How can I scrape a website with invalid HTML

I’m trying to scrape data from a website that has invalid HTML. Simple HTML DOM Parser parses it but loses some info because of how its handling the invalid HTML. The built-in DOM parser with DOMXPath isn’t working, it returns a blank result set. I was able to get it (DOMDocument and DOMXPath) working locally after running the fetched HTML through PHP Tidy but PHP Tidy isn’t installed on the server and its a shared hosting server, so I have no control over that. I tried HTMLPurifier but that just seems to be for securing user input, since it completely removes the doctype, head, and body tags.

Is there any kind of standalone alternative to PHP Tidy? I would really prefer to use DOMXPath to navigate around and grab what I need, it just seems to need some help cleaning the HTML up before it can parse it.

Edit: Im scraping this website: For now I’m just trying to get all the course links.

Here is Solutions:

We have many solutions to this problem, But we recommend you to use the first solution because it is tested & true solution that will 100% work for you.

Solution 1

DOM handles broken HTML fine if you use loadHTML or loadHTMLFile:

$dom = new DOMDocument;

$xPath = new DOMXPath($dom);
$links = $xPath->query('//div[@class="courseList_section"]//a');
foreach($links as $link) {
    printf("%s (%s)\n", $link->nodeValue, $link->getAttribute('href'));

will output

ACCT - Accounting (index.aspx?semester=2010f&subjectID=ACCT)
AD   - Art and Design (index.aspx?semester=2010f&subjectID=AD  )
ARCH - Architecture (index.aspx?semester=2010f&subjectID=ARCH)
... many more ...
TRAN - Transportation Engr (index.aspx?semester=2010f&subjectID=TRAN)
TUTR - Tutoring (index.aspx?semester=2010f&subjectID=TUTR)
URB  - Urban Systems (index.aspx?semester=2010f&subjectID=URB )


echo $dom->saveXML($link), PHP_EOL;

in the foreach loop will output the full outerHTML of the links.

Solution 2

if you know the errors you might apply some regular expressions to fix them specifically. While this ad-hoc solution might seem dirty, it may actually be better as if the HTML is indeed malformed it might be complex to infer a correct interpretation automatically.

EDIT: Actually it might be better to simply extract the needed information through regular expressions as the page has many errors which would be hard or at least tedious to fix.

Solution 3

Is there a web service that will run your content through Tidy? Could you write one? Tidy is the only sane way I know of fixing broken markup.

Solution 4

Another simple way to solve the problem could be passing the site you are trying to scrape through a mobile browser adapter package such as google’s mobilizer for complicated websites. This will correct the invalid html and enable you to use the simple html dom parser package, but it might not work if you need some of the information that is stripped out of the site. The links to this adapter are below. I use this for sites on which the information is poorly formatted or if I need a way to simplify the formatting so that it is easy to parse. The html returned by the google mobilizer is simpler and much easier to process.

Note: Use and implement solution 1 because this method fully tested our system.
Thank you 🙂

All methods was sourced from or, is licensed under cc by-sa 2.5, cc by-sa 3.0 and cc by-sa 4.0

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