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10/23/2006
08:07 PM
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Google To Let Publishers Create Custom Searches On Their Own Sites

Custom Search Engine lets publishers use menu-driven wizards to optimize Google to their own sites and share revenue from the searches.

Google plans on Tuesday to launch the Google Custom Search Engine, a way for Web publishers to create a customized version of Google for their sites and get revenue for it.

"This is really a way to make your own version of Google Search that searches over just the content that you care about, or just the content that you're an expert in," says Marissa Mayer, Google's VP of search products and user experience. "You can actually make a smaller version of the Google search engine that just searches URLs and Web sites that you specify."

The Google CSE refines Google Co-Op, a search product launched in May to let users syndicate their knowledge by labeling or categorizing Web sites and making that knowledge available to other Google searchers to improve search result relevancy.

Google CSE is more compelling because it's simpler. Google Co-Op requires some familiarity with XML coding, whereas anyone who has used a menu-driven wizard for software installation should be able to set up CSE in just a few minutes.

Building a CSE offers a chance to profit: Participants in Google's AdSense program--in which publishers share the click revenue from ads supplied to their sites by Google--will make money when searchers click on ads presented alongside their customized search results.

Qualified government sites, educational institutions, and nonprofits will be able to create CSEs that are completely free of advertising. While that tactic will cost Google revenue, it'll also hurt Google's competitors, who might have sold site search to such organizations. Similarly, startups offering comparable search customization and community technology, like Rollyo.com and Eurekster.com, will face competition from Google.

Several sites involved in the testing of this technology have already created their own CSEs, including JumpUp.com, a finance site for small businesses run by financial software vendor Intuit, RealClimate.org, a site that aims to present nonpoliticized, scientifically credible information about climate change, and MacWorld.com, a computer publication that focuses on Apple's products.

MacWorld.com experimented with Google Co-Op after it debuted, says Jason Snell, VP and editorial director of Mac Publishing. "We looked at it as a way to better define our content and to improve our traffic," he says.

Upon discovering that his colleagues frequently used Google in conjunction with the "site:" operator to search their own site (rather than using the built-in search engine), Snell says his publication jumped at the chance to create a CSE as a replacement for MacWorld.com's unsatisfactory search capabilities. The fact that his company was already a participant in Google's AdSense program made the decision easier.

A critical distinction between Google Co-Op and CSE is control. "Co-Op was really a part of Google," Snell says. "This is controlled by us."

But creators of CSEs also have the option of ceding some control to trusted online users, allowing them to contribute to inclusion and categorization of sites in the custom index. In theory, this should result in a better search experience for everyone.

Google stands to benefit from community contributions, too. "I think Google will get a lot of learning out of this," says Greg Sterling, founder of research and consulting firm Sterling Market Intelligence. "One of the things that Google is trying to do is deepen the results on its own site. This is an interesting human editorial layer."

Mayer says Google doesn't have any immediate plans for all the data that users will generate in the process of creating CSEs. However, she acknowledges that the company may find uses for it in the future.

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