Answers To Your Google Custom Search Engine Questions

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Jun 15, 2011
This article is part of a series called Q/A.

The webinar on how to create Google Custom Search Engines last week was well-received and has left lots of you hungry for more! As promised, below we’ve taken most of the questions asked by you in the chat during the webinar and answered them below. The questions have been divided up into four sections: General Questions, Inclusions/Exclusions, Refinements, and Additional Resources. We hope you find these references helpful, and if you have further questions, leave them in the comments section!

Below also is the recording of the webinar for you to check out and review. Just a reminder: if you’re planning to participate in the SourceCon Challenge that’s currently underway, you’ve got only a few days left! Friday, June 17 is the deadline to submit your entry for the first round of judging. So get your CSE pulled together, because the prize is certainly worth it!


  • Do you have to have a Google email account to create a Google custom search engine?
  • Yes, you will have to log in to a Google user account in order to create a Custom Search Engine.

  • I just created a custom search engine but it does not save or list my search keywords. I like to retrieve my standard search words every time I log into my CSE. How do I do that?
  • (Mike) That’s in the refinements.  When you save a refinement and go to the engine itself, you’ll see the refinement/link at the top which when clicked will apply the refinement/string to it.

  • Someone mentioned that by removing a line of XML, we could view the “ad free” version. Would he mind sharing which line it is?
  • (Mike) Where it says:  <LookAndFeel nonprofit=”***”>, it will say “false” when there are ads. Change it to “true” and re-upload it; you’ll remove your ads.

  • Is there a way in the control panel to give specific weights to different keywords?
  • (Irina) Keywords are equal in fact; the order doesn’t matter and there really isn’t a way to give specific keywords more weight than others.


  • Are CSEs different if created through as opposed to
  • (Mike) No, it appears to re-direct you to if you are working outside of the U.S.

  • Can we make our CSE private?
  • (Dan) You can make it private in terms of who has admin access and can make edit changes within, but in terms of making it private (hidden from others), I don’t believe so.


  • Is there a list of good things to include or exclude?
  • Not specific to sourcing, but there are lots of guidelines and recommendations for creating inclusions and exclusions in the Google CSE FAQ.

  • Can you delimit extensions as in
  • (Mike)  yes, you chose to exclude gov sites by adding it the exclude list; for example,  *.gov


  • Please explain the refinements section. How do they work?
  • You can look at the Google CSE FAQ on refinements to get a ton of detailed information on how they work.

  • Is there a limit to the number of refinements you can use with the more command?
  • (Mike) You can stack as many as twelve at a time. Each of those counts as one keyword.  If you use all twelve, then that’s 32-12 = 20 keywords.

  • Can you restrict the engine to only a filetype?
  • (Mike) Yes. In order to do that, you just need to add a filetype: search to one of your refinements, such as filetype:doc, filetype:pdf, or filetype:xls.


  • Regarding location – where in the CSE can u add locations? For ex: when searching or builiding a search engine for LI profiles? How do u narrow down to location?
  • (Irina) CSEs are based on the existing Google’s index. (There’s no additional search performed.) So any ways to search for a location on Google (such as area codes, zip codes, international URL’s in LinkedIn, etc.) will work. If you want to make it part of the engine, you could include substrings specific to locations in refinements.


  • Can you add specific requirements to your refinements?
  • You can add anything you want to your refinements — just make sure you test them for quality!

  • If you wanted to search a state licensing list (ex: Registered Nurses) – is this possible?
  • Yes, just make sure you word it so that the search engine will have the best chance to recognize what you’re looking for. For example, look at this list of nursing credentials, pick the ones you desire, and make a specific refinement for nursing credentials.


  • Is there a mobile version of the CSE on my BlackBerry I can view on the go?
  • Not at this time; though Google’s pages are all mobile-friendly and relatively easy to navigate on mobile devices.

  • Are there any resources available going over Google’s Custom Search Engines that you can recommend?
  • You should read Irina Shamaeva’s follow-up article on, How To Build a Google Custom Search Engine. There is a ton of great information there to help get you started. Also, read the Google Custom Search Engine FAQs — lots of technical tidbits there for difficult refinements, inclusions/exclusions, and various other customizations. And — here are some search results that can help you as well.

  • How do I get my Corporate Careers page listed on peoples’ CSEs?
  • (Irina) If Google finds your page, CSEs will find it too. You can create your own CSE that would promote your corporate pages to have a higher rank, or include it as a special “subscribed” link.

  • Are there public CSE’s out there? Pre-made?
  • (Irina) Search on Google for “* * is a google custom search engine” and you will find quite a few.

    (Tyler Cushing) Put into a search, and click the link to include omitted results. Then you can refine your search by adding keywords.

    You can also look at some example CSEs here:, test out Irina’s CSEs that she recently shared in the Boolean Strings Network, or check out this CSE that searches CSEs, courtesy of Shally Steckerl.


Hope this helps you on your quest to create great Google Custom Search Engines! And remember: you’ve only got until Friday, June 17 to submit your CSE to participate in the first SourceCon Challenge. Why not give it a chance? The prize — a FREE trip to SourceCon in Silicon Valley this fall — is totally worth it.

Happy Sourcing!

This article is part of a series called Q/A.