Having your own custom search engine (CSE) via a Google coop can be a competitive differentiator.   This is a free service that you can access by navigating to www.google.com/coop.  Why would you want to create a CSE? What is the value?

How about stomping your competition?  Is that enough? If so, read on… 

At the basic level think of it this way:  The World Wide Web is very large, too large for you to type in a term like “medical devices” into Google and get a manageable set of results.  

What if you wanted to only look for “medical devices” inside university research departments?  You could try and use Boolean expressions (university and “medical device”).   Right?  Wrong…This is pedestrian.  Yes someday when search engines can guess what you want, maybe this will be possible.   Semantic search is not there yet.  We’re at the pre-cock roach stage in artificial intelligence.  

So what is wrong with searching for University and “medical device”?  

(1) search engines are keyword-based
(2) therefore they are limited to the keywords you type in so
(3) the word “university” may not be on every page of a university where medical devices is mentioned
(4) your search will have partial results from the good potential results
(5) you will get millions (2.49 million…I checked it) of web pages across the Internet that happen to have University and “medical Device” on the page.
(6) you will think Google sucks and get frustrated

CSE to the rescue!  A simple solution.

Google is searching everything.  Why not limit it to a smaller set of websites?  That is what a custom search engine is all about.  ** Limiting **

“Custom Search Engine”  sounds complex, but it is actually easier to work with a CSE than it is too work with massive one-size-fits-all engine.

With a Google Coop I can create a search engine that only searches Universities.  Therefore I can search for “medical devices”  and  I know that the results are coming exclusively from University sites.  Easy.

Take-aways:

Using a custom search engine is easier to use than a monolithic search engine (MSE)  because you are dealing with a known universe of possibilities

You get results faster with a CSE

It is less expensive to train users to work with a CSE than a MSE

You will get faster user adoption with a CSE 

Your competitors don’t have your CSE

Final Thoughts:

The big movement on the CSE front is one of open collaboration.  Create a cool new engine and let everyone use it.  Since everyone else is writing about this, it’s covered, so I’ll opt out.  What about the dark underbelly?  What are people not talking openly about?   How about creating your own search engine for your exclusive use, a competitive differentiator,  a category killer for the sake of sheer profit?  I have mine and I’m not talking, but here are some ideas.  Practical capitalism.

List of ideas for Google Coop’s 

1.  Create a  CSE that inlcudes every one of your clients.   Include the CSE search box at the top of your Web based CRM or ATS system.  (google makes this easy to do…review the video in this post). You now have a search box in your CRM that searches only your clients.   Possibilities …wow!   Broadlook is creating a service that will do this for you.  Look for it soon at http://www.broadlook.com/products/engineme

2.  Do the same as #1, but for your prospects

3.  Compile a CSE consisting of all free resume sites.  

4.  Create a CSE for all job boards in a specific niche.

Here are some examples of google coop’s already built

 5. Green Maven  http://www.greenmaven.com
Green Maven is the most comprehensive Green Search Engine. This search engine emphases websites with Green and Social Values, as approved by a team of Green MBA editors.
Try these queries: shoes, solar panels

6. Macworld http://www.macworld.com
Search for information about all things Macintosh recommended by the experts at Macworld.
Try these queries: Mac games, iPod headphones

7.Global Voices Weblog Search Custom Search Engine homepage
Search the global weblogs featured on the Global Voices website.
Try these queries: Ghana, Sudan

8. Intuit Small Business Site
http://www.jumpup.com
Intuit has used their 20 years of small business experience to evaluate and select the most useful small business resources on the web and provide them to JumpUp.
Try these queries: taxes, marketing

9. ASCII IT Search Custom Search Engine homepage
A listing of specialized “nested” custom search engines that provide results for special I.T. niches.
Try these queries: gigabit switch, network management

10. Real Climate http://www.realclimate.org
RealClimate.org provides expert opinions on the science of climate change. Since this subject has become rather politicized, the quality of information available on the web varies. Using Google Custom Search Engine, they have created a searchable subset of the web that they believe provides the most reliable information.
Try these queries: Greenhouse gases, CO2