Data is everywhere and much of it can all be found in one place: The Internet. For the first time in history, we are all connected to each other by using online technology. Data is very valuable, especially to companies, and most of it is publicly available, but it often isn’t ready for use initially. This means that you may have to extract and analyze the relevant data before you or your company can use it.
This is why various data collection methods are becoming increasingly popular and many people are using automated scripts, screen scrapers and website crawlers. Here are a few simple tips to improve public data collection processes, along with an explanation of the different techniques.
Choose the Best Scraper/Script
Data scraping refers to the retrieving of information from any source (including websites). Scraping extracts information from target sites and makes it available for use on other applications for analysis.
Similarly, web crawling refers to internet-bots (also known as spiders), who ‘crawl’ through websites one page at a time collecting information, as well as indexing it. Whether you use data scraping or crawling will depend on what sort of data you need to collect and for what purposes you are collecting it. Generally, data crawling is used on a larger scale, but data scraping can be done at any level. Essentially, both are used to collect data, they just use different techniques.
You should make sure that whatever web scraper you use is scalable to your current and potential data collecting needs in the future. This is important as you may find that your data requirements grow and your scraping service cannot keep up to speed, then it may hold your data collection back. The best web crawler services are able to cater to both large and small data collection requirements.
If you are looking for a web crawler/scraper company instead of collecting data manually, you must be fully aware of the costs. Often companies can make their pricing difficult to understand, so this may mean hidden costs appearing in the bill. Be sure to stick to companies that make their pricing clear and that you are fully aware of the price before you agree to anything. Some services provide pay-as-you-go pricing models which means you will only pay for the data you receive.
You should choose a tool that is powerful enough to extract all the information that is required. Often a good indicator of this is when a company offers training resources and extensive customer support as part of their service.
Optimize Your Web Crawler
Web crawler bots can collect data much quicker than when it is done manually, but it has a downside, too. Sites might start blocking requests from crawlers to access their available data. As web crawlers can slow down servers and decrease website performativity, some sites do not want these bots gaining access to their data. Therefore, many site administrators try to block web crawler requests.
To avoid and block web crawlers from accessing a website’s data, ‘cloaking’ is often used by administrators. Cloaking is a search engine optimization technique where the content that is provided for the spider or bot is different from what is presented to the user’s browser. This is achieved through a site delivering content based on the IP address and when a user is identified as a scraper or bot crawler, a different version of the website is presented (without the data).
With the increase in the use of techniques to limit and block data collection using these forms, it is important to optimize your web crawler wherever possible to still be able to collect and effectively use data.
Use rotating residential proxies
Many website servers can easily detect a bot by checking the IP address the request is coming from. Therefore, if different IP addresses are used, detecting a bot becomes a lot harder. It is advisable to create a few different IP addresses that can be used for requests, as they can then be rotated and used at random. To change an IP address, shared proxies and VPNs are popular and can be very effective.
Use different IP addresses for web crawler requests to improve the effectiveness of data collection. For example, one of the main benefits of using a rotation of proxies is that a bot will not be detected and therefore requests may not be blocked. Using VPNs and other proxies mean that connections can be made from various devices and locations, enabling you to mask your business address. This also limits the risk of cloaking affecting your data collection as the server will not know that a web crawler is being used, and therefore access to genuine content will be gained. Using rotating Smartproxy proxies at random can be a great way to optimize a web crawler and help avoid being blocked or ‘cloaked’ by administrators.
Limit Connection Requests
The best way to avoid detection and optimize your web crawler is by hiding your intentions on the site by not alerting your data target. Too many connection requests can lead to you being blocked from a website as it highlights the presence of a web crawler. So, it is important that you do not use fast and overloading crawler settings when trying to extract information.
Instead, you should use a batch crawler and put some random sleep call programs in between requests to add some delays to page crawling. It is also important that you try to split up your requests and limit them all together. You should be sure to try and limit the number of requests at one time as much as possible. By trying to limit these connection requests, servers are less likely to be alerted by web crawler bots and you may be able to hide your real intention of data collection.
Improve Data Mining
Data mining are the techniques used to extract useful and advantageous knowledge from the collected data. Once this data has been ‘mined’ it can be used to discover patterns and statistics in large data sets. Data mining can be particularly effective when trying to predict future trends based on previous data. This can be done by using statistical analysis and influencing algorithms.
However you decide to use the data that has been collected, data mining has many benefits in any industry. For example, in a sales or marketing department, data mining can enable one-to-one marketing campaigns and gain information on a customer’s previous sales pattern, which can help to predict future sales and the future products they are likely to buy.
It is not only essential that the best techniques and methods are used to collect data, but also that once the data has been collected, it is used in the most effective and efficient way to meet with your desired aims. By following these simple tips, you should be able to improve public data collection and benefit from the information that is gathered.