Four out of the top ten most visited websites of the world are search engines. As we answer more of our questions on the internet, search results get more valuable and insightful for businesses.
In this research, we explore what search engine scraping is, why it is important to businesses, and how it differs from web scraping.
What is search engine scraping?
Search engine scraping is collecting the search engine results of a certain search query using a SERP scraper API or web scraping tool. The most common results are the URLs, titles and short descriptions of the search results but it is not limited to that. Today, search engines also provide news, shopping options, images, videos and many other result types that can be relevant for different business use cases.
How is it different from web scraping?
Search engine scraping is a way of web scraping. Web scraping usually refers to collecting the content of a specific web page using scrapers. When that specific web page is the results of a search query, then the process is called search engine scraping.
Another use case is scraping the content of a certain number of search engine results to collect the information of the most popular sources about a certain keyword. In this case, the process is called search engine scraping results (SERP) scraping.
Which search engines should you scrape?
In the past ten years, Google consistently covered more than 90% of the desktop search traffic worldwide even compared to Baidu, a popular search engine in China where Google can not be accessed publicly. Another source confirms its dominance for mobile traffic too.
It is possible to scrape Google, and there is no significant legal concern about the process. However, as one of the busiest websites in the world, Google tries to keep the traffic from malicious bots away and often blocks automated scraping activity. This becomes a problem, especially for scraping Google multiple pages or frequently. Web scraping services offer advanced techniques such as proxies and dynamic IP addresses to overcome this barrier.
Bright Data provides a search engine crawler integrated with dynamic proxy technology. Check out their short video to see how that works in action.
What are the top business use cases of search engine scraping?
Let’s look into different result types of Google search results that you can scrape. We will mention the top two business use cases for each result type.
1. All Search Results:
This is the main page where Google search results appear. Most of the time, the page will contain multiple sponsored results, which are simply ads. Those will be identified by Google. You may want to filter them given that they appear there because they paid to rank higher, not because they are the most optimized search results.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): SEO services continuously scrape Google results in order to list and analyze their customers’ position in the search results and share tips to rank higher. As an individual business, you can also scrape the results for your targeted websites and see where your competitors rank at and what titles they use.
- Competitor tracking: Identifying new competitors or how successful they are may not always be easy. By scraping the top results for the keywords you are interested in, you can identify whether your competitors are buying ads towards the keywords you are interested in or they are organically ranking higher which means they are receiving more traffic over time or providing quality content.
2. Google Maps:
According to Google, their Maps service has become a prominent tool for finding services since “near me” searches have observed a surge in recent years. Scraping Google Maps can be used for:
- Lead generation: Especially for B2B business work closely with local shops and services, Google Maps is a rich data source for finding new potential customers and their contact numbers.
- Marketing: Similar to e-commerce websites, a rich source of online reviews is Google Maps. There are multiple marketing use cases that your business can leverage Google Maps data, such as analyzing the satisfaction of your own stores or rating of your competitors.
For details on how to scrape Google Maps data and more business use cases, check out our article on the subject.
3. Google News:
This is a view that Google both uses algorithms and human editors to detect most popular and quality news stories about a topic. Especially for use cases which require frequent insight collection about what is happening in the world, Google news is a great resource.
- Investment decision: Investors use web scraping heavily to stay up to date with most popular ventures to invest in, latest real estate trends or how political climate changes around the world. Google News is a top resource to give a snapshot about industries in focus.
- Real-time sentiment tracking: For seasonal campaigns or one-off events, such as a political campaign or a prime time sports event, getting real time information about public opinion becomes important. The first source that comes into mind for such tracking is social media networks, but Google News is a good supplementary source to gauge the critique opinions or overall sentiment of the campaign or the brand in focus.
4. Google Shopping:
Shopping results are a rich source for web scraping applications in e-commerce. It sources multiple e-commerce platforms which gives a shortcut to scrape high level information about products online, such as their listing price. However, if detailed information is needed, such as product reviews or shipping time, then businesses need to scrape individual e-commerce websites.
- Dynamic pricing: The most common e-commerce application of web scraping is to develop a dynamic pricing model in the business which aims to modify the prices of a business product based on competitor prices, market trends, and consumer opinions. This allows businesses to pull their competitors’ price and availability in online stores and stay competitive with their pricing.
- Competitor tracking: Just like the overall search results, the Shopping page shows both ads and results that Google’s algorithm chooses based on relevance. Keeping track of where your competitors appear on shopping and what other similar products they list can give your business insights to stay competitive.
5. Google Images:
This view lists image files from websites relevant to the search term. Sometimes, they also contain sponsored content from Shopping results.
- Copyright infringement: A major brand protection use case is to identify malicious actors that act like a brand or use a brand’s logo without permission. Businesses may need to use an image matching algorithm to identify instances of copyright infringement through images, but it is critical for accountability and public image of any business.
- Image recognition: This technology is leveraged by businesses more and more for purposes such as OCR or customer verification. Building an in-house image recognition algorithm requires technical investment, but for any company that builds image recognition solutions or runs pilot projects, Google Images is the ultimate data source.
For more on web scraping
To explore web scraping use cases for different industries, its benefits, and challenges read our articles:
For guidance to choose the right tool, check out data-driven list of web scrapers, and reach out to us:
This article was drafted by former AIMultiple industry analyst Bengüsu Özcan.
Cem has been the principal analyst at AIMultiple since 2017. AIMultiple informs hundreds of thousands of businesses (as per similarWeb) including 60% of Fortune 500 every month.
Cem's work has been cited by leading global publications including Business Insider, Forbes, Washington Post, global firms like Deloitte, HPE, NGOs like World Economic Forum and supranational organizations like European Commission. You can see more reputable companies and media that referenced AIMultiple.
Throughout his career, Cem served as a tech consultant, tech buyer and tech entrepreneur. He advised businesses on their enterprise software, automation, cloud, AI / ML and other technology related decisions at McKinsey & Company and Altman Solon for more than a decade. He also published a McKinsey report on digitalization.
He led technology strategy and procurement of a telco while reporting to the CEO. He has also led commercial growth of deep tech company Hypatos that reached a 7 digit annual recurring revenue and a 9 digit valuation from 0 within 2 years. Cem's work in Hypatos was covered by leading technology publications like TechCrunch and Business Insider.
Cem regularly speaks at international technology conferences. He graduated from Bogazici University as a computer engineer and holds an MBA from Columbia Business School.
To stay up-to-date on B2B tech & accelerate your enterprise:Follow on
Next to Read
Your email address will not be published. All fields are required.