To commemorate last week's third anniversary of the launch of Google's Custom Search tool, the search giant has announced a slate of updates to its customizable search service.
To kick things off, Google announced the release of six new themes for Google Custom Search. All six themes can be customized by changing "fonts, colors, backgrounds, promotion settings, as well as interactive features such as tabbing and mouseovers," the company said. Users can also decide where the search box and results should be placed (in a contiguous layout or in two columns). All the themes will work with Google's Mobile Custom Search, which the company launched last week. That service allows users to access a site's Custom Search from Android phones, the iPhone, and Palm Pre.
Google's Custom Search will be displayed inline on a Web page. A Google spokesman told me Monday that when users search a site equipped with Custom Search, the results will be displayed above the page they're on. If they scroll down, they can view the page's contents. Those site owners who prefer a separate page to display results can still use that option, the company said.
Google has also launched a new Custom Search feature called Structured Search. The new option will allow users to search for information by specific attributes, rather than use general terms, the company said.
If a Web publisher has provided "author's name" as an attribute in the app's metadata, for example, users can search specifically for a particular author and view only the results matching that query, the company said. Google's intention is to make finding specific content easier, but only those "specific attributes that the page content has specified via metadata markup" can be used to tailor results, the company said.
The company also announced that Web publishers can now place thumbnail images or publisher-provided links into the search results. For example, if a story from CNET.com includes an image, the new feature gives users the option to add that attribute to results. When Google displays that particular story, it will include a thumbnail of that image next to it (see the image below).
Finally, Google announced that it has built a Custom Search skin for Wikipedia. Instead of relying upon Wikipedia's search, Wikipedia users can now log in to their accounts and edit their skin to include Google's Custom Search feature. From then on, Wikipedia's search field will be replaced with Custom Search.
Instead of just delivering Wikipedia pages matching queries, Custom Search will display three tabs when a user searches the site from a Wikipedia page. The first tab will display relevant Wikipedia results. The second page will display relevant wikis that are linked to the Wikipedia page the user is already on. The final tab displays related third-party sites that are linked to in a particular Wikipedia page. All results will be displayed inline on the same page the user is on.
Google's new Custom Search features are available now. If you want to learn more about the changes made to Custom Search, check out the site's blog here.