December 05, 2007

Google Custom Search - Business Edition Review

Emmanuel Evita from Google invited me to review the Google Custom Search Engine, Business Edition, and kindly provided me with access to the service for a case study.

I will use this software to enhance the usability and utility of my web directory, Hopefully this case study prove useful to others who are considering implementing Google's hosted search service.

So What Is It?

The Google Custom Search Engine allows you to create your own search engine. Sign up for the hosted service, select a few options, and you’re done. The Business Edition has additional features, including customization of search results available through an XML API, reporting features that give insight into visitor behaviors, and the option to turn off ads and Google branding.

What Problem Does The Business Edition Of Google Custom Search Engine Solve?

In-site search can be a frustrating, both from the perspective of a user and webmaster.

If the search result relevancy isn't high, the user will go elsewhere. Search scripts and databases can be cumbersome and create administrative overhead.

The Google software provides you with site search that works. You get to use Google’s leading edge search technology, so the result sets are, as you’d expect, impressive. The service is hosted, so there is no administration required once it is setup.

You can also incorporate the result sets of other sites into the search engine, which is a feature I intend to use heavily. The service is very easy to implement, and the prices are competitive.

The Project & Goal

I run the directory We accept listing requests from webmasters and, following hand-review, we place sites in a category. Our aim is to create a quality, spam-free directory in which all results have been hand reviewed and categorized by editors.

The downside of this model is the lack of relevancy. Directory indexes can be shallow, which means the result sets can be weak when compared to a crawler-based engine.

To solve this problem, I intend to replace the existing directory search function with Google Business Search and incorporate result sets from other hand-picked human edited directories and verticals to use as backfill.

This approach will serve two purposes.

Firstly, we still get to keep a degree of control on spam, because we hand-select sources which operate a similar editorial policy to

Secondly, we increase our utility to the end user. If the utility to the end user is increased, we stand to gain more users, which should, in turn, convince people to list with us.

Google have placed a high degree of emphasis on human reviewed content. We will run a search service that includes hand-reviewed resources to provide a meta-directory search service for those users who prefer directories. Hopefully this study demonstrates how webmasters can compliment Google search by creating second-tier hybrid search services.

A description of the Rubberstamped meta directory search service, powered by Google Business Search, can be found here.

How To Set-Up Google Custom Business Search

The setup procedure is very easy.

For those of you running a search engine on one site, your list will obviously consist of just one site. You can add to the list at any time.

And that’s it. No really! Compare this procedure with implementing a search engine software script.

You can then sign up for different account levels, depending on your support and functionality requirements. Custom Search Business Edition starts at $100 a year for searching up to 5,000 pages, and extends to $500/year for up to 50,000 pages. Larger volumes of pages are supported through Google's enterprise sales group.

Core Sites

I’ve chosen these sites for inclusion based on their depth, freshness, and adherence to the hand-reviewed philosophy. We will be adding quality sites on a regular basis. Note: none of these sites are affiliated with Their results sets are incorporated via the Google search index.

The core sites, besides, include: is a search service beta launched in May 2007 by Jason Calacanis. The aim of Mahalo is to track and build hand-crafted result sets for many popular search terms. Mahalo's directory employs human editors to review websites and write search engine results pages that include text listings, as well as other media, such as photos and video. Their emphasis on hand-review is similar to ours, so Mahalo is a good fit for inclusion. is a directory established in 1994. They have around 172,000 pages listed in Google, and these consist of hand-reviewed results. The BOTW model is very similar to our own.

Yahoo Directory requires little introduction. Huge directory based around hand reviewed listings, which should help to provide needed depth. is a well established business search engine and directory.

We have used a filter option so users can choose to search just Rubberstamped, or include backfill from other sites. Give it a go. The setup process took a few minutes, then a few hours spent reading the FAQs to learn the finer points. We'll be looking to delve into the API in order to further hone our result sets, and will make this a topic of another article.