Friday, March 21, 2008 and Google Custom Search is a a leading provider of information about mortgages in the UK. We recently asked Peter Walker, their CTO, about their experience using Google Custom Search Business Edition.

Google: Tell us about why needed a search engine.
Peter: Buying a home for the first time, moving house or refinancing your existing mortgage are some of the biggest financial decisions the average consumer makes, and we want to get it right. The web has revolutionised the way we research and transact when we travel, insure a car or buy a new gizmo.

The problem we all face is how to turn the mass of data out there into useful information to help us all make informed choices, and search for the heart of the answer. Here at, we don’t believe in best buy tables, long lists of options, or pushing a viewer into making a choice.

We have over 3,500 pages of the latest news and information (growing daily) to help our visitors increase their knowledge and become better informed, with real people standing by to provide advice and guidance.

The problem we faced, with such a vast amount of content, was how to help the viewer to find the information they needed and find it quickly. We needed a search engine for our site.

Google: What technology did Custom Search Business edition replace and why?
Peter: We tried the search / index solutions that come with Microsoft IIS web server. We also tested costly specialist search software, but then we found Google Custom Search Business Edition.

Google: What benefits have you derived from using CSBE?
Peter: The results of using Google Custom Search were instant. Viewers who had been grappling with the depth of content on our site could suddenly jump directly to the information they wanted, displayed in a way they knew and loved. Page views per visitor have increased by as much as 8%, and conversions per visitor are up by as much to 16% since visitors are finding what they need.

Google: What features of CSBE do you appreciate most and why?
Peter: The setup could not have been easier. We also appreciate the simplicity and that search results show the viewer - the most important person to us - results in a way they are already comfortable with.

Google: What's been the overall impact of using Google CSBE on your website?
Peter: It's been terrific, we would not have expected changing something as simple as search would have such a positive impact on use of the site.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

How uses Google to Power Their ECommerce Site offers market innovative, quality and competitively priced accessories for iPod, computer accessories, air fresheners, mouse mats and CD DVD Binders.

The company recently implemented Custom Search Business Edition on its site, so we asked Jade Hansen, their Director of eCommerce, about how their experience has been.

Google: How was the implementation process?
Jade: The implementation was very straightforward and easy. Google obviously knows how to make things easy, while supporting the latest technologies. The various possibilities with XML also made it easy to customize CSBE to work for our needs.

Google: What technology did Custom Search Business edition replace and why?
Jade: CSBE replaced a custom built search that, unfortunately, didn't work as intended. One of our more popular products, known as the Sticky Pad, for instance, never even showed up even if you typed "Sticky Pad" within the search field. It was limitations like this that caused us to go looking for another quick and easy to implement solution.

Google: What benefits have you derived from using CSBE?
Jade: There are several benefits from using CSBE. Some of the ones that help us and our customers are the following:

  • the familiarity of the search results page. As most know, Google holds the majority of the market share for internet searches, so the familiarity of the search results is a plus for customers. They know what they're looking at and aren't confused with what they see.
  • The ability to track search terms. We love being able to view what people are searching for and even being able to act on it. We may receive a search for a color of a product we don't carry. We took advantage of this data and introduced a new product color. It helped make all the difference for our most popular product online.
  • We love how we don't need to worry about updating the search index on a weekly basis. Google handles it all for us.

Google: What's been the overall impact of using Google CSBE on your website?

Jade: A search function on a website can almost make or break a site, especially as the sites grows and adds more and more content. We're glad to be able to take advantage of Google's technology and give it a home on our website.

How DaniWeb IT Discussion Community Uses Google for Site Search

The DaniWeb IT Discussion Community recently implemented Custom Search Business Edition on its website. We asked Dani Horowitz, the owner of the site, about their business and experience using Custom Search.

Google: Please give us an overview of your existing business as well as some information around the business pain that caused you to seek out Google Custom Search Business Edition.

Dani: DaniWeb IT Discussion Community is an interactive, online community for everyone in the IT industry from software developers to web developers to Internet marketers to tech enthusiasts. A quarter of a million members strong, and increasing by nearly 1,000 a day, we've been around for about four years with features such as forums, blogs, IT news, a code snippet library, and more.

As with most large forums, the all-important site search has always been a concern for us. We outgrew our forum system's internal search feature a couple of years ago. Since then, we have been playing with multiple options such as MySQL Fulltext Search and SphinxSearch. When Google offered a SOAP-based API that would allow us to outsource search while still providing Google-quality results, I thought it was the end to our problems. However, the 1,000 queries per day limit was frustrating, and the program was closed down just as we began to exceed the limit. We were forced to migrate back to SphinxSearch and, as our web traffic grew, eventually offloaded it onto our mail server. While SphinxSearch was rather fast, our main concern was how literal the results were, often returning no results at all despite a significant amount of information within our database on the query submitted. Obviously this wasn't an ideal situation. We also played around with AdSense for Search, and while the results were spot on and it was nice to make money on search result pages, it wasn't as flexible as we needed.

Somewhere along the way I heard that Google was now offering XML-based results, for a fee, so I decided to search around Google's API and Product Info pages for more information. It seemed as if XML results would be comparable to the SOAP-based results Google used to offer. I soon discovered Google Custom Search Business Edition, but we didn't seem to fit into its default pricing model. I called up my Google AdSense rep who hooked me up with a CSBE representative who was able to get us live before the end of the same week, and the rest is history.
Google: How was the implementation process?Dani: The implementation process couldn't have been easier. I was able to gain access to the XML-based results roughly a day after signing the contract. Once that happened, it didn't take more than an hour to write a PHP script to fetch the results. However, I had wanted to take that a step further, and it took another few hours to customize the results by integrating them with DaniWeb's internal database.

Google: What technology did Custom Search Business edition replace and why?

Dani: Google replaced every other internal search script or algorithm that I was able to get my hands on or code myself over the past few years, from Google's SOAP-based API, to MySQL Fulltext search, to SphinxSearch, to AdSense for Search.

Google: What benefits have you derived from using CSBE?Dani: Pretty much the only direct benefit that I was looking for in CSBE was XML-based results. This allows us to have the same amount of flexibility as we did with in house solutions such as MySQL Fulltext and SphinxSearch, while still having amazingly accurate Google-powered results. This gives us the ability to not just spit out search results, but, as a database-driven website, actually heavily integrate the results with information we already know about each page.

As a huge site which covers just so much content, navigation and usability has always been a huge problem for us. It's great to be able to actually take Google results and have the flexibility to replace the URLs of each result with a site-specific navigational breadcrumb. This allows a searcher to always be aware of exactly where they are in the hierarchy of our website. We've also been able to filter out navigational pages from the search results, ensuring that searchers are always taken directly to the content-based forum thread or article pages that directly contain the information they're looking for.

Something else that we've been able to implement, thanks to CSBE's flexibility, is the ability to highlight search keywords and keyphrases on the landing page for each search result. This allows a searcher to not only know that what they are looking for is contained somewhere on the page, but specifically where on the page it is.

Additionally, we're using Google AdSense custom search units on our search result pages, thanks to my AdSense rep, so that plays a major role in offsetting the cost for us. We also use Google Analytics, and their new Search feature makes it really easy to see exactly how search performs for us. I can now say with confidence, thanks to CSBE and Google Analytics, that visitors who use our site search feature visit an average of 10 times the number of pages and spend ten times as long on the site. And thanks to a few thousand people searching a day, it adds up to a noticeable increase in retention rate across the board.

Google: What features of CSBE do you appreciate most and why?

Dani: My favorite features of CSBE include the high quality of the results, the ability to include and exclude individual pages and directories by using wildcards (although RegEx would be a nice future addition), XML-based results, a flexible pricing model, and integration with Google AdSense for Search (thanks to my AdSense rep). If any one of these features were missing, CSBE would most likely not suit my needs and/or be within my budget.

Google: What's been the overall impact of using Google CSBE on your website?

Dani: CSBE has only been running for a couple of days so far, but the results have been overwhelmingly positive. I'm excited as I look to DaniWeb's future without the constant worry that an internal site search is a greater problem the bigger we grow. Being able to have an outsourced solution with all of the benefits of an in house solution definitely is one less thing to have to worry about. It's also amazing to witness that Google provides better results than search algorithms that have direct access to our content database.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Custom Search for Toolhawker's eCommerce Site

Sean Mayo
Senior Software Engineer

Toolhawker provides tools, equipment and supplies for the professional technician. Sean Mayo recently implemented Custom Search Business Edition for Toolhawker, and we asked him how his experience has been.

Google: Why did you need Google Custom Search Business Edition (CSBE)?

Sean: I had built a complete custom e-commerce store from the ground up. With more than 6,000 products in our catalog, searching became a problem. Performing a queries on the database to find any relevant products was slow and not always accurate. Google's search algorithms and speed have always WOWed me so I decided to give Custom Search Business Edition a try.

Google: What technology, if any, did it replace and why?
Sean: It replaced our former database search technology and added good technology. We were able to use the XML stream model to deliver us fast search results directly from Google and completely customize the appearance to match our website.

Google: What benefits have you derived from using Google CSBE?
Sean: There are a lot of technological reasons I like Google CSBE - but from a business standpoint it has really helped with the speed of our website and with customer retention. We want buyers to find what they're looking for - and fast, or they'll look elsewhere.

Google: What features of CSBE do you appreciate most and why?
Sean: I appreciate that Google gives me so many options on how I can implement CSBE on my site. I chose to use the more advanced XML option but even novice programmers can easily implement a plug-and-play option.

Google: Are you using Google Analytics on your website?
Sean: Yes, I use Google Analytics on all of my websites. Google has become a real internet partner and provides a solution for almost all the tools you need to run a successful website.

Google: What's been the overall impact of using Google CSBE on your website?
Sean: The overall impact has been excellent. Along with better and more relevant search results and greater speeds, we've seen our average customer "pages per visit" increase by 25%.

Google: Do you have any advice you'd give others in implementing the CSBE for their company's use?
Sean: The XML was easy to implement and all of the documentation is straight forward and easy to understand. Most of my pages were already indexed with Google so the search worked just like

Friday, December 21, 2007

Scott Jordan
Founder and Chief Executive

1) Why did you need Google CSBE?

SCOTTEVEST(SeV), offers consumers clothing designed to accommodate
electronic devices and their wires. Our products allow you to both
carry and use electronic devices including cell phones, PDA's,
cameras, as well as other items such as keys, water bottles, eye
glasses, etc. The SeV web site,, needed a powerful site search
solution that could handle our multi-media-rich content archives, and
we also wanted to control the user-experience and focus the results on
SeV pages only.

2) What technology, if any, did it replace and why?

CSBE replaced standard Google Site Search, as well as an outdated
"Product Quick Finder" that helped people get directly to our 2 dozen
products, but not to any of the rich supporting content that helps
make the SeV shopping experience unique and enjoyable.

3) What benefits have you derived from using the CSBE?

We know that our site search experience is now much smoother and more
intuitive from a usability perspective. We also know that our site
searchers stay with us vs. clicking off to other natural and paid
search links/sites. As a Google tool shop, we already use
Google Docs (to keep our network of contractors working together) and of course the main Google engine.

4) Features of Google CSBE you appreciate most and why?
We like the ability to limit searches by domain, sub-domain and the
ability to exclude specific site areas /directories from search. We
also appreciate the ability to customize the results experience in
order to maintain brand consistency.

5) What's been the overall impact of using Google CSBE for ScotteVest

Our customer experience has been exceptional. CSBE has provided us easy dynamic information without us having to worry about the architecture of the file structure. And by deploying CSBE, we also add credibility to the SCOTTEVEST brand.

6) Advise you'd give others in implementing the Google CSBE for their company's use?
Do it. How else can you spend $100 and know without a doubt that you
are (1) keeping more hard-earned traffic on your site and (2) making
your shopping experience measurably "bettersmarterfastersmoother" for
your most interested and valuable customers?