The new custom search engine (CSE) program announced by Google offers significant possibilities for web site owners. Implementing a CSE allows site owners to develop a new asset for their business, and provides a new revenue stream for their business as well.
Site owners can have a subject matter expert (SME) in their business design rules for their own CSE that provide a superior search experience in their area of expertise. A skilled SME should be able to steadily improve the quality of the search experience over time.
Since the site owner and their SME is knowledgeable in their vertical market area, and the area is by definition narrower that the entire web, the notion of human edited enhancements has a much better chance of working.
Equally important, the revenue sharing model means that the site owner will be highly motivated. The SME will be motivated because they have the opportunity to bring to their users a superior search experience.
Successful implementations should bring the users as well. Users will quickly recognize those CSEs that offer significantly higher quality. As a result, high quality CSEs will become known, and bring additional new users to the site.
You can also count on Google to promote the best CSEs. It’s in Google’s interest to do so. This provides an additional incentive to the site owner.
Many site owners will be tempted to force the results of their CSEs to emphasize their own sites, and exclude all of their competitors. However, this will not provide the best interests of their users, and will not serve the best interests of most businesses in the long term.
Users will gravitate to improved search results. Site owners with a long term vision will recognize this. They may end up sending some traffic indirectly to competitors in the short term, but the long term growth in the credibility of their business will more than make up for it in the long term.