The Most Important HTTP Headers for Web Scraping
HTTP headers are widely used during web scraping because they allow access to otherwise blocked information. Competitor websites often use all kinds of blocking mechanisms to prevent other businesses from monitoring their website activities.
There are multiple types of HTTP headers commonly used to find workarounds when extracting data from competitors. Keep reading, and we will explain how HTTP headers work, which ones are the most effective, and why they are an essential part of any web scraping operation.
What are HTTP Headers Actually?
Businesses from far and wide use all kinds of methods to monitor their competitors. However, most competitors are well aware that other businesses probably use web scrapers to see what they are doing. That’s why they set up all kinds of security features designed to block data extraction and prevent the competition from getting their hands on useful information.
Optimizing HTTP headers can help you find a way around those blocks and continue monitoring your competition without them knowing a thing. These headers drastically minimize the chances of getting blocked, and they also guarantee that the data you extract is accurate and useful. The http header referer is one of the most popular methods that can help you extract data quickly and efficiently. If you’re interested in using HTTP headers for web scraping, we suggest you read Oxylabs HTTP header referer article for more information.
What is Web Scraping
In short, web scraping, or data extraction as it’s also called, is a process of automated data collecting. It’s performed by various software solutions designed to scan thousands of websites and extract the requested information quickly. All you have to do is enter a keyword or a phrase you want to find, and the web scraping software will do everything else.
It’s a powerful method that helps organizations generate leads, research the market, monitor their competitors, compare prices, and so on. It’s mostly used by businesses looking to improve their offers and steal a part of the market from their competitors. You could manually do the same thing, but it would take weeks, if not months to complete.
It became one of the most popular monitoring competition methods in the past 10 years because it extracts structured web data that can be used to improve other websites. Companies from all over the world use this technique to improve their operations, increase customer satisfaction, and make sure that they follow the latest trends in the industry.
How They Work Together?
Since website owners use all kinds of methods to prevent competitors from extracting the information they need, businesses started using countermeasures to bypass blocks and restrictions. There are many different methods which are used for this, including:
- IP rotation
- Use of proxies
- Avoiding websites that require you to login
- Setting referrer headers
All of these methods can prove effective when it comes to extracting data, but using HTTP headers is perhaps the most effective method of all.
Every time you visit a website, you leave information about your location. If your competitors are aware of your location or IP address, they will most likely try to block you from accessing their websites. Referrer headers allow you to appear as a visitor from another authentic website, hiding your original information and allowing you to commence your web scraping activities without any issues. The referrer header will make you look like you’re arriving from a website that has a lot of inbound traffic, allowing you to slip below the radar and continue your web scraping in secrecy.
Most Important HTTP Headers for Scraping
There are multiple HTTP headers widely used by companies and business owners all over the world. Each of them is based on the same principle, but they provide somewhat different results. Here’s a quick overview of the most important HTTP headers you can use during your web scraping operations.
User-agent is an HTTP header that allows you to extract information such as what operating system is used by the competition, details about their software, and application type. You can use it to see into your competitor’s operation appearing as an organic user.
This type of HTTP header allows you to see which languages the client understands if you can’t identify it via URL. They allow you to appear as a local visitor. If you use the wrong language, you can trigger specific security measures that could block your access completely.
Sending an accept-encoding request allows saving traffic volume. You send out the information asked by the website compressed, effectively tricking the servers into thinking that you’re a single random user.
Configuring the accept header will help you tune in your request with the web server’s accepted format. With the right configuration, your web scraping software will get better access to the server, appearing as organic traffic.
The HTTP header referer provides the previous web page’s address prior to sending the request. It will make your request seem more organic by providing a fake history of websites you visited before reaching your competitor’s website. It’s an ideal method of slipping under the anti-scraping countermeasures used by many servers.
Even though web scraping is used by companies and businesses all over the planet to improve their offers and see what their competitors are doing, they also want to prevent the same thing from happening to their websites.
That’s why they use all kinds of blocking methods and anti-scraping tools to prevent competitors from monitoring their websites. HTTP headers are one of the most effective strategies you can use to find a backdoor to any website and continue with your web scraping activities without anyone knowing.