Using Custom Search Engines for Education and Career Planning
Looking for CustomSearchGuide.com?
The site now goes to BrainTrack where its content is being focused on search applications for colleges and careers.
Although Google and other search engines are invaluable tools for anyone looking for information on the web, the results of many searches are less than ideal. The top search results are often not the sites that have the most relevant and authoritative information; rather they are frequently ones that are more focused on generating income by placing well in search results versus providing in-depth and high quality information. This is often true in higher education and career searches, where it is not unusual for highly commercial and arguably biased sites to appear near the top of a results page.
Custom Search Engines can help solve these problems for many types of searches by providing website owners the ability to create a customized web search experience which limits web page results to those that have been validated by subject matter experts. The search experience becomes much more efficient and useful when lower-quality, time-wasting websites are eliminated from the results. Below is more information about how to use Custom Search Engines to improve the web search experience, especially for higher education and career related searches.
What is a Custom Search Engine?
Custom Search Engines (CSEs) can be created by website owners using Google Custom Search Engine capabilities to provide the site's users with more focused search engine results.
Unlike a generic Google search... CSE's provide more focused search engine results.
How are CSEs used?
There are two primary uses for CSEs:
- Within a website - To provide search capabilities within the website where the search feature is located. For example, BrainTrack's custom search engine, located at the top of every BrainTrack page, returns results only from the BrainTrack site.
- Across pages and sites - To provide search capabilities across a limited number of web pages and/or websites that meets the standards and purpose of the CSE. For example, a generic Google search for a medical condition will return results from high-quality, authoritative sources as well as sources of lesser quality such as those that may be marketing a product. A CSE can limit the results to websites that have been determined by the CSE author to provide authoritative and trustworthy information.
Are there other features and benefits of CSEs?
Google' s CSE technology provides a number of useful features for CSE authors, some of which are listed below:
- Google indexing - CSE results use Google's extensive crawling and indexing capabilities.
- Autocompletion - This feature can be enabled so that search queries are suggested based on the content of the sites included in the CSE.
- Synonymous terms - Alternate words can be defined within the CSE to expand the search to include the synonymous terms.
- Website ranking – An advanced feature allows websites to be ranked so that certain websites will appear closer to the top or bottom of the results than they otherwise might.
- Advertising revenues - Customizable AdSense search results will appear and provide a source of revenue.
How can CSEs be used to speed up finding education and career information?
Within a Website - Higher education and career websites can use a CSE for searches within their own site, thus benefitting from Google's crawling and indexing functionality and other features available from the tool. BrainTrack uses Google CSE in this way as do many universities. Note that Google offers a CSE version without any advertising for universities and other non-profit organizations.
Improve user experience - Organizations that want to provide customized search abilities to help their users find information that is the most pertinent and valuable can create a CSE to do this. A good example of this use is by College Scholarships.org, which limits the results for scholarship searches it returns from websites it has hand-selected as being legitimate and high quality. A similar benefit might be achievable from a search engine that provides results only from reputable sources of private student loans, for example.
Consolidate results across sites – A number of job search websites produce job listings that come from many different job websites, thus making it less time-consuming for job-seekers to find all relevant positions. A CSE that searches across all US Department of Education websites could be useful since the existing DE website searches limit results to one site. Similarly, users might benefit from a search engine that looks at the websites of all public universities and colleges within a state, city, or even a country. Users should, of course, be aware that CSEs will be only as good as the people that create them and the sites they select to include.
Distributed organizations - A distributed organization that has many websites, such as a membership organization, could use a CSE to allow users to search across all of the websites associated with the organization. The Professional and Organizational Development Network in Higher Education uses a CSE in this way. A career specific membership organization that has local chapters would be another good use of this type of CSE implementation.
Topic specific searches – Searches can be limited to specific pages of multiple websites to enable users to see results that are limited to a specific topic. For instance, a CSE could limit searches to the financial aid pages of many colleges. This might result in a very efficient and productive search experience for students seeking to find colleges with a specific type of financial aid.
What is involved in building a CSE?
Google provides a straight-forward interface which allows anyone to create a custom search engine quickly. With additional effort, advanced features can be added. The general steps to create a basic CSE are as follows:
- Using the Google setup wizard, define the name and purpose of the search engine.
- List websites and web pages to be included.
- Add the generated CSE code to the website.
- Using the new search engine's control panel, customize the look and feel and activate features such as autocompletion and synonyms.
- Further define websites to be included or excluded in the searches. A pattern can be used to identify groupings of URLs such as all government sites as identified by ".gov".
- Use Google's Custom Search API developer's guide to learn how to make more advanced changes such as altering rankings of websites using modes and weights. .
To get started, visit Google's Custom Search section.
Additional CSE Examples
Below are a few more examples of Custom Search Engines in use for college and career related searches:
- Stanford University Search Engine - Searches only websites associated with the institution.
- Education Search India - Searches sites related to universities, colleges, training institutes, and other schools within India.
- SearchQB - Focuses searches on college football related sites.
- JobScrubber - Allows very flexible configuration of CSE's for finding jobs and career guidance. The site limits searches to a selection of websites for job and recruitment, schools, government agencies, and newspapers.
Online Course Finder
Find the path to your
education in 3 easy steps.