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Hack 83. Scrape Google AdWords

Scrape the AdWords from a saved Google results page into a form suitable for importing into a spreadsheet or database.

Google's AdWords—the text ads that appear to the right of the regular search results—are delivered on a cost-per-click basis, and purchasers of the AdWords are allowed to set a ceiling on the amount of money that they spend on their ad. This means that, even if you run a search for the same query word multiple times, you won't necessarily get the same set of ads each time.

If you're considering using Google AdWords to run ads, you might want to gather up and save the ads that are running for the query words that interest you. Google AdWords is not included in the functionality provided by the Google API, so you're left to a little scraping to get at that data.

Be sure to read "A Note on Spidering and Scraping" in Chapter 9 for some understanding of what scraping means.

This hack will let you scrape the AdWords from a saved Google results page and export them to a comma-separated (CSV) file, which you can then import into Excel or your favorite spreadsheet program.

This hack requires a Perl module called HTML::TokeParser ( You'll need to install it before the hack will run.

7.6.1. The Code

Save this code to a text file named


# usage: perl results.html


use strict;

use HTML::TokeParser;

die "I need at least one file: $!\n"

unless @ARGV;

my @Ads;

for my $file (@ARGV){

    # skip if the file doesn't exist

    # you could add more file testing here.

    # errors go to STDERR so they won't

    # pollute our csv file

    unless (-e $file) {

    warn "What??: $file -- $! \n-- skipping --\n";



    # now parse the file

    my $p = HTML::TokeParser->new($file);

    while(my $token = $p->get_token) {

    next unless $token->[0] eq 'S'

        and $token->[1] eq 'a'

        and $token->[2]{id} =~ /^aw\d$/;

    my $link = $token->[2]{href};

    my $ad;

    if($link =~ /pagead/) {

        my($url) = $link =~ /adurl=([^\&]+)/;

        $ad->{href} = $url;

    } elsif($link =~ m{^/url\?}) {

        my($url) = $link =~ /\&q=([^&]+)/;

        $url =~ s/%3F/\?/;

        $url =~ s/%3D/=/g;

        $url =~ s/%25/%/g;

        $ad->{href} = $url;


    $ad->{adwords} = $p->get_trimmed_text('/a');

    $ad->{desc} = $p->get_trimmed_text('/font');

    ($ad->{url}) =  $ad->{desc} =~ /([\S]+)$/;




print quoted( qw( AdWords HREF Description URL Interest ) );

for my $ad (@Ads) {

    print quoted( @$ad{qw( adwords href desc url )} );


sub quoted {

    return join( ",", map { "\"$_\"" } @_ )."\n";


7.6.2. How It Works

Call this script on the command line ["How to Run the Hacks" in the Preface], providing the name of the saved Google results page and a file in which to put the CSV results:

% perl input.html  > output.csv

input.html is the name of the Google results page that you've saved. output.csv is the name of the comma-delimited file to which you want to save your results. You can also provide multiple input files on the command line if you'd like:

% perl  input.html input2.html  > output.csv

7.6.3. The Results

The results will appear in a comma-delimited format that looks like this:


"Free Blogging Site","",

" The ultimate blog spot Start your journal now ","","40"

"New Webaga Blog","",

" Fully customizable. Fairly inexpensive. ","","24"

"Blog this","",

" Will online diarists rule the Net strewn with failed dotcoms? ",


"Ford - Ford Cars","",

" Build a Ford online here and get a price quote from your local dealer! ",


"See Ford Dealer's Invoice","",

" Save $1,400 in hidden dealership profits on your next new car. ",


"New Ford Dealer Prices","",

" Compare Low Price Quotes on a New Ford from Local Dealers and Save! ",


Each line is prematurely broken in this code listing for the purposes of publication.

You'll see that the hack returns the AdWords headline, the link URL, the description in the ad, the URL on the ad (this is the URL that appears in the ad text, while the HREF is what the URL links to), and the Interest, which is the size of the Interest bar on the text ad. The Interest bar gives an idea of how many click-throughs an ad has had, showing how popular it is.

Tim Allwine and Tara Calishain

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