What is a Custom Search Engine?
A custom search engine is one that can be created by anyone. The developers can choose which websites to add to the search engine and limit the results to only those domains. The conventional way to go about it was to take a for from an existing open source project like Solr or Elastic search and then build the required features and the UI to add on a website. This was by no means an easy task and would often involve heavy developer costs.
As an alternative, Google came up with its Site Search. Google Site Search (GSS), however, was shut down by April 1, 2018, and all GSS have been automatically converted to Custom Search Engine (CSE). Custom Search Engine is an ad-supported product that provides similar capabilities to GSS, including the ability to build custom search engines for sites or pages, an image search for your website, and customize the look and feel of search results.
Google Custom Search Engine
Google CSE offers different plans for different business needs as well as lots of customization tools. Being supported by ads, there is a good chance that it will end up showing the ads of even your competitors on your website. Its design limitations, ads, lack of speed made many of former Google search products’ customers look for a better solution.
Google Custom Search allows users to add a search to their website quickly without any coding. Google custom search engine uses the regular Google index of your website and uses it to deliver the search results. While the results are decent, you will not be able to meddle with the ranking algorithm or control the indexing of data. We will later address two ways to create a custom search engine, one being Google CSE and the other, ExpertRec, an alternative. In creating your own Google Custom Search Engine you can prioritize or restrict search results based on specific Web sites and pages you specify. Once you’ve defined your search engine, Google provides code for a search box that users can copy and then paste right into their own Web site or blog.
Create a Custom Search Engine
Making a search engine is easier than ever before. With hosted search-as-a-service providers taking up the pain of building most of the search engines, the end-users’ role is limited to adding an HTML code snippet on their website to take the search live.
Here we will visit the steps required to add the ExpertRec Custom search engine to your website. This is one of the easiest setup processes of all the available options out there and is highly recommended.
- Navigate to https://cse.expertrec.com/newuser?platform=cse and signup with your Google ID.
- Enter your website’s URL when prompted. You can select a server location near you and add the URL of your sitemap if you wish to. These will be auto-detected otherwise.
- You can play around with the settings and customize the UI as the crawl runs. Once it is complete, you can check out a fully functional demo before taking the search to your website.
- You can take the search to your website with little to no effort. All you need to do is to paste the code snippet available on the dashboard on your website.
ExpertRec comes with more customization options that you can explore. You can read this article to find a more detailed guide on the installation and configuration.
Google Custom Search Example
Google CSE also follows a similar setup process. It can also be added to a website by pasting a code snippet. However, it does not offer the same degree of customizability as ExpertRec as mentioned above.
The main difference lies in the fact that CSE does not offer a ton of customization options and that it shows ads. Here is how you can set up Google CSE.
- Navigate to https://cse.google.co.in/cse/
- Click sign in to custom search engine
- Enter the URLs of the websites to search and click on ‘create’
- Then click on ‘receive code’
- Add this code to your website to make the search box appear.
You can read more about it in detail in this article.
What solution is best for you?
Google does not provide any support for search products, whether you use a paid search or a free one. If you have any technical issues or questions, Google directs customers to its Community Forum, where Google enthusiasts and employees publicly discuss the subject of support. On top of it, the ads can get annoying pretty quickly. And it does not have the necessary customizability to justify taking a paid plan. Here are some key features that make ExpertRec stand out from the rest.
- ExpertRec’s feature set is a superset of that of Google’s Custom Search Engine. That means you retain all the features you get with CSE and also get additional features.
- ExpertRec gives ranking control. This is a key difference from Google which will stick to its core algorithm. You can specify how search results are ranked from a GUI without any coding.
- You can Customize the UI any way you want, either by using the GUI editor or by typing CSS the conventional way. You can leave it untouched as well since the default UI is pretty good.
- You will get priority customer support. Any issue raised will be deal with by a support team that will get the issues resolved quickly and effectively.
- Voice search on supported browsers. This is an exclusive feature not available in any other custom search engine.
- Custom search analytics to see what your users are searching for on your website. This can with SEO on your website in addition to finding out the recent trends.
ExpertRec custom search engine comes loaded with more features than the ones highlighted. You can take a look for yourself to see how expansive it is. From the point of customizability and a rich feature set, ExpertRec provides the best bang for the buck. Of course, the choice is up to you!