Google Breaks Out Custom Search

    October 24, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

Site publishers can use the Google Custom Search Engine to build the search engine of their dreams, drawing from specific sites and blogs, dressing it up to match the look and feel of the webmaster’s site, and making money with AdSense through its search results.

Shashi Seth and R.V. Guha from the Google Co-op team have announced the much-rumored roll your own search service from Google has arrived. Called the Custom Search Engine, the new service provides a customizable experience to those who implement it for their websites.

“As you might imagine, it’s a simple and straightforward product to use and understand,” they wrote. “In a matter of minutes you can create a search engine that reflects your knowledge and interests; looks and feels like your own; and, if you choose, you can make money from the traffic you receive through Google’s AdSense program. You can even invite your friends and trusted community members to add to and help build your search engine.”

It sounds like the modern day equivalent of Tom Sawyer’s fence, where lots of people can come on by, grab a can of whitewash, and paint the fence. Google has a much broader palette than Mark Twain provided for his young protagonist.

The option for placing a search box on one’s site has been an option offered by other search engines. Google’s standing at the top of the search world has made it a desirable one to have.

In building a Custom Search Engine, one can specify the websites and pages they would like to include in the search. These sources can serve either as the only ones for search results, or they can be prioritized and ranked higher than other sources in Google’s index when results are returned.

Google listed other customization options in its FAQ:

With a Custom Search Engine you can:

•  Apply your website’s look and feel to the search results page.
•  Make money from your Custom Search Engine by participating in Google’s AdSense program.
•  Provide search refinements within results pages to make it easier for searchers to find the information they’re looking for.
•  Incrementally add sites to your search engine’s index as you surf the web.
•  Invite friends and trusted users to co-edit and contribute to your search engine.

“We want to make it easy for anyone to create a search engine about all of their favorite topics, without needing a Ph.D.,” said Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products and User Experience. “Everyone – businesses, organizations, moms, dads, teenagers, and teachers – can harness the power of Google technology to create a personalized search experience that reflects specific knowledge and interests.”

Google’s Matt Cutts enthused about the new service in his post about the Custom Search Engine. He also indicated there could be a “gold rush” quality about it as well:

In the same way that AdSense enabled a lot of very good content creation in different niches, Custom Search Engine could help a lot of people who want to make a search engine, but would be happy doing it not-as-a-VC-funded-startup. Anyway, this whole personal take is wild speculation, but it would be neat if it turned out to be true.

I do think that this launch will kick off a lot of opportunity that not everyone will see or understand at first. For example, the first person to make a truly kick-butt search engine about biking will likely start to attract volunteers and traction and first-mover attention, and could very well become the authority search for that niche.

The launch of a new Google service has garnered the usual broad attention such initiatives from the search advertising company do. Om Malik wrote at GigaOM about another potential aspect of the debut of Google’s Custom Search Engine:

It is a clever idea on Google’s part. By getting folks to build their own vertical search engines, the company is trying to blunt the efforts of some of the VC funded vertical search engines. It is also using “people’s power” to fine tune their own search index. My inner cynic thinks this is – distributed search optimization effort.

However, the problem is that they are not giving any real incentive for people to do that. The share of Adsense bounty is just the same as on a plain vanilla site. It should increase the payouts to the search builders. They are getting more focused search results (hence higher click throughs for their ad), so why not share the profits with folks who are doing the heavy lifting.

We expect to see some interest in the Custom Search Engine from political interests, especially since Google is already popular with a variety of politics fans. Imagine what implementations of the Custom Search Engine on the blogs for Michelle Malkin or Daily Kos would look like when developed with their ideologies. Queries for “George Bush” would be very widely varied.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.