Business Transformation

How to Block Web Scraping Tools

Competition is an unavoidable trend in the business world today. Brands that are in the same domain engage in competitive operations with the intention of having a larger market share. For brands to increase their competitive advantage, they have to learn about one another. That’s where web scraping comes in handy. With web scraping tools, businesses are able to learn more about their competitors. However, if you want to block your competitors from scraping your website, there are strategies you can use.

What is Web Scraping?

The first step to blocking web scraping tools is understanding what web scraping is and how it works. According to a 2018 article by the New York Times, web scraping is the action of collecting information from other websites. Some of the data that web scraping seeks to extract include: prices and customer discounts. The company that does web scraping has the intention of learning from other companies in order to improve how they operate and reach out to a wider audience. Fundamentally, the ultimate reason for the use of web scraping tools is to eliminate competition.

Since brands understand that web scraping is something that happens in today’s technological age, they try to block any advances by their competitors to learn about their operations. The following are ways through which you can use to block web scraping tools:

Keep on Changing the HTML of your Site on a Regular Basis

One of the ways through which you can use to block web scraping tools is by regularly changing the HTML of your site. Web scrapers use your site’s HTML pattern to devise ways of extracting information from your site. Therefore, as a way of making it difficult for them to access information from your site, you should maintain the habit of changing your website’s HTML regularly. The idea here is to frustrate the efforts of the scrapers. Since the HTML markup of your site isn’t predictable, they will not be in a position to get the data they are looking for. The advantage with this strategy is that you don’t have to completely change the design of your site. All you need is to change the HTML’s class and id and you’ll be good to go. This will be enough to discourage scrappers from your site.

Set Up Logins for Access

If you require login details to access your site, you won’t make it easy for scrappers to collect information. If a scrapper doesn’t need to provide identification information, it is easy for them to enter into your website’s system and extract the data they need to learn about your company. However, if your website requires login details, scrappers will have to provide identification for each request they make for them to interact with your content. With the setup of logins for access, you’ll be able to know who is scraping your website. It’s easier to block web scraping from a source you know compared to one that you don’t know about. It’s worth noting that you won’t be able to stop web scraping through this strategy but, at least, you’ll be in a better position to know the scrapers trying to collect data from your site.

Limiting the Rate of Scraping

It is important to keep on monitoring your site’s traffic. In the event you notice that there are many requests coming from a particular IP address. This is enough to raise an alarm. There is a high likelihood that web scraping is taking place. One of the ways through which websites use to block web scraping is blocking requests originating from computers that are making too many requests within a short time. If you notice that too many requests are originating from a single IP address, you should take action immediately. However, it’s imperative to take note that there are legitimate requests that can come from the same IP address. For example, proxy services and corporate networks can design their outbound traffic to come from one machine. Therefore, the best way to go about this is to limit the requests that come from suspicious IP addresses. Imposing a limit means that once a user reaches the maximum number of requests, further requests don’t go through.

Blocking Web Scraping

There are websites that are fine with some regulation of website scraping. However, there are those who believe that they have to do away with web scraping completely. In order to block web scraping entirely, website owners use specific tools and techniques to detect and block attempts to collect data from their websites. Some of the techniques they use to achieve this include: blocking IP ranges, analytics technology, CAPTCHAs, and user agent. By blocking an entire IP range, it shuts down the capacity of web scraping.

The Creation of Honey Pot Pages

The use of honey pot pages comes in handy when in need of separating between human visitors and robots. Essentially, honey pots are web pages that human visitors are not able to visit but robots can. Honey pot pages are designed to take the shape of the pages that human visitors visit with the intention of catching bots sent to gain illegal access. Through this it’s possible to know the traffic that’s legitimate from the one that’s not legitimate. Once you notice traffic that’s on the honey pot pages, you’ll be able to take note of it and prevent it from gaining access to the parts of your website that you would like to protect against web scraping.

Undoubtedly, web scraping is a practice that can have negative effects on your business, especially if you’re in a highly competitive market environment. As a website owner, you want to ensure that you safeguard your information in the best way possible. Therefore, you should be aware of the tactics that web scrapers use to gain access to your website and extract valuable information aimed at learning more about your company. Learning effective ways to block web scraping tools will make you remain relevant and competitive in your domain.

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Sophie Ireland
SVP for News and Editorial Director. As CEOWORLD magazine's senior vice president for news and editorial director, Sophie Ireland oversees CEOWORLD magazine's journalism and journalists around the world and across platforms. She leads an award-winning team of journalists and newsroom executives who are committed to excellence, innovation and the highest quality reporting and storytelling. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or connect on LinkedIn. Email her at