How to Protect Your E-commerce Site From Data Scrapers

As an ecommerce site owner, you would love the possibility of having thousands of people visiting your site each day. But, what would your reaction be if the majority of these visitors were bots and scrapers? Your competitors could be using bots and scrapers to harvest data from your site for their own nefarious purposes. Content and data that is available publicly on your site can be accessed by data scrapers as well. Data scraping could end up posing a significant threat to your online business. Read on for our tips on how to protect your ecommerce site from this threat:

1) Hide sensitive parts of your site behind a login screen:

The HTTP protocol is meant to be stateless. Clients send HTTP requests, and your server generates the page in response. In most cases the server doesn’t care whether the request originated from an actual browser or a bot. Fortunately you can hide the more sensitive parts of your website behind a login screen. If you do so, a potential data scraper will have to send identifying information with their request to view the content. If you get lots of requests coming from a particular user and you suspect that they might be involved in data scraping, you can block their user account and shut off their access completely. You can also use captchas on your login form to make automation more difficult.

2) Change your website’s markup on a regular basis:

Data scrapers find patterns in your site’s markup. They use scripts to utilize these patterns to find relevant data in your HTML pages. Data scrapers can inspect your HTML pages and corresponding CSS files to identify patterns in the “class” and “id” attributes. Change your site’s markup on a frequent basis to frustrate any data scrapers who may be using repeated patterns to extract data from your site. Consult your web designers about the frequency.

3) Use images to embed information instead of using plain text:

Most data scrapers function by extracting text from your HTML files. If your valuable data is embedded in images, PDFs, etc., then you’ve made the data scraper’s job that much more difficult. The downside is that doing so will probably slow the load time of your website and have a bad impact on your site’s SEO rankings (since search engines won’t understand your content either). You will also need more time to update your website’s content. However, if you have faced issues with data scraping in the past, then you can definitely use this option to protect your site.

Note that whatever step you take to thwart data scrapers, it may harm your average web visitor’s user experience. You need to strike a delicate balance between protecting your data and ensuring doing so doesn’t drive potential customers away. Use some of the tactics mentioned above to strike the correct balance to protect your ecommerce site.

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