Content scrapping can have both benefits and disadvantages depending on who does it. With content, some people want to harvest where they did not sow. They target websites that have quality content and copy or scrape it. This vice is sometimes so invasive that the involved parties automate it by using bots. With the bots having a considerable presence online, the incidences of cyber-attacks related to them are bound to increase. There are legitimate bots that do good work. Their activities help the business in marketing, interacting with customers, and improving its SEO performance. To plan an excellent strategy to block web content scrapping, you must first understand how these scrappers target your content.
Bots are notorious for uncovering patterns within a website, API, or mobile application. They use this technique in extracting data from HTML markup and DOM and sending it to their owner.
They accomplish this using regular expression and the grep command from UNIX. Because the bots are fast, after they establish a pattern, they can copy the content within seconds.
Parsing the DOM
Content scraper bots can also collect your content by parsing your website’s DOM. Using this technique, the bots can get more explicit content to the detriment of your website. By parsing the content into a DOM tree, the bots can extract the content in a more structured way. There are many tools that a bot can use to retrieve such information. The effects of these methods are dire, while you can achieve them quickly and easily.
Business rivals commonly use HTML parsing. They divide your content into small patches and describe the roles syntactically. Because this method is robust and fast, an attacker can succeed for various purposes, like text and resource extraction.
Querying the XPath
XML path is a querying language that makes understanding the structure of an XML document. Because XML documents have a tree-like structure which makes their parsing easy. Various parameters are used to extract the nodes in this method. The biggest danger of this technique is that an attacker can set it to copy the whole page.
Having seen the various ways the web scraper can steal your content, you may now wonder, I want to block this from happening. How can I know that my content is being scrapped? Various ways can give you a hint if you are being scrapped.
- Using services that scan for content plagiarism
- Detecting abnormal traffic? Investigate it further for signs of a scraping attack
- Set Google alerts for your content
- A surge in callbacks from the internal links in your content
Any of the above can be an indicator of a scrapping activity. Therefore, conduct a follow-up by checking for the complete match in your content online.
Have you fallen victim to content scraping? What next?
If you are a victim of content scraping, then it means that you have valuable and quality content. So, what course of action should you take next? In most cases, measures to thwart scraping bots are undertaken.
Measures to Block Content Scraping
They talk between a Human and a computer. Captcha presents you with problems that only a human user can understand, but bots cannot. To you, as a human, these problems can look simple but challenging enough to a computer. Although this can help block content scraping, it can make you lose some valuable traffic. Captcha is annoying to deal with, especially if you are stuck without giving the correct solution. Therefore, you need to be careful when implementing them on your mobile application or website.
The other way to block content scrapping is by adding honeypots to trap the scrappers. You can have the honeypots routinely moving within a website to ensure that the intelligent web scrappers do not detect it. Because the bots scrape various content all over the webpage, they can accidentally highlight the honeypot and get trapped to revealing their identity. Honeypots are hidden fields that can be implemented by setting the display to none in CSS.
Require Login to Access the Content
Most scrapping bots use HTTP to scrape a website’s content. This is because HTTP does not store information that comes from each request, unlike many browsers. When you implement a login, the bot has to post some information. Therefore, they send packets of data every time they attempt to log in. You can then use this information to block the connections whose origin was questionable. While it doesn’t immediately block, it blocks a scraping bot whose signature has been established.
Constantly Changing the HTML Markup and DOM
As we established above, scraping bots use HTML and DOM parsing to extract the data from a website. They uncover patterns that they then used to parse into HTML and DOM trees. Therefore, regularly changing your HTML ensures the bots do not establish a pattern that they can use to scrape your content. Rotating the markup and DOM helps block content scraping.
Using a Bot Management Solution
Bot management and detection tools are the best to block content scraping. These sophisticated solutions perform real-time bot detection, identification, or analysis. They apply new technologies like machine learning to identify the bots and characterization of their behaviors. Combining these methods helps the business block content scraping from happening, eliminating the risks associated with scrappers.
Limiting the Access to Content
Web scrapers copy the content into their web pages and mark it as quality content. Therefore, ensure that you restrict the access to an article to a few paragraphs without making it fully readable. This can reduce the SEO ranking of the original site. Because the scraper doesn’t have access to everything, this blocks their attempts to scrape your content.
The other way to block content scraping is by blocking users without a valid user-agent variable. These are most likely bots.
Blocking content scraping is essential if you are to maintain that online competitiveness. With over a half of online traffic originating from bots, the likelihood of finding your content posted elsewhere is very high. Therefore, you should be on the look for various indicators of web scraping. Enlisting a good bot management solution that uses up-to-date technology like DataDome can solve block content scraping.