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July 3, 2007

Google Custom Search Engines

I am writing this for all those who have or influence a website, especially those who will never set up a custom search for themselves.  I first read about CSE in SitePro News and have been setting some up.  An article on the usefulness of CSE for the Webmaster, Blogger or Website owners in general is about due.

Let us clarify “Google Custom Search”. The word “custom” means individuals or groups are able to tweak the search process, according to their own specific interest.  Custom Search Engines can be simply customized by selecting suitable sites or quite advanced specific searches.  What unites them all is Google’s technology. The tweaks to the system are those Google has made available.  It works. Google did well.  

As of yet, nobody has coined terms for Google’s Custom Search Engine feature. Here are some basic handles;

1. CSE means a Google Custom Search Engine, *GOOGLE is a trademark of Google Inc.

2.  “Gateman” will mean the person(s) who have customized a search engine.  As much of the customization selects this is, ‘in’ or ‘out’.  If you are into electronics you know ‘logic gates’ control this. 

So basically; the technology is Google’s, the customization is the Gateman’s and the results are the work of the Webmaster’s of the sites found by the CSE search.

A CSE  uses the URL “Site List” collected together by the person building the CSE.  This is both the strong and weak point of a CSE.  The CSE site list is collected to match a specific interest of the CSE, unlike the [full] Google search which gives you the world.  Obviously the person or small group building the CSE can and will miss out, or not include some websites. When a CSE has the websites in its site list, each URL becomes a bigger fish in this smaller pond.   

First for your own interest or research, there is no need to ‘ re-invent the wheel’ if somebody has set up a CSE in your area of interest.  As might be expected computer subjects are well supported by CSEs.  

For the purpose of this articles I set up a CSE on CSEs, a rather introverted custom search.

try this:  This is the Homepage of CSE on Custom Search Engines  

You are offered; 

•Use the search box to test the CSE for suitability for your interest.
A CSE has a cleaner performance because it is not searching the whole web. It is using Google indexes built by the Googlebot but only on the selected websites.  Other than the customization, CSEs feel much like searching Google.  You will find less of the; “same words – but I didn’t mean that” problem.  When Google advertisments appear, they follow your input search words.

Just type a word; “CSS”, “plants”, “steam engine” etc.  The high-lighter function on your browser will help here. 

•Search engine details,
Written by the person creating the CSE, I have put an Email & a Website address.

•Number of sites searched with last ones added to site list.

•Add this search engine to your Google homepage:
This allows you to have a CSE on your personalized Google Homepage, you can fit pages with several unique CSE search boxes.  Best to have signed in to your homepage before clicking the ‘ Add to Google’. 

•Add this search engine to your blog or webpage.
Check the terms and conditions. If you like the CSE and the terms are ok, change the search box size and margin colours to your requirements.  I found it an easy copy and paste operation.  It is Google that gives you the code without charge.

The potential of this is great, a website could put a CSE in as, a reference for a current topic, project, related interests, educational research, etc…  You could change a CSE every week if you wished. Use CSEs as content on fledgling sites.  A small complementary cluster of CSEs on a ‘ latest news page’ of a Website could be a little like magazines in a waiting room if chosen carefully to the interests of your visitors. (ed note: just be certain to update them more frequently than your GP does. – jh)

Create your own Custom Search Engine? Google does not charge you but it does take quite a bit of your time.  Its not the Google technology that is difficult, it is the time it takes to make your own decisions!  You choose of what goes in and which does not.  Though the Google claims you can, “set up a website in minutes”, you might find yourself spending two hours getting a colour or phrase just right. Budget enough time to make working with CSE worth it because by the end of the budgeted time, you’ll likely find working with a CSE is worth it.

Author:  Visit Brian Nash’s website http://www.custom-search-engines.brian-e-nash.me.uk/  which has been set-up to work with this article.

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