How to Create a Custom Google Search Engine

Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second. This translates to over 3.5 billion searches per day worldwide. It is remarkably easy to find just the information you want using their search capabilities.

A little-known service provided by the company is Google Custom Search. This service allows anyone to create a customized search engine to use for your personal search or to include on your website as an alternative to the main Google search capability.

One of the Google custom search engines I created and use frequently is designed to help me research information on insurance technology-related sites.

It is easy to create a custom search engine by following these simple steps.

Google custom search

— On the Google Custom Search home page, click “New search engine.”

— In the “Sites to search” section, add the pages you want to include in your search engine. You can add any sites you want, not just sites you own. I have included 18 different insurance related websites that are searched when I enter a particular word or phrase. Moreover, these are the only sites that are searched. You can also include site URLs or only page URLs.

  • Include Sites: As explained above, you can add any particular site or page to your search engine simply by entering the website URL. You have the option to include all pages on the site or only specific pages that match a particular URL pattern.
  • Exclude Sites: If you want a broader search capability yet know there are specific sites you do not want to be included in your search results, you can specifically exclude them from the search results.

Or you can get fancy and use URL patterns.

  • URL Patterns: URL patterns are used to specify what pages you want to be included in your custom search engine. When you use the control panel or Google Marker to add sites, you are generating URL patterns. Most URL patterns are very simple and just specify a whole site. However, by using more advanced patterns, you can more precisely pick out portions of sites.

For example, the pattern “” will only match the single page “” To cover all the pages where the URL starts with “,” you must explicitly add a “*” at the end. In the form-based interfaces for adding sites, “” defaults to “**”. If this is not what you want, you can change it back in the control panel. No such defaulting occurs for patterns that you upload. Also, note that URLs are case sensitive — if your site URLs include capital letters, you will need to make sure your patterns do as well.

The name of your search engine will be automatically generated based on the URLs you select. You can change this name at any time.

You can also customize the look and feel of the search engine by following Google’s brand guidelines. If you are going to add this search engine to your website, then you might want to match the look and feel of the search engine to your site.

Here are a couple of ideas on search engines that you could create:

  • Niche Focus: Does your agency have a niche focus? Create a custom search engine that includes popular sites within that niche. You can then use the custom search for finding client and prospect information.
  • Insurance Coverage Information: Create a search engine that includes websites that are focused on insurance coverage. The more sites you include, the wider your search capabilities. Now, when you enter a phrase or term, you know your search results will be more focused.
  • Insurance Publications: Similar to my search engine, create your search engine for the various insurance publications and other websites that you want to be able to search.
    I should mention another tool that every producer should use often — Google Alerts. I wrote a TechTip detailing this very useful tool last year.

You might not use your Google Custom Search tool every day. You might find, like I have, that it provides much better search results when my search topic is very narrowly focused.

What tools have you found useful in your agency to find just the information you need?

Steve Anderson provides information to insurance agents about how they can use technology to increase revenue and/or reduce expenses. He speaks professionally to hundreds of agents each year on the future of technology, the social web, and how insurance agencies can establish their Internet presence.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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