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There always comes a moment in your industry that makes you feel like you can’t believe something passed you by and you can’t believe that you’ve never heard of something so cool. This is one of those moments for me, and it involves Google custom search. This is something that seems to have flown under the radar (at least my radar) for quite some time, yet there are many SEO benefits to be had. In case you missed this one like me, you will be happy to know that it’s easy to get started and you’re not behind the game if you’ve missed out—you were just going about things differently.
Google custom search engine (CSE) allows you to customize your search to specific pages and domains. You simply copy and paste the domains and/or the pages where you want to see results into your CSE, and you’re set to go. This means that you can also customize it to focus on a certain topic. Below is a sample screenshot of a CSE that I created. The screenshot illustrates the page I received when I created the search engine and the right of that page shows what the custom search looks like when you search for a particular term. As you can see, I named my CSE “SEO Advice” and set it to only look things up from my company’s domain, Higher Visibility:
As you can see, you can choose to get the code so that you can put your custom search bar anywhere on your website, or you can get the public URL so that you can use this “new” search engine when surfing around the web.
Actually creating a CSE is easy. Simply visit this link and follow the directions. You have to add in the sites that you want your search engine to use when it pulls results, specify your language and hit “create.” It’s as simple as that.
A custom search is a great way for SEOs to find competitor’s links. Although earning links from new and different places untouched by your competition is best, being able to double up on a few sites is a great way to get those “easy” links. Paddy Moogan goes into more detailed about how to use CSE combined with your link analysis tool to find these competitor links.
The biggest way that you can use custom search, however, is by incorporating the code into your website. This makes it incredibly easy for your visitors to navigate around your website and make sure that they get exactly what they are looking to find.
As with anything in business, there are always drawbacks to great tools; which can be more prevalent for some companies than others. It’s important to understand a few of the drawbacks before jumping into the project. First, people have reported that Google makes it tough to add asterisks in the domain name. For example, this makes it hard to cover both “www” or just the simple spelling of a domain name, or even “http” versus “https.” Second, Google has been known to limit the number of search results returned by CSE. In the study mentioned above, Squidoo explained that she and others saw very different numbers. A normal Google result turned up 5,830 results, while a CSE search turned up just 7.
Have you ever used a Google CSE? Was your experience positive or negative? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from algorithm updates. She writes for the professional SEO Firm HigherVisibility, nationally recognized as one of the best local SEO companies.