The Art Of Building A Google Custom Search Engine – Bonus: Adding Complex Refinements

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Dec 8, 2016
This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.

A major aspect of Custom Search Engines (CSE) is choosing and creating effective refinements. Refinements can hone in or focus your search engine on specific areas or aspects.

To Review:

A refinement is an extension of your site search/xray we created in the initial steps.  You can add a series of refinements (extended boolean strings) that can help focus your search in different areas:

Click “Add” and the following pop-up window appears.  Name your refinement and add your keywords string, then click “ok.”



For example, if you wanted to search Linkedin for emails you could add a string like this:

Email Refinement:

 (“email me at * ” OR “” OR “” OR “” OR “mailto: * “)




You can get pretty creative with these refinements, and they do support advanced operators like inurl: and intitle: (as well as one of my favorites, inanchor:).  For instance, following the email focus, you can create a similar refinement:

Email Refinement:

(“email me at * ” | | |

cse2Now, remember, some sites have limited information, so you may not be able to pull an email (i.e. You may have to change your string around and it can be hit or miss at times. Use different variations of CSEs as well. For instance, when I paired some complex boolean refinements with a CSE that searches the entire web, I was able to build list finders and a resume finder:

Attendee List Refinement:

(inanchor:attendee OR intext:attendee) ( OR OR

cse3 cse4

And don’t forget to have a little fun with these. I created the refinement (below) when I built my first CSE after SourceCon 2015. When I tested the CSE on a “Mechanical Engineer” search, it pulled great results! So create several variations of your refinements and see what happens:


Animal Science Refinement:

(mouse OR mice OR rodent OR “small animal”) (colony OR colonies OR testing OR cell OR tissue)



Science the CSE out of it!

Experimentation is a big part of this process. You may need to adjust the type of CSE you are building, rework refinements, change up boolean as well as other factors. If you can figure it all out, though, you’ll have a search engine you can always come back to, and you won’t have to remember all the different site search protocols the next time.

I’ve built up quite an expansive list myself, you can find many of them here. I hope thing helps, and have a great time building your new set of tools!


Dont forget to check out, The Art Of Building A Google Custom Search Engine – Part 3: Site Searches With A Side Of URL Manipulation.







This article is part of a series called Editor's Pick.
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