Data-driven decision-making is vital today for staying ahead of the market and keeping a business streamlined. Platforms for enterprise resource management, and customer relationship management, help businesses to monitor and analyze data in real-time.
Data analytics helps business owners to improve digital marketing campaigns, increase ROI, retain customers, and identify leads more effectively. Gathering data today though now longer, means putting together an Excel spreadsheet. Data can be extracted from all sources, within an enterprise and across the internet.
One popular method for extracting many kinds of helpful competitor data is through web scraping.
What is web scraping?
Web scraping can be used in many ways, and it can help with the importance of data analytics, especially consumer analysis. Web scraping is a method whereby a tool or an individual extracts data from a chosen website.
Manual extracting is possible, but due to the time-consuming nature of the work, it is generally carried out by automated tools.
There are several different types of scraping activities, and their goals are somewhat different though they all involve extracting some kind of information.
- Content scraping
- Contact scraping
- Price comparison
- Website change direction
- Weather data monitoring
The primary type of web scraping involves content extraction. This can mean wholesale copying of content to be directly imported into another website. Around 38% of companies involved in this type of data extraction use content scraping.
The next biggest use of web scrapers is to gather contact details. This type of data aggregation can be extremely valuable for businesses looking for leads and building databases of contact information. Around 19% of web scrapers look for contact details.
Is web scraping illegal?
Despite the possibility of using data in an unethical manner, web scraping is largely legal, as long as certain boundaries are not overstepped. In April this year, the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reaffirmed that web scraping is legal.
However, web scraping costs companies millions of dollars, and it is estimated that 2% of online revenue is lost due to web scraping.
To keep web scraping legal and ethical, it must be limited to publicly available data. Such data involving finances, intellectual property, or anything confidential should never be scraped.
While regular web scraping activities are not illegal, you will find many websites are adept at blocking bots, so other tools are needed such as proxies or VPNs.
Why are clean proxy IPs needed for web scraping?
You could use a VPN technically for web scraping, but many websites recognize their use and their IP addresses. Even shared proxies might be seen as inferior to some other types when it comes to web scraping.
One of the better ways to obtain a clean IP for scraping data is to use residential proxies. These proxies will hide your real IP address and make it appear that the person accessing the website is a real user in whichever area they choose.
Residential proxies are genuine IPs provided by ISPs in various countries, and cities. Even a bot can appear to be a human being accessing the net from a residential ISP which makes it harder for websites to spot scraping activity.
Proxies route the data through an intermediary server which hides the real IP, and which ISP is used for the device in question.
Why should you use residential proxies for web scraping?
Residential proxies are a step up from their data center counterparts as they are far harder to spot. For all intents and purposes, anyone hiding behind a residential proxy will appear to be a person surfing the net from their home. However, in reality, the user who appears to be based in a house in Rome could really be a bot operating from an office in California.
There are a number of advantages to using residential proxies while web scraping:
- They are anonymous
- Rotating IPs
- Static IPs
- They are compatible with scraping tools
- Access geo-blocked content
This is the main reason that anyone uses a proxy. VPNs and proxies allow people to surf online anonymously, and add security and privacy to any activity. It is recommended that even home users install a VPN to increase their online safety.
With web scraping, a clean IP through a proxy is essential. If a website recognizes an IP associated with scraping, it will be blocked. In some instances, blanket bans of IPs can occur, so residential proxies have an advantage over other services.
Rotating and static IPs
Being able to request new IPs and have them rotate means that you can go undetected while scraping data. It may be that concurrent connections can be used to reduce scraping time, and help to collect data faster.
Static IPs also have their benefits, especially when you want to continue using one IP for general use.
Residential proxy providers understand that many of their users will be involved in scraping data. Therefore, there is support available for the popular scraping tools and bots on the market.
Businesses use residential proxies to check on their ad campaigns. Ad verification is an important part of assessing how successful a campaign is, and whether there is a positive ROI.
Proxies can help to access websites and content that is geo-restricted. This helps with ad verification, and also with web scraping hard-to-get data.
Residential proxies are not the cheapest option. However, they tend to have good support behind them, and they are extremely reliable. They are genuine residential IPs provided by internet service providers, so they are clean and safe to use.
What happens if you scrape data illegally?
Content scraping is an easy way to provide relevant articles for a website, but this technique is frowned upon by Google. Black-hat methods of improving SEO tend to only bring short-term benefits before a website starts to tank on the search results.
Scraping confidential data could bring about far more serious implications than just being penalized on Google. Meta has announced that they are suing a US subsidiary of a Chinese tech business for offering scraping services specifically for Facebook and Instagram.
Stealing confidential data from a network, website, or computer could lead to prosecution under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This can end with imprisonment and a fine.
Sticking to web scraping that only extracts publicly available data can avoid any risk of prosecution. Much of the data needed to improve customer analysis and research is easily found on websites and can be scraped without detection through a clean IP.
The risk of legal ramifications only occurs when someone decides to delve too deeply into the intellectual property or sensitive and private information.
Clean IPs are necessary for accessing geo-restricted content and scraping useful data to avoid detection and bans. Many VPNs are simply known to websites and aren’t practical for widespread scraping activity. Proxies cannot always provide the service needed either when CAPTCHAs and other security devices are in place.
However, residential proxies provide genuine, clean IPs that businesses and scrapers can utilize to collect data, and then present it in a readable form. This helps with brand awareness, marketing research and analysis, lead identification, and improved SEO.