You want to set up shop in a marketplace. Let’s say it’s Amazon.
You’ve identified 5,000 similar items. Now, you want to scrape these Amazon pages for price and buyer sentiment analysis. But that would require you to send at least 5,000 web requests to Amazon from the same IP address.
Most websites use anti-scraping measures to prevent a situation like this. When a website notices bot-like behavior, like too many and too frequent web requests from the same IP, it blocks that IP address.
IP bans make web scraping complicated. They also restrict you from certain web scraping use cases, such as data aggregation, where you need to send requests to multiple websites repeatedly.
Using residential proxies is one way to make your IP address less detectable. But it’s not the only one. We’ll look at a few other methods below.
Using a proxy already gives you more anonymity than your personal IP address. But even proxies can be blacklisted. Here are some methods to avoid IP bans when web scraping:
- Use Residential Proxies
When compared to other types, residential proxies are the least detectable ones. Here’s why.
A residential proxy is sourced from an actual home address with an IP provided by an Internet Service Provider. Let’s say you’ve moved to a new home and got your internet set up there. Your ISP will give you a unique IP address, and it will now be associated with your computer or home’s physical address.
That’s precisely what a residential proxy is.
So, when you use a residential proxy to send web scraping requests to a website, the destination server will think a residential user is sending these requests. Since all websites invite visitors and want to get real users, there’s a lower risk of an IP ban with residential proxies.
But even when using residential proxies, you have to make your requests look as human as possible. For example, a human user cannot send 1000 requests a minute. So, don’t program your web scraper to do that. Otherwise, the destination server’s anti-bot system may flag your IP address, resulting in a ban down the line.
- Use a Headless Browser
One way to make residential proxies even more undetectable is to use them with a headless browser. A headless browser is just like your regular browser minus the graphical user interface.
Firefox, Google Chrome, and other popular browsers have a headless version. To make the headless browser even more ‘human,’ you can add a special request header, such as a User-Agent.
But how do you connect a headless browser to a proxy? Any browser automation tool, such as Selenium, can allow you to do that.
- Avoid Fingerprinting
Fingerprinting means that the target website’s anti-bot mechanism tries to actively monitor every request you make by checking the personal details that are connected to your device and location. If something seems fishy, the anti-bot system will block you. How do you avoid this? By being unpredictable. Here are some ways:
- Instead of sending web scraping requests at the same time daily, rotate the intervals. Or, choose random times.
- Use IP rotation (more on this later).
- Make your headless browser use different fonts, resolutions, screen sizes, etc.
- Use different headless browsers and request headers.
- Rotate User Agents
The user agent is a piece of identifiable information your browser sends to the target website. It may contain your computer’s operating system, browser type, and browser version. Using the same user agent for multiple requests can make a target website suspicious.
Instead, rotate the user agents to avoid suspicion. You can find a list of common user agents here.
Make a user agent list for your web scraping activities, and put it in a Python List. Use a random string from your list for every request.
If you want to scrape a website with strict anti-scraping measures, set your user agent the same as the Googlebot User Agent. Most websites want to rank on Google, so they let the Google bot through.
Keep in mind that every time a browser has an update, its user agents change. So, you should also update your user agent list accordingly.
Also, do not send too many requests with the same user agent, as you may risk detection.
- Set Longer Times Between Requests
It’s straightforward for the target website to identify and block your web scraper if it’s getting hundreds of requests from the same server 24/7. Avoid this by randomizing delays between requests.
For example, your requests can have a gap of anywhere from two to ten seconds. One, it will help you avoid an IP ban. Two, it will minimize load on the target website, preventing it from crashing.
You can check the robots.txt file of a website to determine the request intervals. Most often, you’ll find this at http://example.com/robots.txt. The file will have a ‘crawl-delay’ line that suggests the proper gap between requests.
- Set Real Request Headers
By ‘real,’ we mean just as the request would look if a human user sent it. To do this, check your browser’s current request headers at Httpbin.
Once you find the headers, you can set them individually for different requests. For example, you can change the user agent. You might not be able to change all headers, but most browsers let you change accept languages and user agents.
Not all proxies are created equal or have the same use cases. So, it’s essential to choose suitable proxy types for web scraping. Here’s our list.
Without a doubt, residential proxies are the best proxies for web scraping. They mask your IP address, make you look like a human user, let you access geo-restricted content, and help you collect data from various websites.
The downside? They’re expensive.
Mobile proxies are similar to residential proxies, except they are associated with a mobile device rather than a computer on someone’s desk. In addition to regular scraping use cases, they help you scrape data surrounding mobile use cases, such as app stores and mobile search results.
Datacenter proxies are more detectable than residential proxies because they come from data centers rather than physical addresses. But they’re still pretty anonymous and offer faster speeds.
Shared data center proxies are, well, shared. So, you’re not the only one using the proxy. The good thing about this is the cost is also split. So, you pay less. But then, you may have issues with speed and privacy.
Dedicated data center proxies are assigned to one client only. As the user, you have full control over that IP’s activity. While this may be more expensive, it allows you to enjoy faster speed and better security.
These proxies also lower your risk of IP bans. As you’re the only one using the assigned IP address or pool, you can scrape the web responsibly. Also, such proxies are usually secured by SOCKS5 or HTTPS protocols, making them more secure than their shared counterparts.
Being undetected during web scraping is quite important. A ban can delay your web scraping schedule and increase expenditure since you’ll have to get new IPs.
Some measures to avoid IP bans include polite web scraping, using user agents, rotating IPs, and using a headless browser. The crux is as simple as this; mimic a human-sent request, and most servers will let you in every time.