pimp your search engine

A Google custom search engine can be embedded into your website

A Google custom search engine lets you determine the websites that Google searches.

In a world where just about everything can be customized, don’t forget to customize your web searching. Google offers users the ability to create custom search engines (CSEs), searching only the sites that you specify. So, if you hate the fact that Wikipedia is the top result when you search for ‘information literacy‘, maybe it’s time to do something about it.

Some librarians have already begun creating CSEs. Amalia Monroe at University of Kansas created a custom search for the 2008 Presidential Elections, which she embedded in the library’s resource guide for the elections. David Oldenkamp at Indiana University Libraries has done something similar for searching intergovernmental organizations. Monroe (2008) says that CSEs “meet patrons where they are by allowing them to search the Web in an environment they are most likely comfortable (Google), but at the same time helping them to learn about different, and possibly better, information sources.”

Many corporations, organizations, and individuals are creating CSEs that search their websites, including some of Towson’s own library superstars, Amanda Taylor and Claire Holmes. This provides a quick and easy method for visitors to search your page.

Additonally, you could create a CSE for your own personal use. Do you have a favorite set of websites you visit for reading up on library-related topics, for finding bibliographic information, for learning more about using technologies in the library environment (maybe a blog???)? You can create a custom search to help you with any of these activities and more. (Now if only database vendors would open up access to their databases…)

“How can I do this?”, you ask?

  1. Go to http://www.google.com/coop/cse/
  2. Click the “Create a Custom Search Engine” button
  3. Sign in (yes, you need to have a Google account)
  4. Name your search engine
  5. Describe your search engine
  6. Choose keywords that describe the content of your search engine
  7. Add a list of URLs that you want your CSE to search
  8. Click “Next” (be sure to check the “Do not show ads…” box)
  9. Click “Finish”

A couple tips

  • Make a list of websites before you actually start creating your CSE (maybe use iBreadCrumbs to find and track websites you want to include in your CSE)
  • Don’t worry if the Preview of your search engine doesn’t work in Step 2. It’s never worked for me, but my CSEs still work.
  • You can add or delete websites , and make other changes to your search engine after you create it, using the “manage your existing search engines” link.

To add your CSE to your website, click the “manage your existing search engines” link (login if you aren’t already). Click “homepage” next to the search engine you want to add to your website. Click “Add this search engine to your blog or homepage”. Customize the design (size, border, etc.) and hit “Get the code”. Then, copy & paste the HTML code into your website, subject guide, or blog.

Just in time for the holidays, I’ve created a CSE for holiday information. Try it out!


Monroe, A. (2008). Organizing the 2008 presidential election: the creation of a custom search engine. C&RL News, 69(9), 540-543

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