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Powering Your Site's Search with Google

by Ted Kuik

Do you dream of having your own search engine or perhaps just adding a little search interactivity to your web site? There are many ways you might go about achieving this goal. Here are three offerings from Google that you might want to consider:

(1) Adsense for search (www.google.com/adsense/ws-overview)

Adsense for Search might be a good option if you want to add search to your site and perhaps earn some revenue in the process. It's extremely easy to set up, particularly if you are already signed up for Google Adsense. You can choose from among several configuration options, including whether you want the search results to come from your site only, a group of sites that you select, or the entire web.

One of Google's screens has a link to "access more advanced features", which will convert this option into a "Google Custom Search Engine" (which I will describe later in this article).

[Adsense for search used to create a search box where the user could choose whether they wanted to search your site or the entire web, but this is no longer true with the new code that Google provides (although the old code still works to a degree). There's a good discussion about this on Webmaster World here]


(2) Google site search (www.google.com/sitesearch/)

Site search gives your site a Google-powered search function without displaying any ads. Unlike, Adsense for search, you have to pay Google to use it. Currently the price starts at $100 per year for sites with up to 1000 pages, with a limit of 250,000 queries per year. Sites with more pages cost more, and in some cases have a higher search query limit.

Google site search lets you select a limited number of pages on your site for rapid indexing (within 24 hours) and gives you control over some other aspects of how search works on your site as well.


(3) Google custom search (www.google.com/cse/)

Like Adsense for search, Google custom search is free and gives you a chance to earn some Adsense revenue from the ads on the searches that result. Alternatively you can pay Google a fee to deliver ad-free results, as in the case of Google site search. It's easy to get a Google custom search engine up and running with very effort, but if you want to put more thought and time into it, there a variety of options you can use to make it even better.

As in the case of Adsense for Search you can set your custom search engine to search one or more sites that you select or you can set it to search the entire web. You can also set your search engine to search the entire web but emphasize the sites that you select. Another handy feature is that you can exclude certain sites. This is useful for filtering out sites that are low quality or irrelevant to an area you are trying to target with your search engine.

Some of the many additional features available to you are:

  • an option to include keywords to describe the focus of your search engine and increase the relevancy of its search results.
  • the ability to invite up to 100 other people to collaborate with you.
  • various "look and feel" choices you can make to customize your search engine's appearance.
  • a handy preview feature so you can try out your search engine to see if it looks and behaves the way you want it to.
  • a "my search engines" page that gives you a listing of all of your custom search engines (you can have more than one).
  • basic stats: number of queries over day, week, month, or overall; popular queries (if any) over the selected time period.

One of the uses for which Google custom search is particularly well-suited is the creation of search engines focusing on a specialized niche. By including and excluding sites and/or choosing the right keywords, you can greatly influence the search results that a query will produce. For an example of some niche custom search engines, feel free to try out the custom art search engines that I've made available from this page.

Before using any of the search options I've described, be sure to read all of the Google terms of service that apply and abide by them. For instance, as of this writing it appears to me that the terms of service for all three of the Google search options I've described require (among many other things) that if you use them to provide search results on any of your sites, Google will be be "the exclusive provider of Internet search services on such Web site(s)."

The search options that Google offers are by no means your only potential choices for creating a search engine or adding search functionality to your site. You could also consider the Yahoo Build your Own Search Service or select an open source search engine, such as those found on this page. With the power, options, and support they provide, however, Googles options are certainly something that many developers will want to consider for their search needs.


Last Revised March 3, 2010

Copyright 2010, Ted Kuik/Kuik Computer Services. All rights reserved.