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Recently, Google announced a service that lets anyone create a topical search engine by selecting URLs and gathering them together into a distinct “Custom Search Engine.” This opens up the possibility of an infinite number of “mini-Googles” on any conceivable subject, all run by anyone with an expertise or passion about a specific topic.
Real world example: let’s say you are an expert in archery and run an online archery store. You can create a Google-powered search engine comprised only of archery-related sites or other archery content. Put a custom Google search box on your archery site, and anyone using your search box will get results free of the junk and spam they’d get with that exact same search at Google.com. It sounds complicated, but one can be set up in 5 minutes. Google even offers a wizard to take you through the process of creating a CSE (Custom Search Engine). See google.com/coop/cse for the FAQs and wizard.
Another example – I run three different sites, so for fun I created a Google Custom Search Engine made up of all the pages from my sites only. I use this for my on-site search.
What a quick and easy (and free) way to add a search engine to your site!
Several other players are in this same niche (e.g., Rollyo, Eurekster, and Yahoo!), but with Google being Google, they’ve gotten far more publicity and traction lately.
In some ways this is an extension of the burgeoning UGC (User Generated Content) movement, since by having experts handpick URLs and create vertical engines, Google cleverly improves the existing algorithm with a layer of human involvement. Bingo! A whole world of potential human spam filters.
I see the most useful implementation of CSEs in the creation of a CSE on a specific subject or topic. An example is Diabetes Web Search (http://search.diabetesdaily.com/), where you can search over 250 diabetes-related sites and blogs.
What This Means for Marketers
For website owners reading this, CSEs equal opportunity. An obvious first move is to create a CSE if none exists in your niche. If you don’t, someone else eventually will. You can check for new CSEs at customsearchguide.com.
Second, using the diabetes example, if you have a diabetes-related site, look to see that your site is included in the Diabetes Web Search CSE mentioned above. If it isn’t, request that it be included.
Finally, I have a hunch that PPC ads that run on CSEs could make you some spare change (or maybe a lot of spare change). Look for custom and vertical engines that fit your content. Check Google CSEs, check Rollyo, look for others; then request inclusion from the owners of the vertical engine. Inclusion won’t be automatic, since the nature of a vertical search engine is to be picky about what sites get in. You will need quality content that adds value to the engine’s results.
Developing a CSE can be well worth the effort. My advice? Spend the necessary time to investigate this new addition to search.