Google was built on search and it is still the biggest player when it comes to people looking for information on the internet. It is estimated that over 3.5 billion searches are performed on Google Search every day, or over 1.2 trillion searches per year.
Because Google effectively indexes the entire internet and does it almost continuously, it provides a useful way to interact with the data it collects without visiting each individual site that it has indexed. The Googlebot has privileged access to public data on almost all websites, since it benefits those websites to be indexed and searchable. All that data is then available to be accessed by anyone, as it is also in Google’s best interest to get the information out there.
But accessing it manually is just not effective. Nobody has time to go through search results and copy-paste the data in any useful format or at the kinds of volumes that will provide insights. In some cases, you could use Google’s own APIs to interact with the top products, but there are lots of restrictions on how these work. And sometimes Google doesn’t provide any API for their tools. That’s why you might find that the best solution is to web scrape Google.
What is web scraping?
Data is increasingly important in the internet age, and lots of companies are starting to get involved in automatically gathering that data. And that’s all that web scraping, or data scraping, means. Instead of manually visiting web pages and reading them, snippets of code called scripts, or web scraping bots, crawl through the pages and extract data. That data can then be saved in databases or files in a structured format that makes it perfect for further use by computers.
These web scraping bots are faster than any human and can visit thousands of web pages every second. They can also copy information without errors and they never get tired. If you need data at scale, web scraping is the way to go.
So what can web scraping do for you when it comes to Google Search. There are two immediately obvious targets: Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), and the lesser-known Google Trends. Each has different potential, but they can both help you get a bird’s eye view of your business and industry.
Scraping Google Search
Even if search engine optimization isn’t your responsibility, you know that your company needs to perform well in SEO to thrive. Businesses that are invisible on the internet are doomed to fail, as their customers are vacuumed up by competitors who come in higher in Google search results.
Each SERP contains a stunning amount of data on the companies listed. While some of this data is available via Google Ads or Google Analytics, you can do a lot more by scraping it directly from Google itself.
An unofficial Google SERP API such as Apify’s Google Search Results Scraper will enable you to scrape all of this information from a normal search engine results page:
- Organic results
- Related queries
- People also ask
That data can be extracted in real time and saved in a structured format such as JSON, XML, or CSV.
With a customizable SERP scraper like this, you can query based on phrases or URLs, set any country or language you like, focus on an exact geolocation, and target mobile or desktop versions of search.
SEO is certainly one potential use for the data. You can see how your own website, or that of your competitors, performs in Google SERPs over time and make changes so that you get ahead.
You can also analyze advertising displayed alongside your search terms, to see if you can identify hidden potential in terms of new products or target audiences. Or you can build up unique knowledge about a particular field by searching and analyzing the results you scrape.
Even research becomes easier when you directly scrape Google, as you can rapidly access public government documents that have been indexed, keep up to date on regulations, track sentiment about particular stocks, or make sure that you aren’t surprised by developments in your industry.
But when it comes to predicting the future, you can do even more if you scrape another Google product, Google Trends.
Scraping Google Trends
Google Trends is driven by Google’s mission to “organise the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”. Trends gives anyone insight into how frequently a search term has been used in the Google search engine and tracks this relative to total search volume over time.
Sounds simple, but it can give you powerful insight into what people are really interested in, and how those interests are changing. That kind of insight can inform the business decisions you need to make to stay ahead of your competitors.
Google doesn’t provide an official API for Google Trends, but you can again use a ready-made tool like Apify’s Google Trends Scraper to scrape data. Using a simple customizable scraper like this, you can get data about interest over time for any search terms you want.
Because web scraping can be done rapidly and at scale, you can line up a list of search phrases and use this unofficial Google Trends API to track their popularity across multiple time ranges, in different geolocations and even in different categories. And you can do this as much and as often as you need to.
The resulting dataset is again going to be available to you in JSON and other formats, or you can even send it directly to a Google Sheet for immediate processing in reports or analyses.
Google Trends will let you determine what fashions are up and coming, whether your new products are gaining in popularity, alert you to new competition, let you keep an eye on property values or stock surges, or give you advance warning on which products you need to develop or sell. And all of this can be done at the country or even city, or neighborhood, level. Talk about real insight!
Whatever business or industry you’re in, being able to predict what trends are about to explode, and do it at scale, can mean the difference between riding a wave of success or being left behind by it.