Google upgrades and rebrands site search service

New hosted site search service for businesses features improved indexing specifically focused on a customer's site

Google will roll out a new version of its hosted site search service for businesses on this week, featuring improved indexing and a new name.

Formerly called Google Custom Search Business Edition, the service will now be called Google Site Search and offer a more comprehensive indexing capability and more granular options for ranking search results.

The goal of the service remains unchanged: to provide Web publishers with a Google-powered search engine for their public sites. "Over the last five years, site [owners] have invested a lot on site optimization and navigation and graphics, but not so much on search," said Matthew Glotzbach, director of product management for Google Enterprise.

One of the product's new features is enhanced index coverage, which is an index specifically focused on a customer's site and designed to complement the site's pages that are already included in Google's Web index.

In addition, the product now gives site owners more options to affect how search results are ranked and listed. For example, the service can be configured to assign more weight to a document's age, so that recent pages are favored over older ones, something Google calls "date biasing." On the other hand, site owners also can "bias" search results toward pages from certain sections, like a product catalog.

Another new feature of Google Site Search lets site owners add a custom synonym dictionary, so that search results include not only documents containing the query's keywords, but their synonyms as well. Also, the product allows for more customization of its look and feel than before, so that its search and result pages can be made to resemble the site's style.

The improvements to the service reflect Google's growing awareness and understanding of how to deal with enterprise customers, said Rebecca Wettemann, a Nucleus Research analyst.

In this version, Google is giving the customers more power to configure the product to their needs and striking a balance between its technology and customization options, she said.

"Google has done a lot of thinking about how it articulates the value it can provide to the enterprise beyond saying that it has very innovative and powerful technology," Wettemann said.

Thus, Google now pays attention to the business use cases of its technology, to how products fit into the overall IT environment of customers, and to how CIOs can lower costs and risk with its products, she said.

In this case, Google does well to focus on the prevalent problem, especially among small and mid-size businesses, of site search technology that fails to meet the expectations of visitors and prospective customers, she said.

Pricing for this hosted service starts at US$100 per year for sites with 5,000 pages. The cost for sites between 100,001 and 300,000 pages is US$2,250. If a site has more than 300,000 pages, site owners need to contact Google's direct sales team for prices.

Google has other site search services. like Custom Search Engine AdSense for Search, a free hosted service that isn't as sophisticated as Google Site Search and requires that site owners carry ads provided by Google. It also has its Mini and Search Appliance products, which are computers loaded with search engine software that can index both a company's publicly available Web pages as well as internal files and documents with access restrictions.

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Juan Carlos Perez

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