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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Linked Custom Search Engines

Google for their CSE (Custom Search Engine) service previously allowed you to store your XML definitions for the engine with Google, or create a CSE with their wizard. As of now you can also store the XML file on your own server, and use a hidden “cref” parameter in the CSE search box form on your site to point to this file. Google calls this feature “Linked CSEs.” (And as your XML can be generated dynamically, you might now connect your CSE to certain real-time data stored on your own server.)

The array of search services Google offers to webmasters are vast, and it can be confusing to pick the right one for your need (and then configure it correctly, too). The Google SOAP API was my preference before it stopped working half of the time, as with this you could write your own code on the server-side, giving you the most power (including the power to not serve Google ads, which is likely why Google stopped their server-side search API efforts; developers can use Yahoo’s search API as working alternative). Nowadays, you can use a CSE, and put the search box onto your site or point visitors to your own (ugly) CSE homepage. Or you can use the AJAX Search API, which comes with its own abundance (and partly over-abundance) of options, features & flavors (still, if you want a simple Google site search which is integrated on your site – and you don’t mind accessibility issues – this might be the best option today). Then there’s a site-specific AdSense for Search program, which makes you earn money when searchers click on ads (though this feature overlaps with what you can do with a CSE)... but you can’t easily integrate services likes these onto your site in terms of recreating your look and feel. And then, Google offers “Customizable Google Free WebSearch” since 2000 (though that one currently returns an error and is probably as deserted as the SOAP API).

[Via the official Google Custom Search blog and Search Engine Land.]


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