5 Methods for Scraping Google Search Results

Getting SERP data isn't that hard. Here's how.

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Collecting Google Search results programmatically is convenient, sometimes even crucial (for example, if you are one of the many SEO companies) and… prohibited. If you scrape as few as 10 queries per hour, Google will start limiting you. And if you make any more than that, you’ll soon reach CAPTCHA-town or get outright blocked. Pretty ironic, considering that Google built its empire on web scraping, right? 

Don’t worry, you can get around this issue with the help of web scraping. While not exactly endorsed, it’s the best option for getting data from Google. This article will teach you five methods for scraping Google Search results, based on your knowledge and budget. Let’s get started!

Contents

Wait – What About the Google Search API?

The what, now? Ah, right, the Google Search API. Technically, the company offers an official way to extract data from its search engine. It comes and goes, but it’s currently available for anyone in need of SERP information. However, it’s really not a great tool for the job:

  • The API is made for searching within one website or a small group of sites. You can configure it to search the whole web but that requires tinkering. 
  • The API provides less and more limited information compared to both the visual interface and web scraping tools. 
  • The API costs a lot of money: 1,000 requests will leave you $5 poorer, which is a daylight robbery. There are further limits on the number of daily requests you can make.

Overall, the Google Search API isn’t really something you’d want to use considering its limitations. Trust me, you’ll save both money and sanity by going the web scraping route.

So, how do you go about it? Here are five methods for you to consider:

Method 1: Build Your Own Web Scraper

The first method is building your own web scraper. It involves:

  • Choosing your web scraping frameworks and libraries. These are the building blocks for constructing your scraper. Python is probably the most popular language for scraping; it offers some great tools like Scrapy, Requests, and BeautifulSoup. 
  • Writing the scraping logic. How your web scraper will crawl to the right pages, how many requests it will make and how often, how it will parse the data, which user agents it will use for scraping, and so on. 
  • Adding proxies to the mix. Proxies are IP addresses that let you make many requests to Google Search without getting CAPTCAs or blocks.
ProsCons
  • Building a scraper from scratch will be cheaper than renting it from someone else.
  • You’ll have full control over how it works. 
  • It‘s a resource-intensive process that requires programming knowledge and constant supervision. You can’t just commission someone to create a web scraper for you – it involves many moving parts, and things will break. 

When should you build a web scraper of your own? I’d say in two scenarios: 

  1. If you know how to program and have a small-scale project to run. 
  2. If you’re running a very large-scale project and have a team to maintain the web scraper. 

Which web scraping libraries to use? If you like Python and have big aspirations, consider Scrapy; for smaller projects, go for Requests and Beautiful Soup. For node.js, look into Apify and Cheerio.

Method 2: Use a SERP API 

A SERP API takes the hard part of web scraping upon itself. You will have to code the request and data storage logic (like which pages to scrape, how often, and where to save the results). But after that, the API will extract the information and parse it with a 100% success rate. You won’t have to worry about proxies, CAPTCHAs, or failed requests. 

SERP API services are much cheaper than the official API, and also much more customizable. You can choose any data you want, whether it’s information from the SERP, Maps, carousel, or featured snippets. You can further modify the queries by device and location to get local results. 

ProsCons
  • SERP APIs are more reliable than home-made scrapers. They’re less prone to breaking and automatically accommodate to changes in page structure (which happens often with companies like Google).
  • They require less experience and resources to maintain than a custom web scraper.
  • You will still need someone with programming skills to configure your web scraper.
  • A SERP API will be more expensive than a custom-built tool.
  • And in some cases it might not always give you the functionality you need. 

When should you get a SERP API? If you have some programming experience but don’t want (or have the manpower) to maintain a custom web scraper. It’s an attractive middle ground between building everything yourself and outsourcing the scraping process altogether. 

Which SERP APIs to use? There are plenty of SERP APIs out there. But if you want to try one, we recommend SERPMaster. It has many features, doesn’t require much initial commitment, and can scale well if needed. There’s also a free tier for the first 250 requests. 

If you want to see the first two methods in practice, we have a tutorial on how to scrape Google Search results with code examples.

Method 3: Use a Visual Web Scraper

Visual scrapers are programs that let you extract data from Google without any coding experience. They give you a browser window, where you simply point and click the data points you want to scrape and download them in the format of your choice. The hardest part is building a proper workflow of paginations and action loops, but that’s still easy compared to writing the code by yourself. 

ProsCons
  • Visual scrapers require no programming experience.
  • They’re easy to use: if you only need basic data from Google Search, you can extract it literally within 5 minutes after installing the program.
  • You can use some visual scrapers for free, albeit with limited speed and features.
  • If you want to scrape fast, you’ll need to buy a subscription.
  • The visual UI is slower than code in a terminal and can start getting in your way once you outgrow it. 

When should you get a visual web scraper? When you need a small-moderate amount of data and have no coding experience. 

Which visual web scrapers to use? ParseHub and Octoparse are two great options. We’re partial to Octoparse because it has a lighter UI and premade templates for quick basic scraping. 

Method 4: Use a Browser Extension

Browser extensions provide one of the simplest ways to start scraping Google Search. All you need to do is add them to your browser. Afterwards, the process is very similar to a visual web scraper: point and click a webpage’s elements and download them to your computer. Such extensions are surprisingly powerful; they can handle JS, pagination, and even perform actions like form filling. 

ProsCons
  • Easy to pick up and use.
  • No coding experience is needed.
  • Some extensions are free.
  • Browser extensions have limited features, are slow, and not very scalable.
  • Sometimes, the visual tools fail to locate the right HTML elements, and you have to do it by hand.

When should you use a web scraping browser extension? When you need quick and not very elaborate data from Google Search. 

Which browser extensions to use? We like Web Scraper. It’s a free extension for Chrome and Firefox that embeds itself into the developer tools. An alternative would be Data Miner for Chrome. The latter is a little easier to use and has thousands of public recipes (pre-built scrapers you can use). 

Method 5: Use a Data Collection Service

A data collection service is the easiest method for getting data from Google Search. You specify your requirements, budget, and then receive the results all nicely formatted for further use. That’s about it. You don’t need to build or maintain a scraper, worry about the scraping logic, or even the legal aspects of your scraping project. Your only worry will be money. 

ProsCons
  • Using a data collection service is easy, requires no programming knowledge or scraping infrastructure.
  • You don’t need any manpower to look after data collection, only processing.
  • It’s simple to scale.
  • A data collection service is the priciest option by a good margin.
  • It can be hard to make changes on the fly and communicate it with the team overseeing your scraping project. 

When should you use a data collection service? This one’s pretty simple: when you’re running a mid to large-scale project, have the funds, and no one to build a web scraper for you. 

Which data collection service to choose? There’s no shortage of companies that provide data collection services. Some examples would be ScrapingHub and Luminati. 

Conclusion

So, now you know five methods for scraping Google Search results. So, evaluate your budget, experience, and needs, and pick the best option for you. Good luck!

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Frequently Asked Questions About Scraping Google Search Results

Is Scraping Google Search Results Legal?

It goes against Google’s Terms of Service, but that’s doesn’t mean the activity is illegal. In reality, many large SEO and other companies scrape Google’s SERPs daily.

Where Can I Get Proxies for Scraping Google?

Take a look at our list of the best Google proxy providers.