You probably didn’t realize it at the time. But if you’ve ever used a search engine optimization (SEO) tool before then, chances are, you have indirectly used a web scraper before.
That’s because many of the best-known SEO tools rely on the power of web scraping to give them the data they need. So how does this work exactly? And how about scraping Google data for SEO yourself?
You’ll find the answers to these questions (and a few more) in this guide to understanding SEO tools and web scraping. Whether you’re just curious to know how SEO tools get their data or looking to do some SEO scraping of your own. Ready to find out?
What is web scraping?
You may never even heard of web scraping before, so let’s quickly define web scraping first.
Web scraping, web harvesting, data extracting. They’re all terms used to describe the same automated process.
This process allows you to gather information from one or multiple web pages by letting a robot (the web crawler or spider) visit each page for you and deliver the information back to you in a format of your choosing.
This is much more efficient than when you would manually visit every page yourself and copy-paste the information after.
So how does scraping work? In short, you pick the URLs, the crawler visits them, interprets the information there, and then copies this data in a database or spreadsheet.
Since web pages are written in HTML markup language, which isn’t exactly user-friendly to read, the bot must process this information for you. Therefore, your robot will parse and reformat the raw data before presenting it to you in a more easily understandable format.
Now you know a little bit about the basics of web scraping, let’s look at the connection between web scraping and SEO.
How web scraping can help your SEO
As you probably know, search engines are based on the work of web crawlers to visit URLs, identify the content on those pages, and then index these pages. In the case of Google, this work is done by the (in)famous GoogleBots.
As we’ve seen above, this same web crawling process is at the basis of web scraping as well. As soon as the data is extracted, web crawling turns into data scraping (hence the term data extraction).
Since web scraping uses the same process as search engines, you can mimic GoogleBot’s behavior by web scraping, thus giving you insights into the way Google sees websites.
This is how SEO spider tools like Screaming Frog work. They allow you to scrape your own website the way a search engine’s robot would do. This shows you exactly how Google sees your website, which can give you a lot of information on how you can improve your site to boost its SEO performance.
For example, it can help you identify broken links, redirects that aren’t set up properly, or an overall messy site structure. And to make it even better, you can do the same thing for other websites as well.
One possible use is to scrape a site that you want a backlink from, spot any broken outgoing links from their blog posts, and drop them a message highlighting the broken link and suggesting how a link to your site would be a great fit there.
You can see how web scrapers make handy SEO tools. But there’s even more that you can use them for.
Scraping Google data for SEO
As an SEO, your main priority is, of course, how your site is performing in the search engine results pages (SERPs). You want to know your rankings for each keyword, but you also want to know who is ranking for keywords that you might want to target next.
All this data can be gathered directly from the search engine by using a web scraper. But before you eagerly start scraping away, a note on legality and potential problems.
You see, web scraping is considered neither legal nor illegal, making it a bit of a grey zone. Many forms of web scraping are considered OK, like the examples mentioned in this article.
But some people use the same techniques to, for example, steal information and create duplicate websites filled with plagiarized content. This is considered illegal, and search engines like Google actively try to prevent this.
But even if you stick to the legal side of web scraping, many websites (including Google) will try to prevent your bot from entering. That’s because some consider it a privacy violation, while others don’t want all that extra bot traffic slowing down their website.
So how to get your hands on Google data for SEO without stepping on anyone’s toes?
Well, sadly, Google deprecated its Google Search API a few years ago. This means that right now you still have to rely on scraping methods that acquire the desired data.
SEO tools for web scraping
Now you can try to build a Google scraper yourself, but this takes a lot of time and effort (and a good dose of coding knowledge). Instead, you’re probably better off finding an SEO tool that you can use instead.
Luckily, there are hundreds of different tools available – visit this website of a scraping tool to discover their pricing and features. Alternatively, you can use a free plugin like Scraper for Chrome or detailed software like SEMRush or Ahrefs. And with the wealth of SERP data they provide, you can be certain that paying for these tools will pay off in the long run.
Good luck improving those rankings!