Is Google Custom Search a Revolution or Just Keeping Up with the Yahoos?October 24, 2006
As part of its Google Co-op offering, Google is now offering you the ability to “roll your own” search engine. Basically this means you can create a custom search engine for your site that can limit the search to certain URLs, or give certain URLs priority in the results. This can be used simply as a site search to allow people to search your site, or you can include many multiple sites in your engine that are authority sites for whatever niche you might be interested in. For example, you could create your own Beatles search engine and give priority to sites you know do a good job of focusing on Beatles content. And, Google’s offering will add Adsense ads to the search engine, giving Webmasters a share of revenue if site visitors click on the ads.
It’s a nice offering, but I imagine it will have limited adoption. Why? Because it takes work to create a custom search engine in terms of deciding which URLs are more important than others, and unless you really see this search engine as providing a service to your visitors, you probably won’t bother. Yes, there is the revenue share aspect that will drive some people to it, but God knows Google ads are already everywhere. Webmasters don’t really need a new custom search engine as a way to increase their Adsense income–the result is more likely to be a shift in terms of where the revenue comes from than an increase in revenue overall.
The most obvious application is for Webmasters to use Google’s search interface to offer visitors the opportunity to search their own sites, something Google’s already been offering for a long time.
The fact is that in most cases when you do a search, you don’t want it limited to just a few sites. Although it may be true that you’d like to see sites come out on top that you consider most trustworthy, you don’t want to shun sites that are little-known but happen to cover small niches really well. And it’s not always readily apparent where a good search result is going to come from. A site that spends a lot of time talking about hockey might suddenly write a very informative page or blog post on the best places to visit in Toronto. If your personal search engine excludes certain sites or always makes others more important, you might miss out on the good stuff from unlikely sources. Some will be willing to pay that price, but most will just continue to let the search engines sort it out, even if at times the results they get are frustrating.