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Why You Need to Think of HTTP Headers When Web Scraping

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Considering web scraping as an essential part of a business would be an understatement. It is, in fact, the difference between a successful and failing business.

When it comes to business, being at the forefront of trending, valuable information is directly proportional to being an industry leader.

But your competitors exist to do business, too. They do not allow easy access to their sites and integrate blocking mechanisms to keep you from eying their activity.

While rotating proxies help in this regard, optimising common HTTP headers also allows for successful web scraping completion.

What Are HTTP Headers?

The term HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol. It handles how communication is structured and forwarded on the internet. HTTP also manages the responses of websites and browsers to varying requests.

Typically, a user forwards a request with a header. HTTP entails additional data for the web server. This web server responds by delivering specific information to the user.

The information is structured per the request header’s software instructions.

In simple words, HTTP headers are responsible for transferring information between users and websites.

Request and response headers are two primary HTTP header types. Because they are in charge of exchanging information in both directions, they enhance web security.

Common HTTP Headers

Companies use multiple HTTP headers when performing web scraping. Although they work on the same principle, they generate slightly different results. Common HTTP headers you can use for web scraping include but aren’t limited to the following.

User-Agent

The HTTP header user-agent enables you to access information about the operating system, application type, software, and its version used by your competitors. All web servers authenticate the user-agent requests to spot suspicious activity.

For instance, multiple identical requests indicate a bot activity. Web scraping professionals deploy different user-agent strings at this point. It portrays numerous organic sessions – even if they come from the same user.

Accept-Language

This header helps determine which language the client comprehends. It also lets you see which language the web server prefers when sending the response.

Relevance is the key to this request header. The set language must align with the user’s IP location or target domain. It is crucial because multiple requests from the same user in different languages will raise an authenticity question. The web server quickly identifies this bot-like behaviour and bans activity during the web scraping task.

Accept-Encoding

The accept-encoding request header offers an effective way to trick web servers into thinking you’re a single user. It informs the web server about the compression algorithm when handling requests.

Simply put, it mentions that the needed data can be compressed when being forwarded from the server to the user.

When optimised correctly, it saves traffic volume. This benefits both parties: you get the needed information, and the server doesn’t waste its resources by sending out substantial, unnecessary traffic.

Accept

The key is to configure the accept header correctly. It must align with the web server’s accepted format.

This will allow your web scraping tool to access the web server better. Eventually, the activity appears organic, minimising the chance of getting blocked.

Referrer

This request header provides the addresses of previous web pages before sending the request to the web server. Although it seems this header plays a minor role in the scraping process, it has a significant impact.

The referrer header makes your request more natural when you provide a fake history of sites you visited before landing the competitor’s site.

Therefore, always set up the referer request header before starting the web scraping process. Using this hack, you are more likely to evade a website’s anti-scraping measures.

Why Optimizing HTTP Headers When Web Scraping Important?

Setting up rotating proxies helps avoid the irksome blocks during web scraping. But web scraping pros take numerous measures for a hassle-free scraping process.

Therefore, leveraging HTTP headers is crucial when retrieving competitor information and making the most out of it.

Here’s why you must optimize HTTP headers during web scraping:

  • Integrating HTTP headers reduce the chance of getting banned by the target website
  • It boosts the quality of data being extracted from the target web server.

Because web scrapers slow down websites, owners often implement anti-scraping measures to keep you from scraping their sites.

While the reason why they do this isn’t restricted to site slowdowns, most sites block the user when receiving multiple requests.

HTTP headers eliminate the problem by carrying additional information to web servers and changing the message content. Consequently, your requests seem organic. This reduces and almost eliminates the chance of getting blocked.

Conclusion

Monitoring competition helps introduce practical ways to boost your business’s success. While web scraping offers automated data extraction and provides helpful information, it follows up with a few challenges.

Optimising common HTTP headers, however, is a smart way to avoid blocks and IP detection. The more you randomise your requests, the less sceptical they become, and the easier it becomes to scrape the web. Find more info here on common HTTP headers.

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