Why Are HTTP Headers Important In Web Scraping?

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One of the most common queries in the web scraping world is, “How to boost the quality of harvested data? Or how to scrape the web without getting banned?” 

Although VPNs and proxies are widely used to tackle web scraping efficiently and make it more seamless, HTTP headers also significantly optimize web scraping tasks. Unfortunately, not many people know about it. 

Find how common HTTP headers can help streamline web scraping tasks. 

What Is An HTTP Header?

Short for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, HTTP sends additional information during HTTP requests and responses. Besides the information sent to a browser via a site’s web server, the browser and server exchange data regarding a document through an HTTP header. 

An HTTP request includes a header with data like the requested date, language, and referrer. 

On the other hand, the HTTP response includes a header field where the server sends its data to the browser. Generally, the user cannot see this information because it remains invisible. 

HTTP headers contain fields that include a line. Each contains a name, split by a colon and closed with a line break. 

Why Do You Need To Use HTTP Headers During Web Scraping?

People typically use rotating IP addresses and proxies to avoid bans during web scraping tasks. Doing so, they often overlook HTTP headers’ role in avoiding bans.

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Not only do they ensure the collection of high-quality data, but they also reduce the chance of annoying website bans.

Therefore, many experts recommend using HTTP headers for hassle-free web scraping projects. 

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Common HTTP Headers For Web Scraping 

Little knowledge about HTTP headers might alarm you. However, a deeper dive into what they are and how you can implement them during web scraping will help.

Here are common HTTP headers for web scraping and how you can optimize them. 

HTTP Header User-Agent 

This type of HTTP header sends information related to the operating system, application type, and software. This enables the data target to determine the HTML type for the response. 

Most web servers authenticate the user-agent header to track suspicious requests. For example, when multiple requests are sent to a web server during scraping, identical user-agent request headers would signify a bot activity. 

However, pro web scrapers manipulate the user-agent header strings, portraying organic requests. 

This keeps websites from banning you and allows for a trouble-free scraping process. However, ensure to change the information of the user-agent request header to limit the odds of getting banned. 

HTTP Header Accept-Language 

This header sends information to the web server indicating two things. The first is the language the client comprehends, and the second is the language the web server prefers when returning the response. 

HTTP header accept-language becomes effective when web servers fail to detect the preferred language. 

It is worth noting that relevance is crucial to these headers. In other words, you must ensure that the set languages align with the user’s IP address and target domain. 

Otherwise, the requests would appear from several languages, and the site would suspect a bot-like activity. However, correctly implementing it is a win-win for the web server and the client. 

HTTP Header Accept 

The HTTP Header Accept is primarily responsible for informing the web server about the type of data format that can be sent back to the user. 

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Although it sounds relatively straightforward, a common stumbling block is forgetting to configure the header per the server’s format. 

A properly configured request header makes up for organic communication between the server and the client. As a result, it minimizes the chance of encountering website blocks.

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HTTP Header Accept-Encoding

This type of header informs the web server about the type of compression algorithm to implement when handling the request. Simply put, it notifies that the required information could be compressed while it’s forwarded from the server to the user.

When executed, it enables saving traffic volume, which is mutually beneficial to both parties: the client and the web server. Here’s how. 

The client gets the freshly compressed information, and the server avoids wasting resources by sending out massive traffic. 

HTTP Header Referrer

Although this HTTP header may seem to have a minimal role in avoiding scraping blocks, that’s not the case. 

Imagine the browsing patterns of a random internet user. The user is possibly surfing the internet all day long and losing track of time. 

Therefore, specifying a random site before the scraping session makes traffic appear more organic. 

So, instead of acting hastily, consider this simple step to keep yourself from anti-scraping measures executed by websites. This will keep the website from blocking your access. 

Conclusion

Leveraging common HTTP headers can make web scraping less stressful and more efficient. The more you know the technical side of data extraction, the more positive the outcome. So, give these headers a try and see for yourself! And, if you want to dive deeper into the topic, navigate to this website and read the blog post.

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