Google unveiled a custom search tool, dubbed “Google Custom Search Business Edition”, aimed at small and medium-size businesses (SMB). This is a hosted search service that provides powerful indexing and customized-search capabilities.
Now customers, vendors, and others can easily search your company web site and get relevant search results, without requiring an IT system (people, software, or hardware). The service is $100 per year for up to 5,000 web pages, and $500 per year for up to 50,000 pages. There is a free version, but it displays Google advertisements (much like search results on www.google.com). The only issue is that you cannot search the intranet behind the firewall. Then again, Intranet searching is not a requirement for a lot of SMBs.
Salient features of this service are:
- Ad-free search results with the paid version (free version includes ads).
- Customizable look and feel allows including the company logo and preferred colors in search results.
- Advanced customization of search results via the XML API. The XML feed includes the individual results of the search query, allowing the URL and description text to be displayed in a custom style. This feature requires an IT system to process the XML into HTML format.
- Categorize search results applying “Refinements” or labels to pages. These categories appear as links before the search results. When a user clicks on a category, pages tagged with the category are displayed first.
- Subscribed links that always show up at the top of search results for specified keywords. These links appear where Google ads normally would.
- Reporting of how often and what was searched for.
- Multiple language support. Specify the language for the Search Engine or specify “All Languages,” to use the language associated with the user’s browser. Bulgarian, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish are supported.
- Email and Phone technical support.
- Easy enough to get up and running in 10 minutes!
Google Custom Search is based off the general search index, so it doesn’t guarantee it will index a web site or a certain page, while competitors specifically index each customer site. Nonetheless, Google Custom Search is much cheaper than the competition. The Google OS blog provides a price comparison of hosted search services (* indicates configurable crawling frequency, ** indicates password-protected pages are indexed):
|Product||Price for a year (5,000 documents)|
|PicoSearch**||$498 (6,000 documents)|
|Google Custom Search||$100|
This is also much cheaper and more convenient than an in-house search engine such as Google Search Appliance or Microsoft’s SharePoint Server for Search, because it doesn’t require any IT investment. The Google Mini Search Appliance costs $1,995 for 50,000 web pages and the The Google Search Appliance starts at $30,000.
This is a perfect example of a function that a customer can outsource. First, enhancements to search technology are immediately available, rather than having to wait for IT system upgrades. And a perfect example of an unbeatable strategy (never say never) of leveraging an existing system to provide a new service. That is why Google is able to provide this at minimal cost.
The first reason makes hosted search better than in-house search. The second reason makes Google invincible and put other hosted search providers out of business. Only the Microsoft’s and Yahoo!s stand in the way of Google’s total domination.
Furthermore, looks like Google’s game plan is to make it convenient and cost effective for businesses to outsource search, and leverage this to sell Google Apps. Nice Strategy!