The market is filled with web scraping solutions as well as scraper APIs. However, each of these tools has distinct capabilities. This means that to get value for money, you must select a solution that offers the greatest number of valuable features. This article focuses on the scraper API, detailing the features you should look for when you intend to procure the product.
What is a Scraper API?
A scraper API facilitates communication between a service provider’s endpoint (server) and users’ applications. This communication takes the form of API calls that contain queries listing web pages from which the server should extract data. On verifying the user credentials, the endpoint takes over, handling data collection, proxy management and rotating, parsing, and data delivery. This solution promotes convenience and savings in both time and cost. This is because you delegate the development and maintenance of the scraper to the service provider.
Features of a Scraper API
One thing is certain, especially in the tech industry: services and products vary from one provider to another. This is also seen in scraper APIs – some service providers include certain tools, features, and capabilities, while others do not. But in a domain like web scraping, where websites are increasingly implementing anti-scraping techniques, having a product that guarantees a high success rate and offers built-in anti-detection tools is an added advantage. Thus, the first step is selecting a good service provider offering a feature-rich scraper API.
So, what features should you look for when choosing a scraper API? Here is a comprehensive list:
This tool should be able to convert the largely unstructured data stored in HTML files to a structured format that is stored in JSON, a process known as data parsing. Some service providers go a step further by infusing machine learning to create adaptive parsers that can automatically detect certain data types regardless of the complexity of the web page. Adaptive parsers are commonly used in scraper APIs that extract data from online shopping websites. This is mainly because e-commerce websites are known to load data as the visitor scrolls. In addition, their web pages generally have a complex structure.
2. Alternative Delivery Options
A good scraper API should cater to your – and other users – varying needs by offering alternative routes of delivering the extracted data. For instance, it can deliver the JSON file containing the structured data directly to data analysis software or any application via the API. Alternatively, it can also send this file to a cloud storage container.
3. Large Pool of IP Addresses
Typically, scraper APIs are designed for bulk scraping, implying they can make thousands of requests. One of the ways they avoid detection or blacklisting is by having access to – and using – a large pool of IP addresses. Besides preventing IP blocks, this pool, which comprises IPs from multiple countries, enables country-specific real-time data.
4. Proxy Management and Proxy Rotation
The scraper API should have built-in proxy management capabilities that enable it to select the appropriate proxy as well as rotate the assigned proxy/IP to avoid blocking.
5. Dynamic Browser Fingerprinting
Websites are known to create personas of their visitors using unique information associated with a device. This process is known as browser fingerprinting. Creating these personas allows the sites to identify unique users and track their activity. However, it can prevent web scraping. How so? If numerous HTTP requests appear to originate from the same user, the web server may flag that user for generating unusual traffic.
Through dynamic browser fingerprinting, however, a scraper API can go undetected. It does this by creating multiple fingerprints during usage. This makes it appear as though the requests are from different unique users, which prevents CAPTCHA codes and blocks.
6. Integration with Third-Party Applications
A good scraper API supports integration with various applications; to facilitate this, service providers usually provide documentation on their websites.
7. Platform-Agnostic Capabilities
A scraper API can receive API calls from any application regardless of the device or operating system.
Uses of a Scraper API
There are four main types of scraper APIs, web scraper APIs, search engine results page (SERP) scraper APIs, e-commerce scraper APIs, and real estate scraper APIs. Given that some are more specialized than others, we will look at the uses of scraper APIs based on the type.
Web scraper APIs are used for:
- Website change monitoring
- Market research
- Academic research
- Job aggregation
- Travel fare aggregation
SERP scraper APIs are used in the following ways:
- Keyword research, which is integral to search engine optimization
- Improvement of content strategies
- Brand monitoring
- Ads data tracking
- Competitor analysis and monitoring
- Lead generation
E-commerce scraper APIs are utilized for:
- Price monitoring
- Review monitoring
- Product monitoring
- Brand monitoring
- Lead generation
Real estate scraper APIs are used for the following:
- Collecting data from real estate market reports
- Identifying new investments, e.g., homes for sale,
- Discovering rental listings and their prices
- Uncovering market trends
- Optimize prices based on industry standards
- Track geo-targeted advertisements
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