Category Archives: Custom Search Blog

Updates and tips from the Google Custom Search team

Improvements to Autocomplete

Custom Search Autocompletions allow you to add to the list of useful queries users see as they type in the search box. Today we are announcing two major improvements.

Promotions in Autocomplete:

Promotions are a great way to call special attention to a result by putting it at the top of search results and making it visually distinct. Now you can choose to display them in autocomplete too. To enable this feature, simply click Show promotions in autocomplete in the Promotions section of your CSE’s Control Panel. Note that promotions based on regular expressions or the $q variable will not appear in autocomplete.

If you’d like to have promotions that appear in autocomplete but not in search results, you can add them via the new Autocomplete Promotion tab of the Custom Autocompletions in the Autocompletion section of your CSE’s Control Panel.

Match mode:

Match mode give you options for how Google displays autocompletions. The following are now available in the Promotions section of your CSE’s Control Panel. Changes to match mode will require you to update the CSE code snippet on your site.

  • Prefix (default) mode matches the opening words of the user’s query: “how to bake” will trigger “how to bake a pie”.
  • Ordered mode doesn’t require the words to be in the opening, but their order must match the user’s query: “bake a pie” will trigger “how to bake a pie”.
  • Any mode matches regardless of the order of the words in the user’s query. “pie bake” will trigger “how to bake a pie”.

We hope these new options make autocompletions even more useful for your site. Read more about Promotions in Autocomplete and Match mode. Let us know what you think in our discussion forum.

Posted by: Min Zeng, Software Engineer

Image Results for your Custom Search Engine

Since the launch of Custom Search in 2006, CSE has powered searches on a broad range of sites on the web. Until now, those CSEs have only returned text-based results, but in some cases images can be a much faster, easier and more visually appealing way to search. For photos-focused sites, image results are a great way to showcase your beautiful photos and help visitors to your site quickly and easily find the photos they want. We also think sites focused on news, celebrities, art and digital production assets will similarly benefit.

Now you can add an image results tab to your CSE to offer your visitors image-only results in a variety of image-optimized presentation formats. Once you enable this feature, your CSE will have two tabs. The first has your current web search results and the second, Image tab, contains the image search results. Here’s an example from

Enabling image results is easy! Just visit the Basics page of your CSE’s Control Panel and check the Enable image search checkbox. You can change the layout of your image results on the Look and feel page.

Once enabled, you’ll also be able to get separate image search reports from your CSE’s Statistics page.

This new feature is available to all users of our Custom Search Element (you will need to Get Code and update your site). Since we are transitioning all iframe users to the Element, this should be most sites. Our Google Site Search users can also access Image Results via XML. To learn more about Image Search for Custom Search, please visit our help center. Let us know what you think in our discussion forum.

Update: check out the New York Times Image Search app powered by Google Custom Search.

Posted by: Peng Zhao, Software Engineer

More flexibility for promotions

Custom Search promotions enable you to put relevant information at the top of your search results for specific queries.

Today, we’re announcing several new features to give you more flexibility on how and when to trigger them.

Regular expressions: Use regular expressions instead of verbatim query matches to make it easier to display your promotions for all relevant user queries.

Promotion URL and titles based on the user’s query: Instead of manually adding and maintaining a long list of similarly structured URLs and promotion titles, now you can use the $q variable in your promotion URL or title to replace it with the user’s query.

Enable/disable individual promotions: Manually enable or disable each promotion without affecting the others.

Promotions for Custom Search engines created in AdSense: Promotions now work for these CSEs (though they are still managed via the CSE’s control panel on the Google Custom Search site).

We hope these new features make it easier for you to use promotions on your site. For more details and instructions, please visit our help center. Let us know what you think in our discussion forum.

Posted by: Weiyu Zhu, Software Engineer

Iframe Custom Search Engines are transitioning to the Element

In August we transitioned all Google-hosted Custom Search Engines to the Custom Search Element. Now we are transitioning iframe CSEs as well. No work is required from CSE owners. Moving from the iframe option to the Element enables those CSEs to take advantage of our latest features, like automatic thumbnails.

If you had an iframe CSE, we encourage you to visit your Control Panel to find new tools for customized presentation and results. As always, we appreciate your feedback in the user forum.

Posted by: Liang Ch'ng, Software Engineer

The power of structured search: a new job search engine for military veterans

As we announced in our Official Google Blog post, Custom Search technology is powering the new National Resource Directory (NRD) job search engine of more than 500,000 job openings from employers around the country. This initiative is a creative application of structured search to provide a highly customized search experience.

Want to learn more about how this works? First of all, like all custom search engines, this uses the power and scale of Google search to constantly crawl the web, looking for structured data to add to the Google index. In this case, sites like have added JobPosting markup from to their sites to help search engines identify veteran-committed job openings, job title, job location, etc.

Recognizing that many job seekers are interested in jobs in their local area, the NRD did some extra work to support a location-based search. When a user specifies a location such as a city or a zipcode in a search, the location is converted into a list of nearby cities with normalized names that match those location markups in the job posting webpages.

To restrict results to only the relevant job postings, for every user query on their site, NRD sends a well formed query request to Google Custom Search including structured search operators such as filtering by cities and job codes and sorting by date to receive XML results and render them on their site.

We’re happy to contribute to this important initiative and hope the power of Google Custom Search can help more businesses to deliver creative search solutions for their users.

Posted by: Hui Xu, Technical Lead, Custom Search Team

Thumbnail images in search results — no work required!

A picture is worth more than a thousand words when it helps search users choose the result they want. With this in mind, some webmasters have gone to a lot of effort providing thumbnails in rich snippets to improve the presentation and usability of their search results pages.  We’re happy to announce that with our latest layout improvement, Custom Search Element users who have not manually added thumbnails will get them without any additional work.

Now, Custom Search crawls your site to find representative images and automatically adds them to your search results snippets.  That’s it. No effort required from you.  Here’s an example of how they improve the search results on

To learn more about automatic thumbnails (and how to disable them), see our Help Center.

Automatic thumbnails are only available with the Custom Search Element. If you are using an iframe CSE, switch to the Element to ensure that you always have the most up-to-date features.

We hope you and your visitors enjoy this new feature. Early reviews have been positive and we look forward to your feedback.

Posted by Edison Nica, Software Engineer

Manage Custom Search Engines from within Webmaster Tools

Many Custom Search users also regularly use Webmaster Tools. To make their lives more convenient, we’ve added a “Custom Search” feature to the Labs section of Webmaster Tools. This allows you to change your basic configuration, including the list of sites to search, and get the new code without leaving Webmaster Tools.

For users who have never created a Custom Search Engine, it helps you get started by automatically creating a default CSE that searches the current site selected in Webmaster Tools.

We hope these new features make it easier for you to provide a great search experience for visitors to your site. And as always, we welcome your feedback.

Posted by Sharon Xiao, Software Engineering Intern, and Ying Huang, Software Engineer

It’s now easier to set up Google Analytics Site Search tracking for your Custom Search Engine

Google Analytics Site Search reports provide extensive data on how people search your site once they are already on it.  You can see initial searches, refinements, search trends, which pages they searched from, where they ended up, and conversion correlation.  In the past we admit that setup was a little challenging, but we’re happy to announce that now we’ve made it easy to setup Site Search tracking directly from your Custom Search Engine.

If you are already a Google Analytics user (and your site has the Google Analytics tracking code on its pages), go to the Custom Search Engine management page, select your CSE’s control panel and click on Google Analytics from the left-hand menu.  We’ll display a list of your Google Analytics web properties so you can select one and tell us the query and category parameters that you want to track.

Once you save your changes, we’ll generate a new code snippet.  Copy it from the Get Code page, paste it into your site and setup is complete!


 You can then access Site Search reports from the Content section of Google Analytics.


Happy analyzing!  If needed, you can find help with setup here and an explanation of the differences between Google Analytics and Custom Search statistics here.  Let us know what you think in our discussion forum.

Posted by: Zhong Wang, Software Engineer

Submit Pagemaps directly to Custom Search

Custom Search users have long been able to create Richer Snippets by adding Pagemaps to their webpages. Today we’re enabling direct submission of Pagemaps via either Sitemaps or On-Demand Indexing requests. This means you no longer have to modify your pages to expose Pagemaps, or wait for Google to crawl your site to process them. This saves time when you want to make a quick change to your metadata. If you have data you would like to be displayed on your site, such as reviews snippets, you can submit it directly to Google instead of putting it in publicly visible markup on your pages. For added security, you can even choose to add a private key to your Pagemap and we will only serve it in Custom Search results when that key is provided.

We hope you enjoy the added convenience these new submission options offer. Let us know what you think in our discussion forum.

Posted by: Rui Jiang, Software Engineer

Google-hosted Custom Search Engines now use the Element

Two months ago we announced that all Google-hosted Custom Search Engines would be upgraded to use the Element. We’re happy to report that that transition is now complete for all Custom Search users. Those that visit the Control Panel will find better tools for customizing the presentation of their CSEs.

Moving to the Element enables us to quickly deliver new features that Custom Search users can easily turn on for their sites and we will soon upgrade all iframe results to use embedded Elements.

As always, we look forward to your feedback.

Posted by: Liang Ch'ng, Software Engineer