how bots can be identified
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Adelina Kiskyte

Dec 08, 2020 6 min read

In 2019, almost 30% of global web traffic came through search engines. No surprise that the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry is worth an estimate of $80 billion since companies want to get as much organic search traffic as possible. Google is still the largest player in the game, with nearly 90% of the market share, and their data has high value for many businesses. 

Acquiring data from search engines is more relevant than ever before. Search Engine Result Page (SERP) data can help companies bring more organic traffic than they ever imagined. But the higher the value, the more difficult it is to acquire such data. 

Statistic: Distribution of worldwide website traffic in 2019, by source | Statista

This article will explain how companies use data from search pages and what challenges arise when scraping search engines. We will also review the most common data acquisition methods, including in-house built web scrapers with proxies, and our ready-to-use tool Real-Time Crawler.

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Why do companies collect data from search engines?

Data from search engines have high value for nearly all existing industries. Most of the use cases are closely related because they all have the same goal: gather the information that helps rank higher on SERPs and bring more organic traffic to the company website.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Companies that provide SEO services use web scrapers to gather data about blog posts or product page titles that rank the highest in SERPs. Having this information allows marketing teams to compete with the top-ranking pages on search engines. 

The same applies to meta titles and meta descriptions. Companies gather large numbers of metadata and then analyze it to figure out the best practices. 

Keyword research

In a similar manner to SEO use cases, companies scrape SERPs to determine which keywords their competitors rank for. For example, if your company sells cybersecurity software, you would want to know what keywords other companies in the industry use. So when a potential customer searches for cybersecurity software, your website would show up as one of the top results. 

Another case is gathering search queries related to your business. For example, if you provide SEO services, you would have to find out what queries people type in search engines to find similar services and target related keywords, to show up in their search. 

Ad campaigns

Scraping SERPs for ad campaigns show companies what type of Pay Per Click (PPC) ads their competitors are running. Targeting the right keywords with the ads help companies get noticed by a wider audience, even if their organic ranking is not great.

Competitor monitoring

Acquiring data from search engines can be boiled down to this one use case: monitoring competitors. Everything mentioned above leads to this single action: watching what other companies do to rank among SERPs’ top results. 

However, competitor monitoring can also mean other things: monitoring when certain companies are mentioned in the media or when they update their products or content. This sort of monitoring may even lead to implementing new business strategies and simply keeping up with the industry news.

Scraping search engines – challenges

As a rule, the best things are the hardest to acquire. The same applies to search engine data – scraping SERPs comes with challenges:

Resources

Depending on the scraping method, data extraction may require considerable resources. SERP data is not easy to acquire, so the process may get expensive, require a technical team and time. We will soon review all the most popular SERP data acquisition methods, and you will see which options require the least resources.

CAPTCHAs

Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart (CAPTCHA) is one of the most common web scraping challenges. Web scraping is interrupted as soon as a website suspects bot-like activity. In-house built web scrapers often are not capable of automatically solving CAPTCHAs and slow down data acquisition projects.

Blocks

IP addresses can get blocked by websites they are scraping. Sometimes it is just one IP address that gets blacklisted but using datacenter proxies an entire subnet may be banned.

Blocks not only slow down web scraping projects but also make the process more expensive. However, there are ways to avoid getting blocked.   

Hard-to-read information (unstructured data)

Even when the web scraping goes well, and companies manage to extract the required data, it may still be useless. Unstructured, hard-to-read data may require additional resources to be turned into usable content. Therefore, when choosing a web scraping method, keep in mind what format you will need the data to be returned in.

How to scrape data from search engines?

Gathering data manually

Manual data acquisition means that someone goes through SERPs and copy and pastes website URLs. In most cases, companies use browser plug-ins or scraper software for this task.

+ Good for very small projects

+ Minimum technical knowledge and resources (open any tutorial, try to scrape)

Not suitable for large scale projects

Time-consuming

Potential human error

Proxies and in-house web scrapers

Companies with an advanced team of developers often choose to build their web scrapers. Supported by a strong proxy pool, in-house web scrapers can be a good solution. Especially for businesses that have time and resources for the upkeep of their search engine scraper.

+ Automated scraping

+ Customization

+ Little dependency on service providers

Proxy maintenance

Requires technical knowledge 

May not deliver the results you need

Time and resources needed to build a proper web scraper

Using web scraping solutions

Finding a web scraping service provider is not a difficult task. Finding a good one is more challenging. But for large scale data gathering from SERPs, outsourcing web scraping solutions is the best choice. 

+ Most solutions do not require upkeep

+ Reliable stream of data

+ Requires minimal technical knowledge

+ No need to have a team of experts

May be too expensive for very small projects

Finding a reliable service provider requires a thorough research 

Real-Time Crawler Search Engine API

Not all web scraping solutions on the market are suitable for data gathering from search engines. Due to the complexity of the most popular search engines, most web scraping tools cannot deliver quality results. Real-Time Crawler Search Engine API is specifically designed for extracting data from SERPs.

+ Perfect for large scale projects

+ Zero maintenance

+ Easy integration

+ 100% delivery

+ Delivers structured results in JSON format

Conclusion

Acquiring search engine data is challenging, but this information has a lot of value. Companies can choose from various search engine scraping options: they can be manual, automated, built in-house, or outsourced. Most importantly, a search scraper should provide easy-to-read and still relevant information. Some web scrapers are specifically designed to acquire data from search engines and provide the best success rates for this specific task. 

If you are looking for a web scraping solution for your company, get in touch with Oxylabs, and we will offer you the best option for your specific case.

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About Adelina Kiskyte

Adelina Kiskyte is a Content Manager at Oxylabs. Adelina constantly follows tech news and loves trying out new apps, even the most useless. When she is not glued to her phone, she also enjoys reading self-motivation books and biographies of tech-inspired innovators. Who knows, maybe one day she will create a life-changing app of her own!

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All information on Oxylabs Blog is provided on an "as is" basis and for informational purposes only. We make no representation and disclaim all liability with respect to your use of any information contained on Oxylabs Blog or any third-party websites that may be linked therein. Before engaging in scraping activities of any kind you should consult your legal advisors and carefully read the particular website's terms of service or receive a scraping license.