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