You’ve likely used Craigslist a time or two. Maybe you bought some used golf clubs on the site or finally unloaded your extremely used truck. Craigslist is more than just a site for buying and selling, though. It’s also full of information that you can access with the help of a Craigslist proxy and scraper.
First, let’s go over some reasons to scrape data from Craigslist. Then, let’s look at the tools you need to make it happen.
Why People Scrape Craigslist
People use a Craigslist proxy to scrape the site for a variety of reasons. Some are personal, while others are professional.
Get Data You Need for a Personal Decision
Let’s face it. Craigslist is full of listings, and going through them all is time-consuming. It’s even worse when you consider that sometimes people put the listings in the wrong category. You can spend hours and hours just trying to hunt down an apartment or find the perfect vehicle.
That’s true if you use the normal method, but you can speed things up quite a bit by scraping data.
You can set the parameters to scrape data for certain keywords or in certain categories. Then, the scraper will compile it all for you and you can look through it quickly.
For instance, if you configure your scraper to search for all golf clubs, it will compile a list of golf clubs for sale. Within minutes, you’ll find the perfect set of clubs.
If time is of the essence, a Craigslist proxy and scraper can help you quite a bit.
Checking prices is one of the main reasons people scrape Craigslist. If you sell items, you want to make sure you choose the right price point. If you overprice it, you’ll have a tough time selling it. At the same time, if you don’t price it high enough, you will leave money on the table.
You can configure your Craigslist scraper to scrape prices for specific products. Then, you can use that information to set your own price point. This is something you’ll likely want to do pretty regularly since prices change. After all, you likely won’t be the only one scraping Craigslist for prices.
You want people to find your products when you sell them on Craigslist — or any other site for that matter. Competitor research can help with that quite a bit. You can scrape the site to find out what keywords your competitors use in the listings. You can also look at pictures and descriptions. This will help you promote your own products.
Just remember that you should never copy from a competitor. Use the research as a guide, but make your listings your own.
Do you have something to offer people and you just need to find customers? You can scrape Craigslist to generate leads. The site has a “Wanted” section that is full of people who are looking for something. It can be everything from junk cars to games and consoles. You will even find people who are looking for debris removal and yard services. You can get some great leads in the “Wanted” section.
Find a Job
If you need a job, Craigslist can help. People use the scraper to scrape for job listings. This is much faster than clicking through one listing after the next. You’ll see all the listings at once, and then you can contact potential employers.
Available Craigslist Scrapers
You need a scraping tool to gather data from Craigslist. Craigslist’s API is set up to prevent scraping, but certain tools can get around that. Here are just a few of the countless scrapers on the market.
If you want a free Craigslist scraper, Scrapy might be the tool for you. This open-source tool works on countless websites, including Craigslist. However, since it is open-source, you have to do a little configuring to get it to work with your site of choice.
There are excellent tutorials about using Scrapy to scrape Craigslist. These tutorials will walk you through the entire process, from installing Scrapy to editing the Scrapy spider.
Instant Data Scraper
Instant Data Scraper is also a free Craigslist scraper, but it is easier to set up. It takes a few minutes to figure out to use, and then you’ll be good to go. This is a Google Chrome extension, so just add it to your browser, configure it, and let it get to work.
Visual Web Ripper
If you don’t mind paying for a scraper, you can use Visual Web Ripper. This tool can pull a wealth of data, including complete product listings. You can download a free trial, but when the 15 days are up, you’ll have to pay for it to keep using it.
A single user license is $349. You can also get a two-person license for $558. Keep in mind that you cannot upgrade after you buy a single license, so if you think someone is interested in sharing it with you, find out before you pay for it. Then the two of you can split the cost.
How to Scrape Craigslist Without Getting Blocked
You have your scraper, but you still have a problem on your hands. If you simply deploy the Craigslist scraper, you’ll get blocked. Remember, the Craigslist API is configured to prevent scraping, and the site works hard to make sure that people don’t scrape it.
If you simply deploy your scraper, the site will know what’s going on and shut your IP address down. All it takes is a certain number of requests for you to stand out.
Fortunately, there is a simple fix to this problem.
You can get a Craigslist proxy.
A Craigslist proxy server will mask your IP address and give you a new one. That means all those requests won’t come from your location. They will come from a different server that cannot be traced back to you.
That’s not all. You can get more than a single Craigslist proxy. You can get rotating proxies or even a handful of dedicated proxies. Then, the scraper you use will switch them out. That way, the requests will come from a variety of IP addresses, making it hard for Craigslist to realize you’re scraping data. If you do that, you’ll be less likely to get shut down.
You do need to choose wisely when picking a Craigslist proxy. Make sure you pick the right type of proxy to get the results you want.
Avoid Free Proxies
Free proxies sound awfully enticing. After all, it’s hard to beat “free,” right?
Actually, free proxies are a real problem when it comes to scraping Craigslist. First, they are slow. You have to share bandwidth with tons of people. Sometimes, thousands of people will be on the same Craigslist proxy server, and that means your connection will be sluggish at best. At worst, it will timeout before you can get any work done.
In addition, some are even slower than normal because they run ads. The ads allow the proxy server’s owner to make money. That sounds great on the surface, but ads take a long time to load and they slow the connection down even more.
In addition, you have to worry about the IP address. You will have a hard time switching IP addresses if you use a free proxy. You’ll be stuck with a single IP address, meaning all the requests will come from the same address. Because of that, Craigslist will likely shut that proxy down.
In addition, you’ll be sharing an IP address with others. If they do something on Craigslist that they shouldn’t, the proxy will get banned, and you’ll be back to the drawing board.
There is another problem with free proxies. Some of them are run by hackers. The hackers want you to connect to the proxy server so they can take over your computer and steal your information. It can happen in a flash, and then you’ll have to work hard to get your identity back. That’s a high price to pay for a free proxy.
Many people don’t realize this, but sites like Craigslist have been known to shut down entire subnets. If a proxy company doesn’t offer subnet diversity, you could get banned even if you do everything right. This is incredibly frustrating, but it’s also avoidable. Just make sure the company offers subnet diversity to avoid this issue.
Consider the Server’s Location
If you choose a proxy server that’s located halfway across the world, your connection will likely be slow. The proxy server has to connect with your server, and there will likely be a serious lag. Proxy companies list where their servers are located, and some let you choose a server location. This will ensure that your connection doesn’t have to travel far before making it to Craigslist.
Avoid Companies That Throttle the Bandwidth
You’ve likely heard of bandwidth throttling. Some ISPs do it in order to avoid network congestion. You might not realize it, but some proxy companies do it, as well. Make sure you avoid these companies since that can slow the scraping process down quite a bit. You need to get tons of data, and if your bandwidth is throttled, it can take a long time.
Make Sure the Proxy Works with the Software You Choose
Some proxies only work with certain pieces of software. Make sure you choose one that works with the Craigslist scraper you choose. Otherwise, you will have to get a new Craigslist proxy or a new piece of software. Neither is ideal. You would much rather hit the ground running when it comes to scraping Craigslist.
Start Scraping Craigslist Today
Now that you know how to scrape Craigslist, you’re ready to take the next step. Gather your Craigslist proxy and scraper, configure it, and get to work. You’ll find that the tools are relatively easy to use, and you can get lots of valuable information. Just make sure you rotate your proxies out, so Craigslist doesn’t shut you down. That way, you won’t have to start over after you begin scraping.