Jan 14, 2009

Add A Search Tool To Your Blog

For over a year now I've been using the Google Custom Search Engine on my personal gardening blog. My personal GCSE is used several times a day by visitors to my gardening blog looking for information on plants. I think it is a better tool than just having an archive list because people can search just for what they're looking for and move on if they don't find it.

What is a Google Custom Search Engine?
Basically, it is Google with some controls given to the creator of the custom search engine that you can add to your website or blog. The control given to the "creator" is that you decide what websites it searches. It is free to create and use all you need is a Google account to sign in and create one in a few simple steps.

Step #1
Once you've logged into your Google account at the page above you'll see a series of questions you have to fill out to start your custom search engine. Give your GCSE a name, description and add keywords. If you don't know what to use for your keywords use the most popular labels from your garden blog entries. It will give you the option of selecting sites or allowing it to search the entire web. Go ahead and choose just your blog if that's what you prefer, it is up to you.

At the bottom it will ask you to choose an edition, choose standard if you don't want to pay the $100.00 for it not to show ads. The results page will show ads just like the result page does if you conduct a search at Google.com, if you're a non-profit, university or government agency you can opt out of ads, the rest of us will have to display them. Read the terms of service and then click "next." At the next screen test your search engine and click "finish."

Step #2
After you've completed that you'll be sent to a page listing the search engines you've created. Click on "control panel" next to the name of the search engine you created if you'd like to do some modifications. Here you'll see the page from Step #1 where we added the information like the name, description and you can make changes. For example if you decided in Step #1 that you only wanted to search your garden blog or site you can change it here.

Sites:
Under sites you can add or remove urls to sites or blogs you added in Step #1.

Look and feel:
you can change the look of the input field of the search engine box and the color of the links to match your garden blog or site.

Code:
Is where you grab the section of code that you'll be copying/pasting into your Html/JavaScript gadget on your blog. If you're not comfortable with playing around with the code of your blog or site choose to display the results on a Google page.

Make Money:
If you have an Adsense account you can input your information here to make money from the ads generated from your custom search engine. This is basically like the same search tool that you can create from your Adsense account except it is neater and you don't have the two radial buttons and that extra text.

Step #3
Under Layout for blogger choose the sidebar, footer or header you want to place your custom search engine code into. Click "Add a Gadget" and choose "HMTL/JavaScript" from the list of options and just paste your code into the box and save- now you're done.

Tips & Ideas
Now that you created a custom search engine so people could search your blog why not create one for gardening related sites in your city or state? Or one for the garden bloggers in your country, city or state? Or the garden blogs on your personal blog roll? Sites that you like about your favorite gardening niche? The possibilities are almost endless.

It is believed that search boxes are most often used when they are placed in an easy to find location like the upper-right hand corner of a website or blog. Take that into consideration where choosing where to place yours. When you place the code into your sidebar (if you haven't made any modifications to it)you'll notice that the search box is too wide to show up properly in the narrow space of the sidebar. Look for this line of code in the snippet you pasted into the HTML/JavaScript gadget.

<input type="text" name="q" size="31" />


The length of the bar is dictated by the number 31 change it to a lower number until you can comfortably see the search box and button of your custom search engine display in your sidebar.

If I'm not mistaken some of the other blogging platforms don't allow their free service users to do things like add HTML/JavaScript to their sidebars or blog templates. If this is the case with the blogging platform you use you can still create a custom search engine and just link to the homepage of your custom search engine where people can search from. There is no reason why non-blogger garden blogs can't take advantage of this.

You can see examples on my personal garden blog, Blooming Writer & on Tina Ramsey.

5 comments:

  1. This is awesome, MrBrownThumb! I've actually successfully (I think) done this thanks to your easy-to-understand instructions. You're WAY more helpful than Google!

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  2. Thanks for the feedback Jodi.

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  3. I am going to look into this. You always have the most helpful information on your blog for us non tech folks.

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  4. This is the link to my blog. Is this the link you require?

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  5. Tina,

    I updated the blog entry with a link to your as an example of a blogger setting up a GCSE for their blog.

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