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When it comes to data collection tools for digging information, web scraping is one of the most effective methods to identify, extract, and collect huge amounts of accurate data in a completely automated way.

Companies mostly rely on web scraping to gather vast amounts of public data to make their operations more competitive. Since you can do scraping on a much larger scale, it all comes down to what you really need.

If you want to scrape whole websites to use the gathered data by different means, one of those means should be HTTP headers. An HTTP header enables both the server and the internet user to transfer further the data within the response or request header.

What is an HTTP Header

An HTTP header is one of the primary parts of all HTTP server responses and client requests. HTTP headers allow both the internet user and the corresponding server to exchange relevant and vital data between each other.

Put simply, HTTP headers define data that could be used for many different purposes, such as web scraping, although further optimization is needed in that case. There are two primary types of HTTP headers:

  • Request headers – in charge of handling all of the parameters from the internet user who wants to establish a connection with the server via HTTP header referrers.

These are accept-language headers, x requested with, user agent request headers, host headers, and web cookies. These are also referred to as RFC822 headers, which are deemed the standard for all ARPA internet text messages.

  • Response headers – HTTP header referrers carry the web page’s address, making the initial request and directly control the amount of data that will be sent.

Response headers are the subsequent responses sent for the recipient server back to the internet user. These are the set-cookie headers, the content length, and the content type.

The role of HTTP headers

Web scrapers rely on HTTP headers to avoid IP blocks, but they can also be used by web servers for web security. If you need to secure your web apps, you can use these common HTTP headers to improve your web security:

  • Content-security-policy header – an excellent header that provides an additional layer of security and helps prevent the majority of hack attacks, including code injection attacks and Cross-Site Scripting.
  • Feature-policy header – deny or allow the use of your browser and all of its elements and content.
  • X-frame-options-header – establish protection against clickjacking attacks.
  • X-XSS-protection header – enable reflective XSS protection for Safari, Internet Explorer, and Chrome.
  • Referrer-policy header – control all referrer data sent via referrer headers by including requests.
  • X-content-type-options response header – used by the server, this header ensures that the MIME types are properly followed and not changed.

How optimizing HTTP headers helps scraping

Optimizing HTTP headers allow you to streamline communication between you and the server. The more you optimize, the more your web scraping bots can operate securely, quickly, and seamlessly. The optimization essentially helps you decrease your chances of getting your scraping bots blocked by the target server.

On the other hand, it also helps you increase the quality of data gathered from the target websites. HTTP headers directly define the quality and type of data that will be extracted from web servers, all the while avoiding security mechanisms and getting blocked or banned by target websites.

HTTP headers can also help prevent slowing down data transfer speeds by making your internet requests seem as they are coming from an organic user.

Essential HTTP headers for scraping

Here are the essential HTTP headers you should optimize for web scraping to make sure you avoid getting banned or blocked by target websites.

HTTP header referer

This type of header makes sure your scraping bots don’t get blocked by convincing the target website that a real user is visiting it. A header referer makes your scraper appear to be human.

Accept request header

Many make a common mistake by not optimizing the accept request before scraping. Optimizing this header allows you to determine the type of data you’re allowing the server to send back to the user, thus ensuring you don’t get blocked in the process.

Accept-encoding request header

This header ensures your bot gets the data much faster. It notifies the server which algorithm it should apply to allow the flow of a large amount of data back to the user.

User-agent request header

This header exchanges data on the version and type of software and the operating system to determine the type of HTML layout that it needs to return to the user. Optimizing the header will ensure that the scraper isn’t blocked, as it makes multiple requests for data by creating several strings of different browsers and devices. It makes your web scraping activities look more natural, thus reducing the chance of getting blocked.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for the best ways to make the most out of your web scraping efforts, consider combining a proper HTTP header optimization with an effective web scraping bot for maximum success.

That’s the best way to achieve significant ROI on your data collection efforts. There are many reasons why so many companies rely on web scraping to get ahead of the competition curve. The trick is to get top-quality data without getting blocked. Using HTTP headers for web scraping is an excellent way to avoid being blocked by targeted websites.

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