Not all websites share their APIs with the public. Luckily for us, the biggest website in the world, Google Search, offers quite a few Google APIs. Or does it? Let's break down the most commonly asked questions about Google Search API.
Instead of going deep into what an API is, here’s a short recap: APIs make the web open. The main point of an API is to connect different web programs with a link that they will use to communicate and exchange data. If the API is well-written, it enables two applications created with different technologies and languages to interact smoothly with each other without the need to resort to some sort of techno-compromise.
For various reasons, not all websites share their APIs with the public. Luckily for us, the biggest website in the world seems to be among the most generous, offering quite a few public APIs along with documentation on how to use them. Not without caveats of course, but we’ll talk about that in due time.
Which API is used in Google?
Google offers many public APIs for different Google services; they are usually JSON APIs based on RESTful requests. These APIs are publicly available in Google API GitHub repository. As for a Google Search API, there’s no such thing from Google. The Custom Search API provided by Google won’t allow you to get a JSON from Google search results. What it does instead is perform a small version of Google Search on your own website.
Is there a Google Search API?
Not at the moment. Although the original Google Web Search API has been deprecated in 2011, you can stumble upon its replacement, Custom Search API. However, this replacement API is different. While provided by Google as a stand-in for Google Search API, this API won’t return you a detailed list of Google search results in JSON - which is what you’d expect. Instead, it allows you to program your own little search engine by applying the logic of Google Search to your website.
In addition, this “Google Search API” imposes two key limitations: the number of queries and the number of websites you can search. It supports a limited number of queries per day (10K). It may also restrict search capabilities which means that you can’t use it to search the whole web programmatically. Whichever limitation you choose, it will cost you $5/1K queries to search websites programmatically via the official Google API. More on the pricing in the next part.
Is Google's API free?
Google has many APIs and all of them are free but with many limitations. The Custom Search API, for example, offers the first 100 search queries per day for free. If you wish to lift this limitation and make more queries, it will cost you $5 per 1,000 requests. However, there’s no way to exceed 10,000 requests per day even if you’re ready to pay more. The only way to go above the 10K limitation is if you are applying your search engine to less than 10 websites.
How do I create a search API?
To create a search API of your own, you can follow Google’s step-by-step tutorial on creating a Custom Search Engine which is freely available on the Google developers page. In short, regardless of the programming language, you will need to get an API Key, a Custom Search ID, and install a relevant API Client to get your first results. If you follow through with all the steps, you’ll be able to make your own search engine, customize your search engine's ranking and do other surface-level modifications.
How do I search Google using an API?
Although Google does offer some sort of Search API, it’s impossible to use that one to send a search query to the whole wide web and get a machine-readable doc from this search. Which makes an official Google Search API, in the way you’d usually understand it, non-existent. However, many developers have noticed it and have come up with alternatives. By the nature of their task, all those Google Search API alternatives are essentially scrapers, here’s just a few of them:
Top Google Search API alternatives:
1. SERP API
Offers scraping infrastructure, regular organic results, structured data in JSON, reliable location search via encrypted parameters and no request queues. Pricing starts from $50/month per 5,000 searches/month.
2. Apify's SERP API
Provides SERP proxies, freedom in request location and language, organic results, ads, prices, reviews, related queries in datasets of 5 formats, offers Google APIs for other Google Services. Free trial for 30 days, then $49/month for a platform subscription plan. Try it out for free right now!
Promises no request queue, customized search queries, JSON & CSV dataset formats, SERP proxies, up to 100 free requests monthly, then starts at $29.99/ month.
4. Rapid API
A Python Google suggests speed and accuracy, easy-to-use but advanced enough to support special parameters, with zero proxies and clean IPs from the US instead. Free plan is limited with 600 requests/month, paid plan starts at $110/monthly.
Scrapes organic results, ads, local results, related queries using SERP proxies. Offers extensive documentation. Monthly subscription plan starts at $49.
So Google Search API is powered by web scraping?
Essentially, yes. As Google stopped providing a proper Search API allowing to get machine-readable data, other solutions such as scrapers inevitably turned up. They now remain the only proper solution to extract data from Google via an API.
How does a Google SERP API work?
The Google SERP bot takes your query, [e.g. weather tomorrow], takes it to google.com, performs the search and extracts the raw Google data from the results pages. You can customize the language [e.g. English or Spanish], geolocation of the results [e.g. US or Mexico], number of scraped results pages [e.g. first 10] and many other parameters.
Watch this simple video explaining how a Google Search API aka Google SERP Scraper retrieves data from the search engine. It will only take you 3 minutes to learn how to extract the data you need from Google Search!