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How web scraping can help you get more out of Google Maps

Web scraping is a hot topic these days, as more and more companies are turning to this highly efficient and modern way of gathering vital data from the internet.

google maps on smartphone
Image: Unsplash

Since its launch in 2005, Google Maps has gone on to become something much more than just a tool to help people “get from point A to point B“. It is now used by over 1 billion people every month to plan trips, monitor traffic, navigate to any destination, and find out up-to-date information on the many thousands of businesses that have registered their details through Google My Business.

By claiming their free business profile, these locations are encouraged to share essential info, photos, logos, opening hours, and more so that their customers can find them on both Google Search and Maps.

That information comes directly from companies, stores, and other places that are incentivized to provide accurate data, which makes it invaluable for other businesses, both competitors or potential suppliers. So what’s the best way to access all that data?

Why Google Places API isn’t enough

The Google Maps Platform has a great official API. Based on the concept of a “place” as an establishment, geographic location, or prominent point of interest, the Places API lets you carry out searches for lists of places based on location or search string, and request detailed information, reviews, photos, and more. In many cases this will be enough for the average user, but the official API only lets you scratch the surface of the vast amounts of data contained in Google Maps.

The pricing model introduced a few years ago for the Google Maps Platform made it easier for developers to start using the API, with a generous free $200 monthly credit enabling a total of several thousand requests. That sounds like a lot, but it soon adds up, and the price of using the API can soon escalate into unreasonable costs if you go too far.

How web scraping can give you more data

Web scraping is a hot topic these days, as more and more companies are turning to this highly efficient and modern way of gathering vital data from the internet. Web scraping, data scraping, or data harvesting all refer to the use of software bots to automatically extract data from websites. These bots can tirelessly visit thousands of web pages at inhuman speed and save whatever information they are programmed to collect.

If you want a more powerful and low-cost Google Places API, web scraping is the tool you need. Because web scraping is performed without using the official Google API, you are not limited by its restrictions. Web scraping enables you to gather as much data as you need and extract it in a structured format that is perfect for use in databases or other applications.

Web scraping was until recently only something big companies could afford, as it involved hiring teams of skilled developers and building custom scraping tools. But the emergence of web scraping and automation platforms like Apify has made it possible for anyone to dive straight into the world of web scraping, with no need for any special knowledge or teams of developers.

What data can you scrape and extract?

Ready-made tools like the Apify Google Maps Scraper have been designed to make it easy and cheap to scrape and extract data. By just changing a few settings, you can get all of the following for each place:

  • Title, subtitle, category, place ID and URL
  • Address, location, or exact coordinates
  • Phone number
  • Website URL
  • Temporarily or permanently closed status
  • Popular times (histogram and live numbers)
  • Average rating and review count
  • Images
  • Detailed characteristics
  • Opening hours
  • People also search

Going even deeper, the Apify Google Maps Scraper also lets you scrape detailed review data, including the review text, when it was published, number of stars, the response from the owner, reviewer name, how many reviews they’ve made, and even whether they’re a recognized Local Guide.

All of this data can be scraped at any level of precision with the Apify scraper, letting you specify country, state, city, postal code, or even just a particular polygon based on GeoJSON so that you can target any area. Once extracted, the data can be downloaded in formats like SON, CSV, Excel, XML, RSS, and HTML so that you can use it however you like.

Ideas on how to use data from Google Maps

So now you know that there is an alternative and effective way to get big data from Google Maps. But what can you do with that data? Here are a few ideas to inspire you, no matter what business you’re in.

Lead generation

New customers exist in the real world of neighborhoods, streets, towns, and cities. For any B2B, understanding where potential customers are located can mean more efficient servicing of their needs. Optimize just-in-time deliveries or work out exactly how to streamline last-mile delivery logistics.

Investment insights

Property prices depend on lots of other factors, including schools, stores, and traffic. Scrape Google Maps to identify up and coming areas just as the gentrification process starts, or know when to remove your investment from an area that is on the verge of hitting hard times.

New opportunities

If you want to start a business or franchise that does best when within a range of specific amenities or other stores, weigh up all the options based on hard data and narrow down an exact optimal location.

Deep and wide research

From market research to academic research, you can find out a lot of information about how people live, shop, work, and have fun by scraping data from Google Maps. Journalists and travel writers can also benefit from getting a complete dataset on a city or area.

Monitor competitors

From photos and reviews to opening hours and popular times, keeping an eye on how your competitors are doing could give you an edge. Do it at scale, make the right changes, and maybe your business can become the best of the bunch.

Aggregate and add value

All the data that you can scrape could have increased value for audiences who wouldn’t necessarily turn to Google Maps to find what they need, especially if you can repackage the information in new and exciting ways.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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