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How To Build Your Own Site Search with Google’s Programmable Search Engine

Internal search engines on content management systems (CMS) are nowhere as robust as Google’s engine when it comes to providing great results. Instead of using the internal search on sites that I’m trying to find information on, I often utilize Google’s ability to just search a single domain. Just type site: and the domain you wish to search along with the phrase: "internal search"

And here’s the result you get:

site search with google

How To Build Your Own Google Search

Google used to have a product called Custom Search Engine (CSE) that enabled you to build and integrate search on your own site. They’ve since updated the product, and now call it Programmable Search Engine. The name change was made in 2020 to reflect the platform’s capabilities better. Programmable Search Engine allows you to create a custom search engine that searches the web, your website, or a collection of websites. You can control the content searched, the ranking of results, and the look and feel of the search results page.

Here are some of the benefits of using Programmable Search Engine:

  • You can create a custom search engine that is tailored to your specific needs.
  • You can control the content searched, the ranking of results, and the look and feel of the search results page.
  • You can create multiple Programmable Search Engines, each with its settings.
  • Google’s core search technology powers Programmable Search Engine, so you can be confident that your users are getting high-quality, relevant results.

How to Create Your Programmable Search Engine

To create a Programmable Search Engine, you need to create a Google account and sign in to the Programmable Search Engine Control Panel. I’m using my Google Workspace account. In the Control Panel, you can specify the content that you want to search, the ranking of results, and the look and feel of the search results page.

google programmable search engine results

You can also create multiple Programmable Search Engines, each with its own settings. Additionally, there are quite a few features that you can take advantage of:

  • Caching: Caching is the process of storing the results of a search query in memory so that they can be retrieved more quickly the next time the same query is made. This can improve the performance of your search engine, especially if you are searching a large corpus of documents.
  • Query rewriting: Query rewriting is the process of changing a search query to improve its relevance. For example, you can rewrite a query to remove stop words or to add synonyms. This can be useful for improving the quality of your search results.
  • Result highlighting: Result highlighting is the process of highlighting the search terms in the results. This can make it easier for users to find the information they are looking for. For example, if you search for the term cat, the results will be highlighted with the word cat.
  • Result snippets: Result snippets are short excerpts of the search results. This can give users a preview of the content before they click on a result. For example, if you search for the term cat, the results may include snippets such as This article is about cats or This website has information about cats.
  • Advanced operators: Advanced operators are special keywords that can be used to fine-tune your search queries. For example, you can use the site: operator to limit your search to a specific domain, or the intitle: operator to search for documents that contain a specific word in the title.
  • Personalization: Personalization is the process of tailoring the search results to the individual user. This can be done by taking into account the user’s past search history, location, or interests. For example, if a user has previously searched for information about cats, their search results may be more likely to include results about cats.

Martech Zone’s Programmable Search Engine

Want to test drive ours? Here’s the programmable search engine that I built in a couple of minutes that searches my site. And… because I’m utilizing the same Google account that’s also registered to my Adsense account, it’s monetized as well!

Launch Martech Zone Search

And, of course, you could utilize Programmable Search Engine to replace your entire internal search capability. If you don’t want to serve ads on your SERPs, you can even pay for usage and forego them.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and CEO of DK New Media. Douglas has helped dozens of successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to assist companies in implementing and automating their sales and marketing strategies. Douglas is an internationally recognized digital transformation and MarTech expert and speaker. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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