protection and anonymity for the scrappers.

In this article, we’ll explore what web scraping actually is, what practical benefits it can offer to businesses and individuals, and why using proxy servers for web scraping is considered a best practice.

What is Web Scraping?

Terabytes of data are generated on the web every single second. However, quantity does not equal quality. To make data useful, extraction and analysis are required. That can be done manually but that would be extremely time-consuming and possess several challenges like difficulties with accessing location-specific information, potential IP blockages, challenges connected with high volumes of data and so on. The alternative is web harvesting through automated web crawlers. This type of software, also known as web scrapers, spider bots, or web spiders, allows accessing targeted web resources on a systematic basis, collecting required data and extracting it to the preferred format. That facilitates further processing and analysis of collected data for different purposes.  

What are the Practical Uses of Screen Scraping?

Web data extraction has the potential to ease and speed up research, analysis, and data-driven decision making. Here are some of the examples of screen scraping practical applications:

  • Competition Monitoring – you can keep an eye on the latest developments and trends in the relevant fields, including promotional campaigns, changes in pricing and other activities of your competitors.
  • Real Estate – you can collate information about the properties within a particular area and its current prices from numerous web resources on one convenient platform.
  • Leads Generation for Marketing – you can draw up a more detailed portrait of your current or potential customers through analysis of their social media or through online social listening of the conversations relevant to them and your business. Such analysis provides a basis for better addressing your customers’ needs and targeting your marketing campaigns with more precision.
  • E-Commerce – you can control your sales performance, analyse your competitors’ actions and learn more about user activities. That, in turn, leads to maximising your marketing potential through the ads’ performance improvement, the offer of better deals, and more thorough engagement with the needs of your customers.
  • Academic Research – you can conduct scholarly research utilising screen scraping for the collection and extraction of the quantitative or qualitative data relevant to your field of study.
  • Data Analysis – through web harvesting you can collate information from different sources and automatically receive it in a ready to use format for your analysis and decision-making.
  • News Aggregation – you can collect user-generated content on a specific theme from multiple social media networks and utilise such social listening for the news articles.
  • Ad Verification – you can check where your company’s ads appear once you outsource the placement to the advertising servers, whether there is any potential of ad frauds, are commercials seen by real users and whether there is any threat to the company’s reputation through the association with particular resources. Similarly, you can check the quality of the ads displayed on your website.
  • Search Engine Result Page Monitoring – you can harvest big amounts of actionable data to conveniently monitor search trends, keep track of the results for specific search words, as well as keywords and traffic sources used by your competitors and finetune your SEO strategy to maximise performance.

 

Why Do You Need to Use Proxy Servers for Web Scraping?

So how do proxy servers relate to all of the above? In a nutshell, they allow you to perform mentioned tasks in a safe and efficient manner. Let’s look into specifics, starting with what the proxy servers are. Proxies provide you with alternative IPs based elsewhere in the world and allow you to access websites with your real IP address hidden from websites and other users. Proxy servers provide a buffer between the user and the website.

There are five key benefits of using proxies for scraping:

  • Increased Security by Hiding the IP Address of the User’s Device – while using scrape proxies for web data extraction you can be sure your real identity is not being disclosed. Thus you can do your research in a safe manner avoiding any geographical or other restrictions set for the website. 
  • Reduced Chances of Getting Blocked by the Site – too many requests to the website or a particular access pattern may trigger IP blockage. Using multiple IP addresses through web scraping proxy significantly lowers such a possibility.
  • Having Access to Region-specific Content – some websites will display content depending on the geographical location of the IP address associated with the visitor. If you, for example, want to check deals offered by a competitor in the target region you can use proxies linked with this territory. Also, access from the local IP addresses will look less suspicious from the host’s perspective, thus is unlikely to be blocked.
  • Avoidance of the IP bans – most modern websites use advanced anti-scraping mechanisms to prevent crawlers’ activity which can slow down their speed. Using proxies for web scraping offering a wide selection of live IP addresses minimises this risk as your request will always be rerouted correctly in case of any problems with a particular proxy. So, your activities on the website will be unnoticed by the host. Some websites completely ban certain IPs from accessing them. Proxies for scraping help mitigate this risk.
  • Making More Concurrent Sessions on the Same Website – utilisation of proxies for web scraping allows accessing data on the same platform without raising red flags for the host. This leads to avoidance of any obstacles such as bans and thus more efficient completion of the task at hand.

How to Choose a Proxy for Your Project?

There are different approaches towards selecting the best fit for the job. When making the decision you should consider:

  • Budget available – it is possible to manage your own proxy group with no budget opting for free proxies. However, it will affect the reliability and flexibility and can cause additional security threats. If there is some budget, it is recommended to  consider market solutions. When selecting among them, compare packages on offer to find the best value for money and the best fit for your needs.
  • Technical knowledge and resources available – depending on the software development skills and availability of resources at hand you can make a call whether you can build something from scratch yourself or go with commercial options available on the market.
  • Compatibility – take into consideration other tools you are using within your organisation, such as SEO, analytics and sales intelligence tools. Select the solution that will allow smooth integration.
  • Additional features available – many web scraping proxy services offer geo-targeting options. Consider whether you require customizable geo filters and the option of selecting specific internet service providers, it’ll help you find thebest fit.

How to Make Web Scraping Safe?

Using reliable proxies for web scraping significantly improves your productivity. Whilst choosing between free or paid proxies, you should keep in mind such factors as security and trustworthiness. With free options you might get poor or non-existent encryption leading to security risks, limited speed and poor customer support. Using real IP addresses for your web harvesting comes at a price, but results in a more reliable and secure outcome. Additionally, customer service will be able to help with any questions you might have.

Also, not all websites like being scraped, as it puts additional burden on them. For example, it can cause extra load to their servers, decrease page load speed for the actual customers and affect the accuracy of analytical tools. Therefore it is no surprise some businesses choose to protect themselves from web scraping with a variety of preventive measures. That said, you should be aware that sending multiple requests in a short period of time might trigger blockage of your IP address as well as overload your server and be potentially damaging.

Selecting the best approach to  web data extraction can be challenging especially if you are new to this. However, usage of proper proxies for scraping brings numerous benefits for the professionals and organisations and can open new opportunities for business development. Utilisation of proxies makes web harvesting, analysis, and data-driven decision-making more efficient, reliable, and safe. SOAX, for instance, offers an exclusive regularly updated proxy pool with over 8.5M IPs active worldwide, which facilitates flexible targeting by country, region, city, and provider. The pricing plans are designed to satisfy a wide range of customers’ needs while customer service offers guidance and support, e.g. on how to set up proxies in AdsPower.