Google's custom search allows the creator or administrator to limit queries to a certain set of documents, such as those on one (or more) Web sites. The service, free and supported by ads for consumers, costs businesses anywhere from $100 per year to $15,000 per year or more at Web sites that field lots of queries.
Custom Search Engine Business Edition also includes an XML application programming interface (API) for customizing search result presentation, technical support, and the ability to display search results under the company's own logo rather than Google's familiar red, yellow, blue, and green.
Using this API, a company could, for example, add a "Buy It Now" button to search results on its Web site that linked to its products.
Google is aiming Custom Search Engine Business Edition at organizations that want to deploy Google's search technology to their Web sites but may not be ready to invest in the $30,000+ Google Search Appliance, which indexes both public and protected internal documents.
"Customers spend an enormous amount of time and money building their Web sites," said Nitin Mangtani, lead product manager for Google's Enterprise Search group. "What most of these sites are lacking is search."
The problem, as Mangtani sees it, is that potential customers who can't find the information they're seeking will go to another Web site.
The solution Mangtani proposes, Google Custom Search Engine Business Edition, has the advantage of not requiring any hardware or setup. "All I do is to go to this Web page, set up my search engine, generate four lines of HTML code, and then drop it on my home page and I'm done," he said. "The technological barrier to set up search on your Web site is dramatically reduced by this offering."
Mike Begin, network & system administrator for Total Training Network (TTN), an online business-oriented training site, agrees that the Custom Search Engine Business Edition is easy to set up. "Honestly, it was less than 10 minutes," he said.
TTN has been using Google's free site search and "was looking for something more powerful, maybe ad free," said Begin.
Begin said his company looked at competing products but didn't find anything that was as easy to use as Google. "The thing we really liked about it was the search results page was on our domain," explained Begin, adding that speed mattered too. "The results appear instantly, so that had a big impact."
Andy Steggles, president of Holiday Home Rental, an online directory of holiday rental homes, said the addition of Google's Custom Search Engine Business Edition resulted in a 30% increase in referrals to homeowners and a significant decrease in customer service requests.
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