Google rides on 20" rims (and the "The" ha-ha)

Are you feeling lucky? In today's IT Blogwatch, Google allows us to customize its search engine. Not to mention Dubya's oh-so-hilarious use of a definite article...

Juan Carlos Perez searches his soul to bring us this:

Google Inc. on Monday launched a new service designed to let Web site publishers build their own search engines using Google's massive index of page links. The Google Custom Search Engine service will let anyone, from individuals to organizations, put a Google-powered search box on their Web sites that only searches certain sites and pages. That way, the publisher of a Web site about, say, hockey could put a search box on his home page that only returns links to pages about that sport that he hand-picked. The service will also let publishers have a search engine that taps Google's index in full but gives preference to results from Web sites they have preselected.

With Custom Search Engine, Google joins others that provide similar services, including Yahoo Inc. and Rollyo Inc. These custom engines are part of the social search concept, which taps users to refine the search engine experience by contributing, categorizing, tagging and sharing search results. For example, site publishers using the Google service can let others contribute to their custom index.

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The service is hosted on Google servers, so site publishers don't get access to search query logs, a sensitive topic for users who are concerned about the privacy of their search activities.

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Google will display contextual ads with search results, but sites run by government agencies, nonprofit organizations and universities can opt out of this ... Google stands to benefit not only from sharing ad revenue with publishers but also from propagating the availability of its search engine.

Harry McCracken adds:

What if you could create your own version of Google, and do it almost instantly? Starting today, you can, sort of ... In short, it's a way to carve off chunks of Google and customize them into a specialty search engine with a specific focus.

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Building a Google Custom Search Engine that just searches your site is useful, but not exactly new--in fact, another Google service with the odd name Google Free (since when has Google charged for much of anything?) has let you do that for a long time. But Google Custom Search Engines, unlike Google Free, don't make you choose between searching one site or the entire Web--when you create one, you specify how many (or few) sites get searched.

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Google Custom Search also hooks up with Google's AdSense advertising platform, so it's possible to create a search engine that's accompanied by text ads you can make money from.

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Lately, some new Google offerings have left you wondering what they had to do with Google's core mission ... Google Custom Search Engine, however, leaves you (or at least me) saying "How useful--of course Google should be doing this." Give it a look...

John Paczkowski makes the inevitable pimp joke:

Google's aim, of course, is to root itself deeply into vertical search, a big new market for advertising, and beyond that to improve the search experience on its own site ...  Google Custom Search Engine isn't exactly a new concept -- see Rollyo and Eurekster (nice knowing you, guys). But it does offer a unique feature that will almost certainly make it a category crusher. Publishers who avail themselves of the service can bundle it with Google Adsense and share in the revenue they generate with Google. And coming from a company that some expect to command more than $1 out of every $2 of ad spending in the U.S. by 2010, that's a compelling proposition.
Matt Cutts is, like, "Really jazzed":

This new offering lets you easily add hundreds (thousands?) of urls. You can search over ONLY the sites you choose, or (my favorite) you can apply a boost to the sites you choose, with regular websearch as a backfill. That’s really nice, because if your chosen urls talk about a subject, you’ll often get matches from those urls, but if the user types something completely unrelated, you’ll still get web results back. So it’s a true custom search engine, not just an engine restricted to showing matches from some domains.

You can also choose to exclude results from different sites. As far as I can tell, this happens in pretty close to real-time, even for complex url patterns ... Lots of other nice features are tucked away under the hood. For example, there’s a bookmarklet (Google Marker) so that if you’re surfing the web and find a site you’d like to add to your search engine, you just click and that site is instantly added to your search engine ... [and you can] choose to allow volunteers to edit your search engine and add new sites if you want.

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Which leads to my personal take: there’s companies that tackle search for specific verticals (Trulia for real estate, Truveo for video, Kosmix for health and other topics, Powerset for natural language, Guruji for India). Those companies work hard to bring something special to their vertical search. But there’s a tier below “I want to get VC money to do vertical search,” and I think this product could enable that. In the same way that AdSense enabled a lot of very good content creation in different niches, Custom Search Engine could help a lot of people who want to make a search engine, but would be happy doing it not-as-a-VC-funded-startup.

Joe Duck waddled in to say this:

This has a lot of potential if Google uses the community input to help weed out crappy sites and upgrade unknown sites, though they tend to avoid this type of human (and therefore spammable) input. Yahoo is more comfortable with that approach so I hope they are taking advantage of it via the Rollyo and Yahoo custom search user inputs.
Aaron Wall worries about fly-by-night search engine optimizers:

Webmasters can bias the results ... and select a seed set of sites to ... bias the results toward ... Surely some shifty outfits will use this as a way to show their ranking success, but this also makes me wonder what the net effect on Google's brand will be if people see powered by Google on sites which provide terrible relevancy, or results that are obviously biased toward racism or other horrific parts of humanity. Will searchers learn to trust search less when they start seeing different Google results all over the web? Or will anyone even notice?
Rex Hammock has been doing something similar for, "Over a year":

Since Google didn’t offer a customizable search product a year or so ago when I was wanting to add such a feature to SmallBusiness.com, I resorted to purchasing a Google mini and (with help the Hammock hackery team) created my own search engine that indexes a tightly focused group of websites I select to be indexed (oops — I just gave away the secret algorithm of our search strategy: my dictatorship). The search results page carries Google Adsense ads and the revenues from those quickly paid for the mini. I had been considering bumping up to a higher-capacity Google mini, but, well, tomorrow’s announcement will cause me to reconsider that investment as they are basically offering me a free alternative to the hack I paid them a couple thousand dollars for. (For the record, I’m glad I invested in the Google mini when I did as we’ve garnered a vast amount of insight from analyzing the search patterns of our users — something we’ll probably not be able to do if we outsource narrow search to Google. Also, we’ve hacked our own search results page that I’ve grown to like — that likely will have to change if we participate in the new program.
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And finally... Looks like it's still fashionable to laugh at Dubya

Richi Jennings is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richij.com.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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