To run an efficient web crawling operation at the desired scale, you’ll have to answer more questions than just “What is a web crawler?”. You need to understand why web crawling is used, whether there are any challenges, and how to deal with them.
Web crawling operations are very sensitive as they rely on many factors. Below, you will find all the information on web crawling that you need to ensure your web crawling operation is a success.
What is a web crawler?
A web crawler is known simply as a bot or spider bot. It got its name because it crawls the web like a spider but the world wide web in this instance. We are talking about a piece of software here, a script, able to crawl through the web pages on any given website.
The web crawler can index an entire website, download the entirety of its contents, or download just specific parts of its content. Web crawling is the process of indexing a website. It can target a single website, multiple websites, or an entire cluster of websites. Programmed to look only for text, HTML structure, images, and videos. It is a very versatile solution, and it has many unique uses. If you want to know more, you can read the article here.
Purpose of crawling
Web crawling started out as something only search engines would use. Search engines use web crawlers to index all websites online. The data is then parsed and stored on their services so that you can find what you want with your search queries in under a second. However, companies across industries found value in web crawling too.
Web crawling enables companies to gain access to all the data that is up for grabs online — naturally, they choose the data they need. They can use the data to get a competitive advantage, among many other things. For instance, they can get access to their competitors’ pricing policies and offer products and services and undercut them to attract more clients. They can also screen future employees better, discover market trends, and gauge customer sentiment.
Main challenges of crawling
Web crawling is not a straightforward process. There are numerous challenges. Website owners and web server administrators prefer to keep bots out of websites as extra traffic stretches resources thin and slows down websites. They don’t want to limit access to crawlers but also prevent them from crawling in the first place.
Web crawlers need to overcome numerous challenges to get the job done. First, there is the CAPTCHA method which is continuously being improved to tell human visitors apart from bots. Then we have IP bans which can set back crawling operations and significantly slow you down.
Some companies even produce anti-crawling and anti-scraping tools. People with minimal technical knowledge can now install and use them to have state-of-the-art protection against crawlers and scrapers.
How to deal with these issues?
With so many anti-scraping measures, your hands are practically tied. No matter how good your crawlers are, they will eventually be recognized as bots. What’s even worse, your IP addresses will end up banned, and you won’t be able to continue your operation regardless of how you set up your bot.
The best way to circumvent these measures and trick websites into thinking that your bots are human users is to use proxies. Proxies went through a couple of improvement cycles. Today, they are quite sophisticated solutions you can use to facilitate web crawling operations.
Plus, proxies use the latest tech providing multiple shields to crawlers, and there are several unique proxy types to facilitate different crawling operations.
Why proxies are a perfect solution
Proxies didn’t emerge as a perfect solution for dealing with the challenges of crawling by chance. They proved valuable in enabling bots to access and index even some of the most protected sites. Proxies act as intermediaries forwarding your requests to websites and then routing the responses to you. Your bots get assigned a new IP address to make traffic appear organic.
You get to choose from various proxy types and pick the proxy relevant for your crawling operation. For instance, you can use a residential proxy to ensure your crawlers appear as human users. You can also use different proxies to make a huge pool of IP addresses and then use a proxy rotator to ensure your bots use different IP addresses when making requests.
Knowing what a web crawler is, the main challenges of crawling. How to deal with them can help you achieve your goals. While data retrieved through web crawling can provide valuable insights and competitive advantages, there are some obstacles that you need to overcome first.
Proxies are a perfect solution for anti-crawling measures. As they can help you sustain ongoing web crawling and scraping operations at scale. You will minimize the risk of getting banned while getting all the data you need.