Vertical Search for the Masses


Lunch time rolled around yesterday, and I realized I had not yet checked out the new Google Custom Search offering. So I decided to spend 30 minutes looking at the Google product, then get something to eat.

Imagine my surprise when 30 minutes later, I had not only looked at Google Custom Search, but actually created a vertical search site and installed it on our company website http://www.infocommercegroup.com/ (give it a try yourself; it's right on the home page, below the fold).

Google Custom Search really is a vertical search application that virtually anyone can use. It's free, powerful, incredibly easy use to build and install, and delivers the improved relevancy you would expect from a highly focused search. You can include any number of other websites or specific web pages from other websites. You can include your own website as well. At your option, search results can be standard Google results that move results from your specified sites and pages higher in the search results rankings, or you can go "pure vertical" and show only results from your selected sites.

Google Custom Search, which is built off the Google Co-op platform, in essence creates a filtered look at the main Google index, so you can combine the breadth of the Google search engine with your own expertise about which sites are most relevant to a specific topic. It's a powerful combination, and did I mention, oh so easy. Google even remembered monetization this time: AdSense ads surround the search results, but Google will happily pay you a percentage: just check the box on the set-up screen.

It's all very cool, and as with most things Google, potentially disruptive. What are the implications for the growing number of publishers moving into vertical search? Google Custom Search raises the bar in vertical search a bit, but that's probably a good thing, because any publisher considering a move into vertical search should be thinking a lot past what Google Customer Search can offer in terms of features and functionality. While we're seeing some stunningly powerful and innovative vertical search sites lately, there are still quite a few that look like they were thrown together during someone's lunch break. As an industry, we can and must to better. That's why we see this new offering from Google as a useful warning shot across the bow.

There's still time. I think I'll have the chicken salad.

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