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The Most Common and Critical HTTP Headers for Web Scraping

HTTP headers allow clients and servers to send additional context with requests and responses. Configuring headers properly is crucial for web scraping to mimic human behavior and avoid blocks. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll cover the most common headers you need to optimize based on my 10+ years of web scraping experience.

What Are HTTP Headers and Why Do They Matter for Web Scraping?

HTTP headers provide metadata in requests and responses beyond just the URL. For example:

GET /index.html HTTP/1.1
User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64; rv:97.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/97.0
Accept: text/html

Here Host, User-Agent, and Accept are headers providing additional details.

Headers are especially important for web scraping to mimic human users and avoid bot detections. According to Datahen, over 82% of websites actively analyze headers to deter bots. Failing to configure headers properly is one of the leading causes of blocks and scraping failures.

In this guide, I‘ll cover the most common headers you need to optimize based on my 10+ years of proxy and web scraping experience. I‘ll also share tips to properly manage and rotate headers in your scraper.


The User-Agent header identifies your browser, operating system, and other details about the client making the request. For example:

User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 15_2 like Mac OS X)AppleWebKit/605.1.15 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/15.2 Mobile/15E148 Safari/604.1

Websites analyze the User-Agent to determine if requests are coming from a real browser. Over 90% of sites check this header according to SmartProxy, so it‘s critical to configure properly for scraping.

For each request, I recommend randomly rotating between User-Agent values mimicking popular browsers on various devices and platforms. Some examples include:

  • Chrome on Windows
  • Safari on MacOS
  • Firefox on Linux
  • Mobile browsers like Safari iOS, Chrome Android

Tools like user-agents make it easy to generate a large list of valid User-Agent strings. By continuously changing the User-Agent, your scraper will appear much more human.

![Diagram showing rotating between multiple User-Agent values][user-agent-diagram]

Fig 1. Rotating between multiple User-Agent values

Here are some best practices for optimizing User-Agent:

  • Rotate randomly on each request
  • Mimic common browsers and devices
  • Avoid outdated or suspicious values
  • Use tools to generate a large pool of options
  • Scrape behind proxies to further mask traffic

With proper User-Agent management, you can drastically improve your scraper‘s success rate. But recycling the same value is a surefire way to get blocked.


The Accept-Language header indicates languages the client can accept, ranked by preference. For example:

Accept-Language: fr-CH, fr;q=0.9, en;q=0.8, de;q=0.7, *;q=0.5

When scraping websites in other languages, this header should reflect the target locale. For a Spanish site, use es or es-ES.

According to ScrapingBee, over 60% of sites check for proper Accept-Language. Misconfigurations here can trigger blocks.

Make sure to research the correct language code for your target site and set Accept-Language accordingly. This helps your traffic blend in naturally.


The Accept-Encoding header indicates supported compression formats like gzip or deflate:

Accept-Encoding: gzip, deflate, br

Enabling compression reduces traffic for both your scraper and the website. I highly recommend always including common encodings like gzip and deflate here.

When responses are compressed, make sure to decode them appropriately in your scraper code. Libraries like requests will handle decompression automatically.

Properly configuring Accept-Encoding leads to significant bandwidth savings without losing any data. It‘s a win-win for both clients and servers!


The Accept header specifies supported content types like HTML, JSON, XML:

Accept: text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8

This aligns with the formats the website will return. For scraping HTML pages, make sure to include text/html.

Over 70% of sites check for Accept header mismatches according to ScrapingHub. Setting Accept properly for your target site keeps your scraper safe.


The Referer header shows the previous page visited before the current request:


This makes your traffic appear more human-like by mimicking clicking links from other sites like Google.

To optimize Referer, I recommend randomly rotating between popular websites and pages:

  • Google search results
  • Wikipedia articles
  • News sites
  • Social media
  • Blog/forums

Avoid leaving Referer blank or reusing the same value. Populate it with a realistic referral on each request.

Tools and Best Practices

Fortunately, libraries like Scrapy and requests make it easy to configure these headers in python.

For each request, randomly select valid values for headers like User-Agent from predefined lists. Avoid repetition.

I recommend creating arrays or databases to store many options for each header type. Then you can randomly select values on the fly.

Here‘s a simple example for rotating User-Agents:

import random

user_agents = [
  ‘Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64; rv:97.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/97.0‘,
  ‘Mozilla/5.0 (iPhone; CPU iPhone OS 15_2 like Mac OS X)AppleWebKit/605.1.15 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/15.2 Mobile/15E148 Safari/604.1‘,
  # ...

user_agent = random.choice(user_agents)

headers = {
  ‘User-Agent‘: user_agent

Always double check headers are configured correctly in your code before scraping. Test with a tool like Postman as well.

For advanced management, leverage a proxy service like BrightData which handles rotating credentials automatically.


Properly configuring HTTP headers is crucial for mimicking human users and avoiding bot detections. Prioritize optimizing essential headers like User-Agent, Accept-Language, and Referer to lower your risk of blocks.

With a few simple tweaks to rotate headers randomly, your scraper can fly under the radar. Combined with proxies and throttling, you can extract data from almost any site undetected.

I hope these tips and best practices are helpful based on my 10+ years of proxy and web scraping experience! Let me know if you have any other questions. Happy (and sneaky) scraping!

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