How to scrape Google SERPs: a brief overview of methods and challenges

When regular users surf the web, they come across some data that they believe would be beneficial for them in the future. And, then they try to copy it and save it to clipboard each time.

Businesses operate on huge scales and do just the same but learned to automate this process allowing them to save millions of needed pieces of data in short terms by creating a dataset from scratch by copy-pasting the data in a customized format, using further that information to analyze the behavior of certain factors. This is when web scraping or web crawling comes into the picture – an easy way to perform the repetitive task of copy and pasting data from the websites.

Let us now understand how web scraping works and how to scrape particularly Google search engine results in the next section.


Search engine scraping challenges

Google is using a range of defensive methods that makes scraping their results a challenging task such as automatically rejecting User-Agents that seem to originate from a possible automated bot. It’s not so easy to trick this search engine by changing to another IP, which makes using proxies a very important part of successful scraping.

A scraping script or web crawler is not behaving like a real user, and Google, having a very sophisticated behavior analysis system can detect unusual patterns of access. Moreover, in the past years, search engines have been tightening their detection systems forcing developers to experiment and adapt their code regularly.


Methods of scraping Google SERP

The methods described below could be applied to scraping other search engines except for Google, like Bing or Yahoo. However, if you are looking to mine Google for in-depth search analytics, a Google SERP API can serve your purpose.

Two major factors that determine successful scraping are time and amount.

Here are some of the most important technical challenges that scraping scripts need to overcome:

  • IP rotation using Proxies.
  • Proper time management – the time between keyword changes, pagination as well as correctly placed delays.
  • Correct handling of URL parameters, cookies as well as HTTP headers to emulate a user with a typical browser.
  • Automated reaction on CAPTCHA or block pages and other unusual responses.

Scraping millions of Google SERPs could be pretty easy if you combine Python spider with proxy management API like ScraperAPI, with proxy and auto parsing functionality.


Legal Aspects

Search engines just repeat or summarize the information they scraped from other websites, and since it’s not considered intellectual property (we don’t violate CFAA or DMCA when scraping publicly available information from Google SERPs), the situation is different from when you scrape websites and services.

No incidents result in a court case because it’s against search engines’ interests to sue.

In any case, we’d like to remind you to ensure that any work that you do is always legal and that you keep track of the news concerning this matter in case the legal status changes.


In conclusion

Website scraping is a very valuable web development skill that allows to take back control of the data and uncover many of the “secrets” that Google has hidden right below the surface.

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