Google Blogoscoped

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Google Custom Search Engine

Google just launched their Custom Search Engine (CSE) program allowing webmasters, bloggers and everyone else to create a search engine tailored to their specific community interests. (Google made CSE part of their Google Co-op service, which allows communities to add their own oneboxes to Google.)

What happens is that you give your search engine a title and description, and then add a couple of keywords to focus on. You also provide several URLs to search through (Google allows you to either emphasize these sites but list other sites as well, or to search through those exclusively. While they offered similar features before with programs like Google AdSense for Search, the settings were never this flexible).

Others – you can control who – can then contribute to your search engine... e.g. with the help of the "Google Marker" bookmarklet which allows you to include & annotate pages you find while surfing.

An example search engine

Here's an example search engine I created. I'm calling it "Search News Search" and for testing purposes, added the following URLs:

However, I chose to only emphasize those sites, and not search through them exclusively. I've also added the keywords google, yahoo, search, search engine, web to place this Custom Search Engine into the search news field. You can see the result below (you can include a code snippet, integrate the engine with the Google AJAX Search API, or point users to your search engine's homepage):

For example, upon entering "API" this engine finds a general definition of the term. However, there will also be results from in the top 10 – and normally isn't anywhere near the top 10 for this query.

After you tuned the kind of results your search engine will return, you can also slightly customize the layout by picking colors (unfortunately Google still only allows you to enter hex-code values instead of RGB) and adding a (tiny) logo.

All in all, this is a nice start for a do-it-yourself Google engine. Some of the interface details might confuse users (e.g. the fact it's called "Google Co-op," or that you can't immediately tune the colors in the first step), and I find the layout customization too simple. There are some smaller bugs, e.g. the AdSense verification to make money with the custom engine failed here, and layout settings won't show on your CSE's homepage. And it's bad that you are forced to add keywords even if you only wish to restrict your custom engine via URLs. Also, it might be nice to be able to add certain gadgets to your CSE – like image or video results. Other than that, CSE is good competition to existing services like, especially since this one is "close to home" (a search engine service positioned in the neighborhood of the most popular search engine, that is).

Join the discussion that started in the forum.

[Thanks Kevin!]


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