15 Unique Features of Custom Search Engines

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As my friends know, I have been fascinated by Google’s Custom Search Engines (CSEs) for years. I have met several colleagues who have become as addicted to CSEs as I am; I feel as if we belong to a tribe. 🙂

I remain disappointed by the apparent CSEs’ low penetration into our industry tools. Part of the undeserved unpopularity is due to the lack of documentation from Google – or anybody else. (Google help no longer keeps the documentation of its advanced operators either.) The lack of info makes the operators like a medieval trade secret that is known to few (and, in our times, communicated via Messenger!)

David Galley and I contribute to covering the CSE documentation gap by blogging, hosting webinars, and preparing a book on the subject.

I have never seen a summary of unique CSEs’ advantages, so I came up with one. Many of the features have been there from the start (in 2006), but some unique semantic features are newer additions and deserve your attention. I have tried to make a full CSE feature list; let me know if you think of something important to add.

CSEs can:

  1. (Invisibly for the user) include only given site(s) (e.g., linkedin.com/in, which will find only LinkedIn profiles)
  2. Exclude given site(s)
  3. Give priority to the given site(s) but search the entire web
  4. Give priority to pages with given keyword(s)
  5. Narrow to a language
  6. Narrow to a country
  7. Boost results by country
  8. Include multiple sites via patterns using an Asterisk (e.g., site:behance.net/*/resume)
  9. Automatically append a string to user’s search (for example – narrow the search to PDF documents by adding filetype:PDF)
  10. Define synonyms to process user’s input
  11. Use the Synonyms feature to run long OR statements (for example, search for common women’s names)
  12. Select pages with given Schema.org object(s) (like Person, Physician, or Organization)
  13. Search for the presence of Schema.org objects’ fields (for example, find pages that have the filed “email” in the Person object)
  14. Search within Schema.org objects’ fields (for example, search for Github profiles containing “love Python” in the bio or LinkedIn profiles containing “open to new opportunities” in the headline)
  15. Guide the search by selecting Knowledge Graph object(s) (for example, find pages that are “CVs”)

While the first 11 points have been there from the start, 12-15 are later additions and make CSE search truly semantic, quite a challenge for a global search engine, nicely solved. (The only things that are less nice about CSEs is the old-style UI and cryptic operators to write out).

Please join us for an online class on CSEs on Tuesday, May 19th – “Become A Custom Search Engines Expert”. The optional workshop is the next day, Thursday. Seating is limited, sign up now!

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