According to Statista, search traffic accounted for 29% of worldwide website traffic in 2019, confirming that search engines have tons of valuable information. However, collecting search engine data in large volumes isn’t an easy task. In this post, I’ll go over all things search engine scraping-related: different types, benefits, challenges, solutions, and more. Strap in and let’s get started.
What is search engine scraping?
Search engine scraping is an automated process of gathering public data, such as URLs, descriptions, and other information from search engines.
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.
The most basic information you can gather from search engines are keywords relevant to your industry and SERP (search engine result page) rankings.
Knowing successful practices of SERP rankings can help you make essential decisions whether it is worth trying something competitors do. In other words, being aware of what is happening in the industry can help you shape SEO or digital marketing strategies.
Scraping SERP results can also help check if search engines find relevant information according to the queries submitted. For example, you can scrape SERP data and check if your entered search terms match what you expect. This information can change the entire content and SEO strategy because knowing which search terms find content related to your industry can help you focus on what content you need.
Using an advanced search engine results scraper powered by proxies can even help you see how time and geolocation change specific search results. This is especially important if you sell products or provide 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 your content team on what works best to be ranked on SERPs as high as possible.
As a digital advertiser, you can also gain an advantage from scraping search results by knowing where and when competitors place their ads. Of course, it does not mean that having this data allows advertisers to copy other ads. Still, you get an opportunity to monitor the market and trends to build 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 or improving image SEO strategies.
- If you work with brand protection, you have to monitor the web, search for counterfeit products and take down the infringers. Collecting public products’ images can help identify if it’s 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 you can promote your products. Gathering public information, such as prices, reviews, products’ titles and descriptions, can also bring value for monitoring and learning about your 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 you understand the whole ranking algorithm and give you insights for keeping your 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 if you’re a media researcher. The latest information from the most popular news portals is gathered in one place, meaning that it’s 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 if you’re a researcher. Titles, links, citations, related links, author, publisher, and snippets are the public data that can be collected for research.
How to scrape search results?
As I wrote earlier, collecting the required information comes with 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, so seek out a reputable provider.
- 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’s a very important but sometimes overlooked technique to decrease the chances of getting blocked.
- Think of HTTP cookie management. You should disable HTTP cookies or clear them after each IP change. Always try what works best for your search engine scraping process.
Search engine scraping challenges
Why is search engine scraping difficult? Well, the problem is that it’s 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 – be sure to read more on the topic before proceeding.
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 you're a bot, a CAPTCHA test pops up to ask that you enter correct codes or identify objects in pictures. Only the most advanced web scraping tools can deal with CAPTCHAs, meaning that, usually, CAPTCHAs lead to 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 you 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, so you should invest time and budget into them.
If you enjoyed this post, please give it a like and feel free to ask any questions in the comments. Until the next time!
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