Proxies are these intermediary servers that serve as a link between users and the Internet. They are mainly used to boost security and anonymity in a world that is becoming increasingly unsafe. But this is not all that proxies are known for; they are also famous for facilitating and making processes like web scraping easy, quick, and more automated. Web scraping is the process used in gathering an enormous amount of data from several data sources, including ecommerce marketplaces, competitors’ websites, and social media.
The goal is often to use this data to make better decisions that kick-start a brand. Making web scraping automated is becoming increasingly important and for good reasons too. Manually collecting data is tedious and can often result in highly flawed information that cannot be put into any meaningful application.
Automated data collection and how it is becoming increasingly important
Computerized data collection uses proxies and scraper tools to interact with data sources and retrieve data from them repeatedly. The process generally combines artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to learn and adapt while collecting data. This helps automated web scraping to occur with minimal or no human interference.
And it is becoming increasingly important because it takes away the struggle associated with manual data collection. It also helps to get more accurate and relevant data with minimal errors. Some of the reasons why this automated process is becoming more popular include:
1. It helps to save time
For businesses to gather enough data to create meaningful insights, there is the need to harvest a large expanse of data from several sources at once. Done manually; this can take days or weeks to complete. Automated web scraping allows the process to occur within a few minutes or hours, thereby saving valuable time redirected into other business areas.
2. It produces fewer errors
Data is necessary, but only if it is accurate and clean. Manual web scraping is notorious for taking too long and producing data with many errors. Automated data collection has provided an option to use AI and Machine Learning to harvest data that understand patterns better and end up with little or no errors.
3. It increases efficiency
Efficiency can be explained as accomplishing multiple tasks with very few steps, and automated data extraction brings this to the table. It is now possible for brands to do much with minimal effort as the process simplifies complex tasks.
4. It saves cost
Some of the things that cost extra during manual data collection include training, additional labor, maintenance of software, and regular updates. However, these become less of a problem with automated software as they do not need human efforts and can do with very little maintenance or no system updates. Web scraping software can also find more efficient ways of storing the extracted data. All these can save a brand tremendous cost.
Challenges of web scraping
Web scraping can then be viewed as an essential operation necessary for the growth and progress of a brand in today’s digital world. However, it is laced with multiple challenges, with some of the most common described below:
1. Frequent changes in the website and structures
No website remains the same for a very long time. This is part of them evolving to keep up with advancements in technologies. However, it also means you cannot use the same scraping techniques to scrape websites when they change. Changes in structures of a website demand regular changes in a brand web scraping strategies, which can get quickly overwhelming, especially for smaller enterprises.
2. Bot blocking
The bulk of web scraping involves using a bot to interact with and extract data from servers. But in most cases, servers don’t take kindly to seeing scraping bots interacting with their content. To solve this, they often implement measures that detect and block bots. If the implementation is done right, a proxy or a combination of proxies can support this as a strategy.
3. CAPTCHA technology
Every internet user has their stories on how they have had to deal with CAPTCHAs at one time or the other. CAPTCHAs are put in place to determine human users from bots, and since most web scraping occurs through bots, it is often common to encounter CAPTCHAs during data extraction. It is a widespread occurrence for scraping bots to fail CAPTCHAs and get banned from accessing the intended content.
This particular challenge only affects people from specific geographical regions, but it is a worldwide phenomenon and can stop web scraping in the tracks for most businesses. Geo-restrictions observe users’ internet protocol (IP) addresses to see if they originate from forbidden locations, then block those IPs if they do. This stops people from those forbidden locations from running successful web scraping.
5 Use cases of proxies
Several proxies like a SOCKS5 proxy can help mitigate the problems highlighted above. Aside from that, they are also crucial for several use cases in businesses, including the following:
1. Market research
Market research is the process of gathering different information about a new or existing market. The aim is often to make new products for the existing market or develop a strategy to penetrate a new market. Using proxies, a brand can gain access to any market globally and gather the amount of data they need quickly and seamlessly.
2. Ad verification
Ad verification is the process of monitoring an ad campaign to ensure correct placement and performance. Without ad verification, it becomes easy for your ad to be displayed in the wrong places or formats and to the wrong audience. Ignoring ad verification can also make it easy for online scammers to steal and hijack your campaign, using it to commit numerous ad frauds. A SOCKS5 proxy, for instance, can be used to monitor your ad campaign without being seen online discreetly. You can protect your ad and protect yourself at the same time. Click here for more info.
3. SEO monitoring
SEO or search engine optimization is the general process used to develop the right content, increase the website’s visibility, and increase traffic flow. It involves collecting relevant, high-quality keywords and monitoring the competition to see what strategies are working for them. Both steps can be easily done using proxies. Collecting keywords from search engines can be done repeatedly with proxies, and monitoring your competition is easy if you have a proxy.
4. Brand protection
Brand protection generally involves observing a brand across different spaces on the Internet. It entails watching where a brand is being mentioned and attending to the mentions appropriately. If there are negative comments and feedback, brand monitoring helps you know early and address them immediately. You can use proxies to do this without restrictions or limitations. You can also do it quickly and automatically with proxies to never lag.
5. Lead generation
Generating leads is how brands continue to have a steady supply of customers to sell their products and services. Leads are generated from social media, discussion platforms, or by collecting data from e-commerce servers. And all these can be easily achieved using a proper proxy.
Your business does not need to suffer. You can employ proxies at every turn to make all activities easy and fast from start to finish. Also, using proxies makes running a business more manageable, but it also protects you while on the Internet.
YouTube: How do proxies work? Proxy vs. Reverse Proxy (Hussein Nasser)
Photo credit: The feature image has been done by Seventyfour. The photo showing network engineers in a data center has been taken by Wavebreak Media. The picture of the female thinker in front of a startup graphic has been prepared by Peshkova.