waking up to Google custom search engines

Maybe I’m the last person to find out about this, but a friend recently told me how he uses Google custom search engines to tailor his searching to sites that he knows contain content that is good and/or useful to him. This is especially relevant when you want to do targeted searching in a specific subject area, or for a specific type of content, like film reviews or recipes. The one million benefits of creating custom search engines were immediately obvious to me, and I’m still wondering why I haven’t really heard of anyone using this before. I’m sure people do. They were probably just keeping it secret?

Anyways, I started my first custom search engine today. It’s called “la France en ligne” and currently searches a number of French cultural sites, library webpages, email list archives, digital exhibitions and online collections hosted at various universities and museums. I’m planning on adding more to it, but I was so anxious to try it out I had to stop after 20 URLs. Still, the results are pretty impressive as far as relevance goes. I did two sample searches, one for “George Sand” and another for “Robespierre” and got pretty great results. Try it and tell me what you think?

I definitely want to create one for recipes, where I can limit my searching just to the blogs I know post good and healthy foods I’m likely to want to make. And I’m also thinking an image search engine could be really great. I would be interested in hearing about any custom search engines others have used and what makes them special!


5 thoughts on “waking up to Google custom search engines”

  1. Here’s a blog post about the recipe search engine I was telling you about: http://www.kk.org/cooltools/archives/004055.php.

    Two thoughts related to my own custom search engine:

    1. I added a link to a blog post to my Film Blogs, Etc. CSE on which I list all of the sites included in it. In retrospect, I sort of wished that I had disabled comments on this post right from the start (something I’m reluctant to do now, at such a late date): I could see problems developing in the future, from, for instance, someone deciding to publicly vent frustration at having their site removed from the CSE. Then again, I’ve had this CSE for two or three years now, and no real problems have developed yet.

    2. Depending on the type of CSE, I think it might be a good idea to include a list of “search tips.” I’m thinking about adding a section like this to mine with suggestions for good searches for finding reviews of a particular film or reviews from a particular film festival or film critic.

  2. Interesting suggestion re: search tips. It made me think that creating a CSE is kind of like one giant search tip in itself. Meaning that by creating a CSE you’re basically saying: I recommend you search these sites before others if you’re looking for xyz. But I see what you mean about how there could be special strategies that might yield better results. For my Frenchie search engine I was thinking an important tip might be to try search terms in French because a lot of the sites I added were French-language sites. For proper names it doesn’t matter but could get tricky otherwise.

    Luckily I don’t think my CSE will have the interpersonal issues yours might because my featured sites and their content isn’t so intensely personal! Who knows, maybe the French Ministry of Culture will be ecstatic that they’re included.

    This stuff is so fun. I can’t wait to work on it more. It’s like…taking a webliography and making it into a tool instead of just a static resource.

  3. p.s. thanks for linking to ur CSE and that blog post. do you know of a way to find other CSEs without people telling you about them? like…a CSE for CSEs?!

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