Creating a Custom Search Engine with Google

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Written By Shane Bowen

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Do you X-ray the same sites over and over? Do you ever get tired of writing a search string with the same search operators in it? I do. However, there is an easy way to eliminate that step by creating a Custom Search Engine in Google.

What is a Custom Search Engine (CSE)? It’s like building your own mini Google to search only the sites and keywords that you want to search and eliminate specific sites or keywords that you don’t want. Hence why it’s a “Custom” Search Engine.

While it may sound complicated, it’s not. You don’t have to be a developer or even extremely technical to create one. Let’s start by building a simple one to X-Ray LinkedIn.

Typically, when you want to X-Ray LinkedIn, you would create a string that starts something like this: (inurl:com/pub | inurl:com/in) -inurl:pub/dir keyword keyword

Let’s turn that into a CSE and eliminate the need to type that out.

Creating a Custom Search Engine

To begin, login to your Google account and go to your CSE dashboard page.

Click “New search engine” on the left menu. This will take you to the basic setup page. Enter the Name of your Search Engine, the description and the sites you want to search.

For the purposes of our LinkedIn X-ray CSE, I’ve added LinkedIn profile URL’s (see image below). You may be wondering, “what if I want to exclude certain pages on LinkedIn like the directory pages.” Don’t worry, we’ll do that once we have the basic structure created. Note: The * at the end of each URL is part of the Google URL formatting needed to include all pages that begin with that URL.

Once you have this information filled in, click Next. On the following page you can choose your display options such as color and layout. Click Next and ignore the top portion of the following page, unless you plan to embed this search engine on your own site.  On the bottom click the text link for “Basics” to get into further refinements of your CSE.

From now on you will use this page to edit or refine your search engine.  The menu on the left will become your primary navigation but there are three main sections you’ll utilize, Basics, Sites, and Refinements.

To exclude Linkedin directory pages in our LinkedIn X-ray we need to visit the “Sites” section.  Under Excluded Sites add*

We have now completed the creation of a basic LinkedIn X-ray CSE.  You can click “My Search Engines” and go to your CSE.  Here is what it will look like: LinkedIn X-Ray CSE

Using a CSE

Within a Custom Search Engine your string can be much shorter and cleaner as you don’t have to include site operators.  Instead of a string that looks like this: (inurl:com/pub | inurl:com/in) “program manager” “windows phone” microsoft -inurl:pub/dir 

our string can simply be:

“program manager” “windows phone” microsoft

Targeting Your Results

So far we have created a very basic CSE that can be further modified to produce more targeted results such as location, keywords, companies etc.

Example: If you typically look for candidates in a specific location, you would add something like “Location * Greater Seattle Area” to your string to target those profiles. In the screen shot below, you’ll see that I’ve created a refinement that will do that automatically. Once we’ve filled this in, we’ll go back into the “Sites” tab and add the Seattle label to included sites to activate the refinement.

Now if we run a search for [ “program manager” “windows phone” microsoft ] we can view the full search results and the targeted Seattle results with one click. Try it out and click between the two.

Whatever you add in the “Refinements” section will automatically be appended to your search.  This could include specific keywords that you regularly search for, company names, etc.

Get Creative

In sourcing it’s all about efficiency so why write out a long X-ray string each time you need to run a search when a CSE can be created once and be done.  This LinkedIn X-ray version was simply for example and teaching purposes. Use your imagination and creativity to think of all the different search engines you could build; social media sites, file type searches, contact databases (i.e. Jigsaw, Zoominfo), community searches (Github, Stackoverflow, Meetup) etc. The variations are limitless.