Data gathering to keep a competitive advantage over other businesses will drive additional profit growth, especially in the e-commerce industry. Unfortunately, sending too many requests can get you blocked or permanently banned, which inevitably leads to often halts in your web scraping operation. However, there is a way to stay block-free during scraping procedures, but let's first answer, why sites block bots in the first place.
Bots send significantly more requests per second than the average user and can put a lot of strain on servers that host the website. Such activity can prompt the site to crash.
Such a crash would mean significant revenue loss for any e-commerce company. Even small delays can cost potential clients, hence, money. Therefore, many e-comm sites use anti-scraping technologies to avoid possible site shutdowns that bots can cause.
By using anti-scraping technologies, e-commerce websites can recognize bot-like behaviors. Technologies like CAPTCHA and reCAPTCHA are the most popular anti-bot technologies. reCAPTCHA version 3 has been recently released as well with higher efficiency at detecting bots.
So what are the best practices on getting around potential e-commerce site blocks?
To some extent, large e-commerce websites allow web scraping. To stay on the safe side, first, check their official Crawling Policy. Then, view the target website's robots.txt file. Within the robots.txt file, you will find how often you can scrape a site and what you are allowed to scrape.
With real user agents, you will be able to avoid blocks much easier. Such agents contain familiar HTTP request configurations, submitted by real human visitors. We also recommend rotating user agents by developing a broad set of viable choices. Not rotated user agents can be discovered much easier as they will seem too similar and might temporarily block a specific set of user agents.
Scraping almost always involves proxies, so when you begin making a decision, make sure to choose a reliable proxy provider. For easier decision-making, see if the provider has a large proxy pool, strong IT infrastructure, good encryption technologies, and has a consistent bandwidth and up-time, as downtime will cause delays.
What a proxy rotator does is it takes your IPs from your proxy pool and assigns them to your machine at random. This is one of the best methods to avoid blocks by sites and allows you to send hundreds of requests from random IPs and geo-locations.
Your scraping speed and crawling patterns are easily detectable by e-commerce websites. By patterns, we mean your crawlers configured behavior, such as clicks, mouse movements, scrolls, etc. This can increase the risk of getting blocked by websites.
It would be best if you aimed to make these movements not as predictable, but not too unpredictable as well. As an example, you can slow down your scraper speed, add random breaks between requests. Try to create these patterns with a real user in mind - how would a real person behave on a web page?
Getting blocked is a major issue. However, not the only one. When scraping large e-commerce sites, you might encounter other challenges that can disrupt and halt data-gathering projects.
E-commerce website layouts are constantly changing to improve user experience, and crawlers simply cannot adjust automatically to these changes. This often forces the scraper to crash or return an incomplete data set. Both are fatal to your scraping operation.
Scraping, on a large scale, means handling a lot of data. Consequently, storage capacity can become an issue. There are two problems related to storage capacity: it can be insufficient to store collected data, or the data infrastructure can be poorly designed, making exporting too inefficient.
Data integrity can be easily compromised during large scale operations. You will need to set clear data quality guidelines with a reliable data validation system to keep readable data structures.
E-commerce websites have credible reasons for blocking crawlers and scrapers. Luckily, there are many ways to get around web page blocks in safe and efficient ways. Make sure you abide by their scraping policies to increase your chances of block-free data gathering and stay aware that blocked IPs are not the only problem you might encounter.