If you are reading this article then it is reasonable to assume that you have an interest in proxies, web scraping, or both. Or perhaps you are just curious to find out more.
As someone concerned with web scraping and data aggregation, you will be aware of the need for a solid, reliable proxy to carry out this task. Global businesses don’t like their websites being scraped, and they put into place procedures to spot when this activity is taking place.
Typically, websites get around scrapers by identifying blacklisted IPs or particular VPN providers. Sometimes, whole subnetworks of servers may be blacklisted by a website. This means anyone using an IP from that proxy service will not be able to access that particular site.
Security online is utterly critical, and online fraud is on the rise. In 2021, it was estimated that 42.3% of internet traffic wasn’t human. Bad bots and automated software with malicious intent accounted for 27.7% of all web traffic.
Because of the rise in online crime, many more innocent automated software tasks can be identified as bots and banned. For this reason, web scrapers need proxies that are difficult to detect.
What exactly are Residential Proxies?
Proxies generally come in a few forms for home users and businesses to utilize. The cost and effectiveness of these proxies differ between the types available.
The oldest and most commonly used is data center proxies. These are shared proxy servers. Then there are mobile and residential proxies.
All the different types of proxy available are designed to replace your IP address by funneling your internet access through another server. Proxies are often known as intermediaries or gateways, or simply tunnels.
A provider such as ProxyEmpire will be able to offer millions of different residential proxies that connect to authentic ISPs around the world. This means that your IP is replaced with a real-world IP address linked to a genuine device and internet service provider.
Your data is sent through a gateway to any website you access, where you will appear to be a regular residential internet user. No matter where you are in the world.
Why use a proxy to access the internet?
The first reason for using a proxy is the one mentioned above, to switch your IP for another. Why you would want to do this can be for a variety of reasons. You might be blocked from a website that you would like to access. For instance, perhaps your Instagram account is blocked, or you live in a country where social media restrictions are in place.
A business user might wish to hide their IP address so they can mine data, and scrape other websites for useful information and content. Proxies can help mask this activity, and in the case of residential proxies, add certain practical advantages.
Datacenter proxies are less useful these days to businesses who mine data, as many of them are flagged and known to the bigger website operators. But residential proxies are harder to detect, as are mobile proxies.
Aside from web scraping, proxies also help to protect data from scrutiny or attack. Your activities online will be impossible to trace back to your real IP, meaning that this cannot be compromised. Protecting your internet access is vital for security for global businesses and individuals. The protocols used by the best proxy providers include HTTPS, SOCKS4, and SOCKS5. These help to keep all your data safe, even while you are mining from other sites.
Why do you need to use a proxy for web scraping?
Some people use VPNs for web scraping, but this doesn’t offer the same reliability as the best proxies. Though as already mentioned, some data center proxies are not advisable for data mining either.
In theory, a proxy will mask your IP, and allow you to scrape data without detection. If you continue to use the same IP eventually you will be blacklisted. If you use an IP previously connected to suspicious behavior, you will be flagged, and banned.
So, it isn’t just important to have the proxy to mask your IP, it is also crucial to use a service that provides clean IPs. Rotating residential proxies provide a seemingly endless stream of genuine IP addresses linked to internet service providers around the globe. This makes it almost impossible for even the biggest ecommerce sites to detect what is happening, and the risk of blacklisting these IP addresses is too great.
Residential proxies are too risky to blacklist
There are over 110 million residential IP addresses in the US alone, and over 4 billion around the world. Ecommerce businesses daren’t block these addresses unless they are certain the owners are mining data. In the tough financial trading world left by Covid, blacklisting potentially genuine customers is too risky.
This is what makes mobile proxies attractive to web scrapers too though residential proxies tend to be more cost-effective. A web scraper could run 1,000 connections currently through a choice of 3 million residential proxies worldwide, while never being throttled. With rotating IPs, detection is of little concern too.
Mobile proxies allow different benefits for scrapers as they can help to collect data that is only supposed to be relevant to mobile connections. A mobile proxy can be used on a PC to make it look as if the device is connected to a mobile network provider.
What happens if you don’t use a residential proxy for web scraping?
If you choose not to use a residential proxy for web scraping then you will likely find that you get blacklisted often. Data mining can be time-consuming, and costly. The way to make it efficient and useful as a business tool is by using a secure, reliable connection, combined with automation tools.
Those tools that help to scrape websites can be detected. A residential IP address, or many, is needed to keep your scraping activity hidden. Once you have collected your data, you will be free to analyze it, and use it for whatever business purpose you have in mind.
If you don’t use a residential proxy you could still benefit from using a mobile version instead. But your other options are limited, and success with VPNs or data center proxies is unlikely to last.
How do you choose a good residential proxy for web scraping?
There should be several criteria when choosing a residential proxy for your scraping needs.
The number of residential proxies available is a major consideration. You should be looking for a service that can provide millions of IP addresses in all parts of the world. Here are a few other factors to consider when signing up for a residential proxy.
- Server/ISP locations around the world
- Security protocols
- Free trial or money-back guarantee
- Number of active users
- Time operating
- Customer support and availability
- Dashboard controls
- Speed of connections
- Ethics and reputation
Money back guarantee
Typically, proxy services don’t offer free trials. But, you may be able to find one with a money-back guarantee. Although this shouldn’t be taken as an indicator that you have found the right residential proxy, it is a good sign that the provider believes in their service.
Speed, size, and regions
Speed, IP pool size, and a number of locations are serious factors to take into account. You don’t want to be limited by a small pool of rotated IPs, and your connections should be fast, and able to link to the regions you require.
Customer support and reputation
Does web scraping still hold value for businesses?
There has been evidence of a downturn in searches for web scraping, but this doesn’t seem to be making any difference to the number of businesses still collecting data this way.
If you want to take your online retail business to another level, web scraping can help. It is a cost-effective method for collecting important ecommerce data related to consumer preferences and the competition.
Contact and pricing information can be collected through scraping. This can result in possible new clients and customers being identified, and your business becomes more competitive. Digital marketing strategies are often borne out of the data collected through scraping also.
Do global businesses indulge in web scraping?
Huge global businesses would love to end the practice of scraping, as long as it didn’t affect them. There are obviously some ethical concerns with web scraping, but it isn’t illegal, and many businesses are doing it.
Earlier this year there was a court case between LinkedIn and HiQ where the former tried to stop the latter from scraping their data. The court ruled that web scraping in this instance was legal, as all the data taken was available to the public.
While big companies are trying to stop others from scraping their data, they are likely doing the exact same thing to their competitors. They may well be using rotating residential proxies while doing so too, to remain undetected.
Proxies are easily available as a free service and as paid-for versions today. Generally speaking, the paid-for proxies are more reliable, and safer to use.
When it comes to web scraping, a free proxy shouldn’t be considered, and indeed, only residential or mobile versions should really be used. A residential proxy is probably the best way to access websites for data scraping today.
Using a residential proxy will provide you with a choice of clean rotating IPs that will be extremely difficult to detect, even by the biggest website operators.