Oct 27, 2006

Social search with Google Custom

Speak search and Google comes to mind. There is a very good reason why that is so. They try to make all Web users search more and more using their engine, and they roll out newer and newer ways of doing that. The newest in line - Custom Search Engine for everyone.

Using Custom Search, built upon Google Co-op, anyone can make a personal search engine of their own, defining the sites they want to be searched. They can either limit the search to a few sites, or the entire Web, emphasising the defined sites. If your passion is astronomy or computer hardware, you can define the few sites you visit religiously and the searcher would get results from these few sites.

Strategically speaking, this move from Google is nothing short of brilliant. When everybody you know is digging or bookmarking on del.icio.us, Google could have probably beaten all of them to the game by bringing in social search in its own ingenious way. Let us examine how Google has done this.

Suppose you are very passionate about astronomy, and has been so for some time. Definitely, you would be an authority on the best sites on the subject and visit them regularly. When Google gets you to sign up for Custom Search on astronomy for your site, you would be defining them with your favourite astronomy sites, and more often than not, these would be sites with premium quality content.

You have essentially built an engine that searches the best sites on astronomy, and the definition of best is coming from you, a human being, who can recognise quality content much, much better than a computer program. Google has thus succeeded in coaxing you to sharing your judgement and reviewing skills, which combined with Google's automated technology brings up the best results on astronomy. Somebody who has used your Custom Search would find it giving more relevant results than the generic Google search, which even by Google's standards has not contained spam sites to a large extent. The site with the Custom Search thus gets more visitors searching on it and it is ideally a win-win situation for all concerned - Google, the Custom Search site and the users who search through it.

Google has always faced strong criticism because of the lack of human element in its search technology. The famous Googlebot and PageRank are, after all, only computer programs. Many people say that is an inherent weakness as they can be tricked by malicious webmasters who try to stay one step ahead of it. Yahoo!, on the other hand, had a better technique of human editors reviewing the pages in their directory, thereby providing quality content. But this model was simply not efficient enough to keep up with the tremendous pace that the Web is growing at. Any attempt to do it would be overwhelming, if not impossible.

Google might have jumped one more step ahead of Yahoo! by subtly bringing in the human element it has been so far lacking in their technology. With more and more Custom Search Engines springing around the Web, the quality of search results should also improve dramatically.

Get your own Google Custom Search

P.S: You can try a sample one at the bottom of this page.

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