How User Agents Help with Scraping

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User agents play an important role between clients and servers. When you’re making a data request, it’s the user agent that provides the server with information about you, such as the browser you’re using and your operating system. This information helps the server to respond accordingly to each request. So whether you’re on a mobile device or desktop, you’ll receive a response that is adapted to your device and its operating system. Let’s look at ways to make user agents work to your advantage.

Get website access

User agents help you to gain access to websites. Generally, once a server has identified you, it will respond favorably. But if your request is made without a valid browser, a red flag is raised about the source of the request, and the website may immediately block you.

Set a real user agent

Anti-scraping techniques are becoming increasingly sophisticated, making it harder for your web scraping software to avoid blocks. Most servers that host websites can analyze user agents to determine their authenticity. And suspicious ones are relatively easy to detect because real user agents come with certain configurations when forwarded by human users. This means that when setting your user agents, you need to customize them to look like the real thing.

User Agent rotation

As with IP addresses, so rotation of your user agents can be helpful during the web scraping process. If you make repeated requests from the same IP address to access websites, the activity becomes suspicious and the IP address will often be blocked. Since user agent techniques are somewhat similar, it’s important to keep a list of user agents that you can frequently rotate, to help keep your scraping under the radar.

Use popular user agents

Having a user agent is the key to gaining access to websites, but not just any random user agent will do. To avoid the blacklist, make sure you’re using popular, up to date user agents, the kind that anti-scraping techniques aren’t looking to block. Frequently update your list of user agents as well.

Improve your efficiency

Web scraping can be an invaluable tool for your market research. It simplifies and  speeds up the process of gathering large amounts of up-to-date information. You need to utilize the best techniques to scrape efficiently. Using a good rotating proxy server with a user agent will keep you from being blacklisted. Scraping and analyzing data can help grow your business by developing good business strategies to keep up with your competition.    

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