Web Scraping Basics: Setting HTTP Headers

Do you know what web scraping is? Why are they important and how can they benefit your business? Find out more here.

What is Web Scraping?

Web scraping, also referred to as web data extraction or web harvesting, is the method of acquiring data and content from websites with minimal effort. Unlike manually extracting data, this strategy of extracting data uses intelligent automation to get huge amounts of data.

The data extracted is then saved to a database in spreadsheet format or to a local file in your computer. Web scraping functions in two parts; the web crawler and the web scraper. 

The web crawler is basically an artificial intelligence whose work is to browse the internet and search for content. It does this by exploring and following links. On the other hand, the web scraper is a tool that is designed to extract data from a web page quickly and accurately. Building a web scraper requires some technical knowledge, however you can find in-depth tutorials on Python web scraping and try it yourself.

Types of Information Collected

Generally, any type of public information can be collected through the data scraping process. You simply need to tell the code what to look for. However, the most popular types of information gathered through data scraping process include texts, product and descriptions, personal customer information, pictures, videos, and audios.

Web scraping has a wide application in various industries. Some of the common areas where web scraping is often applied include:

  • eCommerce
  • Marketing
  • Sales leads
  • Social media
  • Finance
  • Banking
  • SEO
  • Real estate

How Businesses Benefit from This?

There are several ways that businesses can benefit from data scraping. They include:

1.Lead Generation

One way to grow your business and acquire more sales is to get more leads. While you may opt for lead generation tools, they are quite expensive and less accurate. Luckily, web scraping can help you extract crucial information from your target audience in no time. 

You simply need to find the relevant websites on your niche, and you will have the lead’s contact information at hand. This way, you can send them campaigns and newsletter regarding your business.

2.Competitor Monitoring

Startups and retail businesses can have a hard time surviving in a highly competitive market. That is why you need to keep track of your competitors and determine any changes they have made. 

A web scraper can help you extract the relevant data that will give you valuable insight regarding your direct and indirect competition. This data will also help you know of any changes in the competitor’s prices so you can make the right pricing decisions. Once you are updated with the market trends, you will be in a better position to make your products and prices competitive. 

3.Understanding Your Customer

Other than tracking your competitor, web scraping can also help you understand your customers better. Web scraping can be used to scrap prices, demands, product reviews, customer behavior and trends. It ensures that you are updated with customer needs and demands to know how to make improvements to your products and services. 

4.Price Optimization

To get more profit, businesses need to know how best to price their products and services. However, most small businesses find it challenging to raise prices without losing potential customers. 

This is where web scraping comes in handy because it helps businesses create a dynamic pricing strategy. It helps business owners scrap customer information and keep tabs on the market price changes. With this information, business owners will know how best to adjust their prices accordingly. 

Why are HTTP Essential for a Smooth Web Scraping Process?

A HyperText Transfer Protocol (HTTP) header is a parameter that transmits requests from the browser to the website and back to the computer. It allows the server and the client to transmit additional information within the request or the response. 

If you are utilizing a scraping software, HTTP will give you direct access to the web. Optimizing HTTP reduces the chance for your web scraper to get blocked by various sources. Web scrapers make HTTP requests to the target website to get the content of a specific URL. When you use the right HTTP headers, the process of data extraction will be effective and successful. 

Other than reducing chances of being blocked during the scraping process, optimizing HTTP headers can also help you acquire quality data. Data quality is vital when undertaking a web scraping process and is the key element to giving your business a competitive edge. HTTP headers will help you collect quality, accurate and clean data.

Basically, there are a few HTTP headers that every business should utilize to ensure a smooth web scraping process. They include:

  • User-Agent
  • Accept-Language
  • Accept-Encoding
  • Accept
  • HTTP header referer

Conclusion

Web scraping helps to boost business growth in a myriad of ways. However, business should be consistent and employ responsible web scraping techniques to benefit from web scraping. Since this process has many obstacles, it is advisable to outsource this service or hire a web scraping professional. 

Businesses should also consider optimizing HTTP headers (e.g., HTTP header referer, User-Agent, ect.) while scraping to ensure quality data and reduce the chances of being blocked by target servers. 

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