How to Use a Custom Search Engine to Help Users Find Information Easily

What is a Custom Search Engine (CSE)?

Google’s power and ubiquity has reshaped the internet as we know it. However, the power that unlocked the web’s knowledge can also be used to educate and help your customers navigate your site thanks to CSE.

A CSE lets you create a search engine on your website that only includes sites or pages that you specify. CSEs for sites on the web can customize searches to include only relevant information to you or your customers, while CSEs on your website create a powerful search engine for users to locate your pages or articles. A CSE can be based on multiple domains or a single domain. The specialization that CSEs offer provides a number of advantages:

When to use a Custom Search Engine

Let’s go deeper and examine the possible use cases of CSEs.

Use Case 1: CSE on single domain

This use case might be the most common case for a CSE. The CSE is setup on a single domain such as your company’s website. It helps the users to find content on your website more easily. Implementing a CSE on a single domain can also lead to higher user engagement through education. The CSE on a single domain is a knowledge base for users.

Use Case 2: CSE on multiple domains

A CSE can also be implemented on multiple domains. A use case can be the setup on an internal company’s website to accumulate multiple sources into one site. For example, you could consolidate multiple SQL tutorials from external websites and content from your own internal domains to extend your users’ knowledge, or you could use it as a resource for customer success teams that need to find high quality information quickly.

In both scenarios, CSEs are used as content aggregators for internal and external users.

Tips for Efficient Search Engines

Google is the current leader in CSEs. The Google Custom Search is straightforward to set-up. To set up an efficient Custom Search:

  1. Exclude non valuable content by including valuable web pages only: It sounds logical but not everyone is aware of it. Do careful research and evaluate domains you plan to include; including irrelevant information is a quick way to make your Custom Search useless.
  2. Create synonyms to optimize your search: Google’s Search Engine allows you to set synonyms, which allow you to define your own keywords or words similar to them to broaden results when searching.
  3. More is better: Since the simple CSE setup itself does not take that much time, you should invest some extra time to go through all additional features which you could setup to make your search engine more efficient.

How to Set Up an CSE in Google

The video posted below shows how to set-up a CSE in Google.

Third Party Solutions

Google’s CSE might be the most known search engine but it is not the only solution when it comes to customized search engines. There are several third parties that offer a similar service to Google.

When you are setting up a CSE, the user experience has to be top-notch to keep people using it and staying at your website.

The following third party solutions are focused on maximizing users search experience:

AddSearch: Offers easy installation and mobile support. Its application is focused on statistics and result control and works smoothly on any device.

Algolia: Offers unique search and discovery experience for customers, which include full suite APIs. Algolia focuses on users’ engagement, business conversion, and developers’ productivity. The service is supported by find-as-you-type live search and geolocation options.

Amazon CloudSearch: Is more difficult to set up on a website than other on-site search engines. Amazon’s cloud search offers more options than Google but also charges for small plans around $50 per year.

Apache Solr: Is an open-source enterprise platform. Its service can be used by high-traffic websites with distributed indexing and load-balanced querying. Apache Solr offers multiple features e.g. easy-usable analytics and full-text search options.

Cludo: Is the search engine of any choice for several industries such as education, government and general enterprises.

Swiftype: Has an advantage over Google’s CSE in terms of customization and set-up. When you setup your search engine with Swiftype, you have fully control on how your content is displayed on your website.


CSEs can be used as a knowledge base and aid for users. As the video shows, setting up a Custom Search Engine in Google is pretty straightforward. However, be aware that there are other third party solutions besides Google offering search engines such as AddSearch, Algolia or Amazon Cloud Search. These provide you more options to find the best search engine for your website.

When carefully researched and set up, CSEs help clients and internal team members find relevant information quickly and easily. Try a CSE today to make your team and users’ lives easier and to increase customers’ engagement with your business.


Zoé Meckbach

About Zoé Meckbach