Dynamically Built Google Custom Search Engines

Google continues to roll out new features in its Custom Search Engines (CSEs). One of the most interesting ones is the implementation of “Linked CSEs”. What this feature does is allows applications to be built that can dynamically build a CSE. To whet your appetite for this feature, let me provide you with an example of a dynamic CSE you can build this way. You can read Google’s blog posts about this update here and here.

Using the Linked CSE architecture you can write a program that extracts the data from the API of a major social media site. You could then render that into the standard XML format used by CSEs, and the Linked CSE feature would incorporate the information from that XML file into a CSE for you. Sounds relatively neat, right? But the juice for this application is that when you update the XML file (using the program you created to detect new information in the social media site’s feed), Google will also automatically update your CSE.

Another idea would be that a teacher could build a simple CSE with the web sites that are approved sources of information for their class. While this can be done manually through the interface, this could be setup for the teacher so that all they needed to do was update the list of approved resources on their web site, and a simple utility would convert that into the required XML file for the CSE. Google provides a simple demonstration version of such a utility that it calls MakeCSE. You can try out the MakeCSE tool here, and here you can find URL-based Tools for Linked CSE’s.

When the CSE program first launched, it required you to login to your Google Coop account, create a definition, and maintain it in the account over time. In essence, the XML file for your CSE was hosted by Google, based on the information you gave them. Now you can host your own XML file, this creating the ability to create these dynamic applications.

I suspect that there are a lot of interesting Custom Search Engine applications that can be built using this new functionality.

Google also announced that they are providing tools to help people find Custom Search Engines by a variety of means. For example, these can be found by topic of interest, or through a keyword search that will determine relevance by looking at the search engine’s name, description, keywords, and popular queries. In addition, searches can be constrained by attribute. For example, you may want to consider only those CSEs with at least 10 sites in them, or CSE’s searching for volunteers, or only non-profit CSEs.

This new feature should make it easier to find the CSEs of interest for many users. For example, if you were really interested in volunteering to work as an editor for a certain type of non-profit organization, you would now be able to find the available opportunities quickly.

Thanks to Danny Sullivan for prompting me to put up this post.


  1. says

    Thanks for the write-up! I do think there will be a lot of interesting uses of the “Linked CSE”. Hoping I could spur faster uptake, I put up a Linked CSE tutorial at http://csegurus.org/linked_cse_tutorial.

    Among the interesting things you can do with linked cses is my “search everywhere” firefox extension: it lets you search content linked from your browser’s current page. See http://komarix.org/per/computers/customsearch#SearchEverywhere for the first version. I am working on making that toolbar available from mozilla.org. If you happen to have a mozilla developer account, you can find this extension in the addons sandbox, which will give you automatic updates once the add-on is accepted.

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