HTTP headers enable both for the client and server to transfer further information within the request or response header.
As you might be aware, web scraping or web data collection is a thriving method to gather a vast amount of publicly available intelligence in an automated way. Simply put, the more you know, the more you grow, right? But how much do you know about web scraping process itself?
When it comes to the technical side of web scraping which evolved into the art itself, perhaps the most interesting part is that there is no correct way to set up a web scraper.
However, there are proven resources and techniques, such as the use of a proxy, practicing IP rotation (also known as rotating proxies) that will substantially increase your chances of being successful at web scraping i.e. avoid getting blocked by target servers.
Another sometimes overlooked technique is to use and optimize HTTP headers. This practice will allow to significantly decrease your web scraper’s chances of getting blocked by various data sources, and also ensure that the retrieved data is of high quality.
Hence, in this article, we discuss what are HTTP headers, and elaborate on their purpose. What’s more, we will discuss why using and optimizing HTTP headers are essential when web scraping. Let’s begin.
What’s the purpose of HTTP headers?
HTTP headers purpose is to enable both for the client and server to transfer further details within the request or response.
However, let’s take a step back and dig a little bit deeper to understand what are HTTP headers and their primary purpose.
HTTP stands for HyperText Transfer Protocol, which on the internet manages how communication is structured and transferred, and how web servers (think websites) and browsers (e.g. Chrome, Internet Explorer) should respond to different requests.
What are the different types of HTTP headers?
Request header is sent by the client i.e. internet browser in an HTTP transaction.
Response headers is sent by a web server in HTTP transaction responses.
Why use and optimize HTTP headers?
- Decrease web scraper’s chances of getting blocked by the target server
- Increase the quality of data retrieved from the target server
Simply put, the use of HTTP headers will have a direct impact on what type of data will be retrieved back from web servers, and define its quality.
What’s more, if you will use the HTTP headers accordingly, it will allow you to substantially reduce the chances of getting blocked by web servers.
As mentioned before, HTTP headers carry additional information to web servers, and by optimizing the content of this message, it is possible to make the internet requests seem as it is coming from an organic user. Such traffic to web servers is highly unlikely to be blocked.
It’s a wrap
Hopefully, by now you have a decent idea of what are HTTP headers, their purpose, and how they come into play in the web scraping world.
Of course, it’s only the tip of an iceberg and there are quite a few HTTP headers that need to be taken into account when web scraping. Recently we covered 5 essential HTTP headers that every web scraper must use and optimize. Give it a read, and happy scraping!
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