Part of each day, you probably connect to the Internet via your residential IP address – the one your provider assigned to your home. Millions of other Internet users connect that way. When they browse the web, their unique IP addresses reveal their identities. That’s good for target sites; they like to know who’s visiting them, especially potential customers. Sites welcome questions about product features and pricing. And, of course, the sites collect information from the IP – demographics, geographical location, favorite styles – useful in advertising campaigns.
So far, so good, unless the visitor is actually doing competitive research. Then this thirst for knowledge is not so welcome! Not that it’s illegal; in fact knowing the competition is how most businesses stay competitive. They find out what other companies are charging and price their own products in the same ballpark. They may also design new products with a view to trends showing up in their intel.
The remote site may get suspicious and block you if it thinks you are doing competitive research. After all, who wants to give away the store? One thing that arouses distrust is repeated queries for the same type of information from the same IP address. Or, an IP queries the site for a very long time – overstaying its welcome, you could say. If competitive information is your lifeblood, you need to get around the barriers.
This is where residential proxies come in. They have many use cases, but this one – overcoming blocks to competitive research – provides a good illustration of how residential proxies typically work. Let’s look for a moment at their workings. Also, what’s distinctive about them, what makes them effective?
They’re different from rotating forward proxies, which hide your IP address by substituting data-center addresses, ones that exist primarily for masking purposes. Although data-center proxies hide your IP very effectively, remote sites don’t like them, and it’s still possible for a site to recognize them as data-center proxies. And then you may be blocked. Or, seeing you as a competitor, the remote site may deliberately answer your query with false information.
Residential proxies, in contrast, reveal a legitimate IP – just not yours. “Legitimate,” here, means identifiable as a real user from a real location. It’s assumed that owners of legitimate residential IPs don’t have any reason to mask their identities. So the remote site is inclined to trust them. It receives your query, relayed through a proxy IP address, and sends a response back to that address, which then delivers it to you.
Residential Proxy Types
The IPs in a residential proxy network belong to customers who have opted at signup to lend them for proxy purposes. There are two types of residential proxy server networks.
Regular residential proxies hide your actual IP behind another residential, “static” IP. That is, the proxy address remains unchanged throughout the site visit. That’s effective for short tasks. But an unchanging proxy IP can arouse suspicion or lead to blocks by your target site or even by your search engine if:
- You repeat a search many times from the same proxy address
- You run a bot from it
- You make a large number of high-traffic queries at once.
Rotating residential proxies (sometimes called “back-connect” proxies) mask your IP with a group of substitutes. The proxy server swaps them out periodically; or it provides a fresh IP with every new query. This means you’re continually showing a different IP address to the remote site, reducing your risk of detection.
More about Use Cases
With the protection of a real and trustworthy residential proxy address, you can carry out use cases like those listed below. If the residential proxy service offers an international listing, you can run these tasks from IP addresses in many different countries.
Monitor the performance of your own products. Gather information about your customers.
Social Media Research
Scrape social media to learn about potential customers. See how often your brand is mentioned, and what the social media are saying about it.
Make sure your online ads are reaching your intended audience and not being hacked by fraudsters. See whether links are going where they should. If you’re marketing in more than one language, check the accuracy of translations.
Search Engine Optimization
Use a legitimate, SEO-compliant residential proxy to gather data without triggering restrictions or bans by search engines.
Get around regional blocks to monitor for illicit uses of your brand.
For possible recruitment, connect with people who have the skills your business needs.
Via residential proxy, run tests on your own website to analyze traffic and the way content is served.
While you’re checking out websites, they’re checking you out! Industry has ethical standards for data-gathering, but it’s always possible that your data could be sold to people who are not on the up-and-up. Privacy and security are crucial in today’s highly connected world. A residential proxy is one means of helping you preserve them.
What to Look For
If you’re thinking a residential proxy service might work well for your business, and you want the best fit, consider the following features in light of your use cases:
- A variety of legitimate residential IP addresses
- Search-engine compliance
- Rotation periods matching your project needs
- Worldwide reach
- Ability to manage social accounts like a normal user across many social media
- A user-friendly API
- Easily usable browser extensions
- User interface, messaging, and help
Recommended Residential Proxy Services
Luminati advertises “the largest pool of residential IPs known today.” It features a worldwide proxy network and support for automated scalable applications operating through residential IP proxies. Luminati’s customers include large corporations that process massive volumes of data.
Customers can specify “exit nodes,” so that their requests will appear to be from a specific geographical location. Luminati then selects an available IP address in that location, which is the only address the remote site will see.
Storm Proxies provides rotating residential proxy services as well as forward and reverse proxy services. Its residential proxies will support all of the use cases listed above. Users of the residential proxy service have their IP addresses rotated every 5 minutes.
Storm Proxies also features unlimited bandwidth and an expert, responsive customer support team.
ProxyRack has a large network of residential IPs on multiple continents. They offer both HTTP and SOCKS proxies, which can support all of the above use cases and more. Proxy IPs change on every request, or you can have a “sticky” IP address.
Oxylabs provides a global network of residential proxies, with city level targeting. Additionally, they also offer static residential IPs, which are much faster and more reliable than typical residential proxies, with the trade-off that they are less diverse.