Google today released the Google Custom Search Engine [news story], a utility that makes it easy to create a custom search. It allows you to query only the sites you specify or to search all sites with preference given to your specified sites.
Since search is a key component of any site, anybody who publishes a Web site or a blog should pay attention to this new service. Custom search can make sites much more useful. After all, when people type in a search query on a site, it's a safe bet that they want to search for topics the site is about. For example, if I'm on a gadget site and I search for "notebooks," I want laptop computers. On an office supply site, I'm more likely to want pads of paper. Custom search can tilt results in the right direction.
I created a PC reviews search in about two minutes. Try searching for a general term, such as "power," and compare your results to a standard Google search:
Users can also customize the look and feel of the search results, exclude particular sites from the results, and invite others to help fine-tune the custom search. They can also link their custom search to their AdSense account and share in the revenues generated by it.
Google is hardly the first company in this market. Yahoo and Microsoft have custom search tools, as do smaller companies such as Rollyo and Eurekster [column on Eurekster]. I've tried them and found them all easy to use--except Microsoft's, for which I could not find the embeddable HTML a publisher needs to put a custom search box in his or her own site. Some of the other tools also have flourishes, such as tag clouds, which telegraph to users what the hosting site is all about.
Google has the leg up on all of them, though, not because it's markedly easier to use or has more features--it isn't and it doesn't--but because of the direct AdSense connection. As I said, if you publish a Web site, you really should consider adding custom search. And if you can make a few bucks from it, so much the better.