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Search Engine Scraping in 2023: All You Need to Know

Web scraping is at the top of the many ways to get data in the current year. By utilizing web scraping businesses, organizations, and individuals are able to get large volumes of data in a relatively short time. 


Since Google and other search engines are our gateways to the vast plains of the internet, scraping them is a great choice when turning to online data extraction. Read on to find out all you need about search engine scraping and how to benefit from it today and in the near future.


What is search engine scraping?


Search engine scraping is a specific kind of web scraping. It focuses only on the result pages of search engines. The scraped information includes URLs, web page titles, meta titles, meta descriptions, and all other publicly available data in the results.


The data is collected by specialized automated tools known as search engine scrapers. As a result, search engine scraping is an automated process that does not require constant human labor. Once you launch the scraper, it can do everything on its own, unless you wish to make adjustments to your data collection project.


How to scrape search engine results pages (SERPs)?


Even though search engine scraping is an automated process, there are things you can do to ensure that it goes more smoothly. We’ve outlined the most important aspects of the process that ensure the highest success rates over the long run.


Use proxies and IP rotation


Rotating your IP address is crucial for search engine scraping. Using one IP address for too long means risking getting it blocked as search engines might consider too many requests from the same one as suspicious activity and restrict it to protect themselves.


Thus, to avoid issues and halts in the scraping process, one needs rotation. There are proxies that can rotate addresses automatically. In addition to protecting your IP from getting blocked, proxies will be able to go around geo-restrictions. They can do so because each IP address is assigned a location (i.e. country and city). 


With careful rotation, you can view content that might be intended only for specific countries. Be sure to check which proxies are right for your web scraping project.


Utilize HTTP request headers


You can also avoid getting your scraper blocked by making use of the most common HTTP request headers. For example, in order to mimic the traffic of a regular internet user, your request headers should match the location of your proxy address.


HTTP request headers help the requesting server communicate with the destination website. Request header fields specify what type of information is expected in the response and how the request should be handled. Thus, adequately adjusted header fields will improve the efficiency of search engine results scraping and make your requests less suspicious.


Manage cookies


Websites can track your cookies and recognize that your previous activity does not match the information about your current device. HTTP cookie management can help avoid getting blocked for this reason. Depending on the website, you might need to clear cookies before engaging with the website or collect them by visiting the home page and then going to a specific URL.


Optimize your scraping


Finally, do not overload the server with too many requests at once. One of the ways websites identify malicious actors is by the huge volume of traffic they produce. Thus, optimize your web scraping by limiting the number of requests you make on particular results pages in a specified timeframe.


Is it legal to scrape search results?


Web scraping is, generally speaking, a legal process but with many caveats. It means that it is not illegal to scrape data as long as you are following specific rules of conduct.


These rules include various privacy and data collection legislation, as well as the terms of services of the websites and copyright laws. The legality of web scraping and other forms of big data collection is still a frequently changing subject. Thus, one should expect constant changes in policy and public attitude towards it and follow them closely.


It is less risky to overstep these boundaries when scraping the search results as it is publicly available data. However, that does not make it completely exempt from the obligations to make sure that rules and regulations of data collection are followed. Therefore, it is highly recommended to seek professional legal advice for any web scraping project. Naturally, that goes for both using and selling scraped SERP data.


Applications of search engine scraping


There are many useful web scraping applications. Scraping search engines has equally as many use cases in different fields. There is always room for creativity in developing your own personal project of data collection and analysis. Here are some examples of how SERP data scraping can be utilized for insights and other benefits.


SEO monitoring


One of the most important applications of search engine scraping is to improve SEO performance. SEO is all about keyword data, meta descriptions, and titles appearing in the result lists of such search engines as Google.


Scraping this information will help to figure out what makes some results higher than others, what keywords should be targeted, and provide other insights. All of it can be used to improve your own SEO strategy and create better, more SEO-friendly content. Additionally, it will reveal the approaches of the main competitors and what works for them.


Sentiment tracking


SERPs are great indicators of the current market sentiment. Scraping search results data will show what sort of business and finance news rank highest and thus are most relevant. It will also reveal, at least in part, how these news are framed and what attitudes towards the markets currently prevail.


Such information will help investors as they can track the sentiment of their peers as well as the general public. Thus it will lead to better-informed investment decisions. Of course, businesses can also use it for market analysis when introducing new products or developing marketing strategies.


Watching market trends


Another aspect of search results scraping that helps to develop products and services is market trends monitoring. What is new, on the rise, or in decline is immediately reported online. A search engine results page can show some product data, certain trends, and other useful data.


The information in the search results pages will help to understand what is popular right now and where the markets are headed. Thus, from business people to researchers, who utilize academic search engines, everyone interested in market analysis will benefit from SERPs data.


Digital marketing


Scraping search engines can also help to improve digital marketing strategies. Digital marketers are able to learn what their competitors are doing by analyzing the ads of competitors and their visibility. By reviewing what works and what does not they are able to create better advertising content themselves.


Keyword research and ads data tracking will allow recognizing main competitors and how they achieve better SERP rankings. This will lead to an improved understanding of how one should utilize search engines for advertising.


Price optimization


The rising popularity of online shopping results in the increasing importance of offering products and services over the internet. When doing that, it is crucial to make sure that your shop is high on the search engine result page and that the prices attract customers. 


In order to do that one has to be aware of online price changes in real-time. The prices of many e-commerce websites and other shopping results data can be tracked through search engine scraping unless better means are available. It will allow you to optimize your price so that yours are the best offers out there whenever possible.


Brand protection


Finally, you can scrape search engines to identify malicious actors that are smearing or misusing your brand. They might be infringing copyright law by using your logos or content without permission. Aside from profiting from your work and investment, these actors can do serious damage to how your brand is perceived.


Search engines can be used as a starting point to look for potential infringements upon copyright. It may reveal websites where your content might be being illegally sold or misused. These websites can then be manually reviewed.


What are the challenges of scraping search engines?


Nothing in this world is absolutely perfect. No surprise that along with all its benefits, search engine scraping also comes with its own set of challenges. Some of which, such as legality questions mentioned above, can be addressed by consulting specific experts. 


Others are more technical, specifically, IT-related. IP blocks are an example of such a challenge. There are many reasons why search engines might want to block scrapers - from fear of malicious activity to basic protection of their informational assets. Proxies are crucial to avoiding these blocks and will often help.


However, search engine scrapers can also be blocked due to their inability to solve CAPTCHAs. When a website suspects a bot-like activity, often due to too many requests, it will give the user a simple puzzle to solve. The goal is to check if a human is present behind all that traffic. Only the best search engine scrapers are capable of solving more advanced CAPTCHAs. 


Finally, even if all goes relatively well with scraping, there is the issue of unstructured data. The public data collected from the results of search engines might be difficult to analyze and interpret. Thus, before starting to collect data it is crucial to consider the format in which it is going to arrive. Such initial preparation will also help to choose from the available search engine scrapers.


Summing up


Search engines are the most important tools for navigating the internet. They surf the unimaginably huge informational space and show us precisely what we are looking for. 


Search engine scrapers are the tools that help us bring all that data in so that we can benefit from it. Although not without its challenges, search engine scraping can be among the most advantageous procedures for data-driven organizations.


By Oliver Jones
Oliver is someone you would call a tech-wizard. Fascinated with everything computer and machine related, he has been involved in the industry for ages. Proxies and data are his two newest interests that have carried him to the field of writing. Oliver believes that all the knowledge in the world is worth nothing if it can’t be shared!