The Most Common User Agents for Scraping
Web scraping has become a crucial component of modern business strategies development. By scraping online resources for data, companies can gather valuable information with ease, analyze it, and improve their operations. The process itself is simple. However, many websites and services continuously develop ways to prevent it. When a website detects your web scraper, it blocks you from accessing the data you're interested in.
That doesn't have to be the end of it. There are ways to deal with this issue and continue your data gathering activities. The key to staying under the radar, among other things, is user agents. We'll explain what they are and what role they play in web scraping operations.
What Is a User Agent and What Does It Do?
Every time you access a website through a browser, you provide it with information about the device you use. This information contains your IP address, location, your operating system version, and the information on the browser. This data helps websites tailor their content and ensure it displays correctly on your device.
Sending this information every time you connect to a website would be highly inefficient. That's where user agents come into play. The user agent takes care of all this information, so there's no need for your device to specify it whenever you access a new destination on the web. The easiest way to find your user agent is by checking a website's HTTP header or visiting a website that tells you what it looks like.
The Role of User Agents in Web Scraping
From businesses researching new potential markets to individuals looking for cheaper plane tickets, web scraping is a crucial part of the modern online landscape. Getting banned from accessing a specific website is the biggest issue in web scraping, and this often happens because the user doesn't think about changing their user agents along with their IP address.
Let's say a website receives a large number of identical requests from your web scraping tool. As soon as this activity is spotted, you'll get blocked from accessing the website. The easiest way to deal with this is by changing your user agent. However, your requests still come from the same IP address, so the website will still register your operation and issue an IP-based block.
The safest way to ensure your data gathering efforts run smoothly is to change both your user agent and IP address regularly.
Top web harvesting tools can take care of user agents automatically. Most of them allow you to pick the user agents you want to use when you create browser profiles. If you're developing your own scraping setup, you can easily find the most popular user agents at the moment and rotate them with a script.
In terms of IP addresses, a reputable provider of ethically sourced authentic residential proxy servers is by far your best bet. We have our own pool of IPs from real devices with real ISP internet connections worldwide. There's no way to distinguish them from other regular visitors, so you can rest assured that your web crawling will be bulletproof.
How to Utilize User Agents for Effective Web Scraping
As we already mentioned, using the same user agent with every request will quickly get you flagged for suspicious activity. User agents are essential for preventing this scenario. Here are a few tips to ensure you use them effectively.
- Stick to the most popular user agents
Certain websites automatically block user agents that simulate web browsers that have been "dead" for ages (like Internet Explorer, for example). Sticking with popular user agents will stop websites from flagging your requests as bot activity, and you'll be able to extract the data you're after more efficiently.
- Switch up your user agents often
Never use a single agent for too long. Switching between different user agents for every request you send to a website will significantly lower your chances of getting detected and blocked.
- Keep your user agents updated
All modern browsers update regularly, so you should keep track of these changes to avoid all potential issues. Using outdated user agents, even if they're from popular internet browsers, will certainly raise an eyebrow or two and get you blocked sooner or later. Keep your agents fresh, and you'll have nothing to worry about.
No matter how you look at it, web scraping is here to stay. From market research, SEO, and statistics to price aggregation and comparison shopping, automated online data gathering is more widespread than many people think. Along with reliable proxy servers, user agents play a critical role in successful web scraping, and using them properly ensures your data gathering operations work without issues.