Web scraping has unlocked many opportunities for businesses. Various companies can make strategic decisions based on public data. Of course, before even beginning to think about implementing web scraping in your daily business operations, finding out what information can be valuable is a must.
According to Statista, in 2019, search traffic accounted for 29 percent of worldwide website traffic. These numbers confirm that search engines are full of valuable public information. In this blog post, we’ll discuss search engine scraping, useful data sources, main challenges and solutions.
What is search engine scraping?
Search engine scraping is the automated process of gathering public data, such as URLs, descriptions, and other information from search engines. It’s a form of web scraping that focuses on search engines only. Understanding what information sources can be helpful in business or even research purposes will significantly improve the entire web scraping and analysis effectiveness.
To harvest publicly available data from search engines, you need to use specialized automated tools – search engine scrapers. They allow you to collect the search results for any given query and return the data in a structured format.
Useful data sources from search engines
Usually, companies gather public data from SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) to rank higher and bring more organic traffic to their websites. Some businesses even scrape search engines and provide their insights to help other companies become more visible.
Scraping search engine results
The most basic information companies gather from search engines are keywords relevant to their industry and SERP rankings. Knowing the successful practices of rankings on SERPs can help companies make essential decisions whether it is worth trying something competitors do. Being aware of what is happening in the industry can help shape SEO or digital marketing strategies.
Scraping SERP results can also help check if search engines find relevant information according to the queries submitted. Companies scrape SERP data and check if their entered search terms match what they expect. This information can change the entire content and SEO strategy because knowing which search terms find content related to their industry can help companies focus on what content they need.
Using an advanced search engine results scraper powered by proxies can even help companies see how time and geolocation change specific search results. This is especially important for businesses that sell their products or provide their services worldwide.
Of course, using a search scraper mostly helps with SEO monitoring. SERPs are full of public information, including meta titles, descriptions, rich snippets, knowledge graphs, etc. An opportunity to analyze this kind of data can bring a lot of value, such as giving guidelines to the content team on what works best to be ranked on SERPs as high as possible.
Digital advertisers can also gain an advantage from scraping search results by knowing where and when they see competitors’ ads. Of course, it does not mean that having this data allows digital advertisers to copy other ads. Still, they get an opportunity to monitor the market and trends to make their strategies. The display of ads is crucial for successful results.
In some cases, scraping publicly available images from search engines can be beneficial for various purposes, such as brand protection and improving SEO strategies as well.
Brand protection companies are monitoring the web and searching for counterfeit products to take down infringers. Collecting public products’ images can help identify if it is a fake product or not.
Gathering public images and their information for SEO purposes helps to optimize images for search engines. For example, the images’ ALT texts are essential because the more relevant information surrounding an image has, the more search engines deem this image important.
Please make sure you consult with your legal advisor before scraping images in order to avoid any potential risks.
Shopping results scraping
The most popular search engines have their own shopping platforms where many companies promote their products. Gathering public information, such as prices, reviews, products’ titles and descriptions, can also bring value for monitoring and learning about competitors’ product branding, pricing, and marketing strategies.
Keywords are an essential part of shopping platforms. Trying different keywords and scraping the results of displayed products can help understand the whole ranking algorithm and give insights for keeping the business competitive and driving revenue.
News results scraping
News platforms are a part of the most popular search engines, and it has become an outstanding resource for media researchers and businesses. The latest information from the most popular news portals is gathered in one place, meaning that it is a huge public database that can be used for various purposes.
Analyzing this information can create awareness on the latest trends and what is happening across different industries, how the display of news differs by location, how different websites are presenting information, and much more. The list of news portals information uses can be endless. Of course, projects that include analyzing vast amounts of news articles became more manageable with the help of web scraping.
Other data sources
There are also more search engine data sources from which researchers can collect public data for specific scientific cases. One of the best examples can be called academic search engines for scientific publications from across the web. Gathering data by particular keywords and analyzing what publications are displayed can bring a lot of value for researchers. Titles, links, citations, related links, author, publisher, and snippets are the public data that can be collected for research.
Is it legal to scrape search engines?
The legality of web scraping is a much debated topic among everyone who works in the data gathering field. It is important to note that web scraping may be legal in cases where it is done without breaching any laws regarding the source targets or data itself. With that being said, we advise you to seek legal consultation before engaging in scraping activities of any kind. We have also explored the “is web scraping legal” subject in detail, and we highly recommend that you read it.
How to scrape search results?
As we wrote before, scraping search engines is beneficial for many business purposes, but collecting the required information has various challenges. Search engines are implementing increasingly sophisticated ways of detecting and blocking web scraping bots, meaning that more actions have to be taken not to get blocked:
- For scraping search engines, use proxies. They unlock the ability to access geo-restricted data and lower the chances of getting blocked. Proxies are intermediaries that assign users different IP addresses, meaning that it is harder to be detected. Notably, you have to choose the right proxy type.
- Rotate IP addresses. You should not do search engine scraping with the same IP address for a long time. Instead, to avoid getting blocked, think of IP rotation logic for your web scraping projects.
- Optimize your scraping process. If you gather huge amounts of data at once, you will probably be blocked. You should not load servers with large numbers of requests.
- Set the most common HTTP headers and fingerprints. It is a very important but sometimes overlooked technique to decrease web scraper’s chances of getting blocked.
- Think of HTTP cookies management. You should disable HTTP cookies or clear them after each IP change. Always try what works best for your search engine scraping process.
A solution for collecting data: SERP Scraper API
Although the tips above might be helpful, following them is also quite daunting. Most probably, you would prefer to focus more on the data analysis rather than data gathering. With this in mind, Oxylabs designed an easier and more efficient solution for the SERPs data collection – SERP Scraper API.
With this robust tool, you can extract enormous volumes of public data from the major search engines, all in real-time. SERP Scraper API is a valuable assistant in keyword data collection, ads data tracking, and brand protection.
Let’s take a look at the extraordinary powers of this tool. Here’s what you can do with SERP Scraper API:
- Collect the key data points from the leading SERPs
You can gather such useful information units as ads, images, news, keyword data, featured snippets, and many more. You would need this data to detect counterfeit and enhance your SEO rankings.
- Target any country on the coordinate level
SERP Scraper API is backed up with a powerful proxy network covering the entire globe. Choose any location from our 195 countries list and extract the SERPs data with a city-level precision.
- Get clean and easy-to-analyze data
You won’t need to struggle with the messy datasheets. Instead, you can get to the data analysis the very second you’ve extracted it. The convenient JSON & CSV formats make the process way more manageable.
- Sneak past IP blocks and CAPTCHAs
Due to the patented Proxy Rotator, you can stay resilient to SERP layout changes and avoid anti-scraping measures implemented by the search engines you’re scraping. With no obstacles in your way, you’ll get your jobs done in no time.
- Store the scraped data wherever suits you
Once the scraping is done, you will get the results delivered directly to your cloud storage. If you have a preferred storage type, let us know, and we’ll find the best solution.
As you can see, SERP Scraper API makes an excellent scraping companion to overcome the most common search engine scraping problems and extract the needed data fast and in high quality.
Search engines scraping challenges
Scraping SERP data brings a lot of value for businesses of all kinds, but it also comes with challenges that can complicate web scraping processes. The problem is that it is hard to distinguish good bots from malicious ones. Therefore, search engines often mistakenly flag good web scraping bots as bad, making blocks inevitable. Search engines have security measures that everyone should know before starting scraping SERPs results.
Without proper planning, IP blocks can cause many issues.
First of all, search engines can identify the user’s IP address. When web scraping is in progress, web scrapers send a massive amount of requests to the servers in order to get the required information. If the requests are always coming from the same IP address, it will be blocked as it is not considered as coming from regular users.
Another popular security measure is CAPTCHA. If a system suspects that a user is a bot, a CAPTCHA test pops up to ask users to enter correct codes or identify objects in pictures. Only the most advanced web scraping tools can deal with CAPTCHAs, meaning that, usually, CAPTCHAs cause IP blocks.
Extracting data successfully is only half the battle. All your efforts may be in vain if the data you’ve fetched is hard-to-read and unstructured. With this in mind, you should think twice about what format you want the data to be returned in before choosing a web scraping tool.
Search engines are full of valuable public data. This information can help companies to be competitive in the market and drive revenue because making decisions based on accurate data can guarantee more successful business strategies.
However, the process of gathering this information is challenging as well. Reliable proxies or quality data extraction tools can help facilitate this process.
If you are interested in more information on web scraping on a large scale, how to crawl a website without getting blocked, or what e-commerce data sources you can scrape, we suggest you read our other blog posts. Also, if you want to try a more general-purpose data gathering solution, our web scraper offers a free trial.