Adding a Google Custom Search Box To Your Web Page
4.2 Adding a Google Custom Search Box To Your Web Page
If there was one advantage that the old AdSense for Search had over Custom Search, it was the ease of implementation. There were no tricky decisions to make and not much choice in the way of optimization. You kept the Search button grey, picked a size that suited your website and pasted in the code.
If someone searched and clicked you got a little money as they left. If they didn’t search, or they didn’t click, you got nothing.
The Custom Search Engine offers a heap of formatting options — and those are only the ones available from within AdSense. Skip around AdSense and come in through the Custom Search Engine’s own site and you can go really wild with the optimization.
Sign in to your AdSense account using the new interface, and on the left of the screen, you’ll find a link marked “Content.” Below it is a link marked “Search.” That link opens up to two other choices: Custom search engines; and Custom channels.
The first of those two will put you in the search engine business.
You’ll need to give the search engine a name — any name will do — then decide whether you want the engine to search “the entire web” or “only sites I select.”
That’s not as easy a choice as it sounds. Choose the entire Web, and you’ll give yourself an easy time. You won’t have to run around looking for sites to recommend, and you won’t have to think about keywords to help target your search. But you also won’t be tweaking the search to make the results relevant, and you’ll be increasing the chances that the user will be served ads that are less than completely relevant too.
The problem for many new publishers though, is that the list of sites that they might want to include could be fairly small. You’ll want to include your own site, of course, and there could be a handful of others that you know and respect, but you’re going to need a good twenty or thirty sites at least before your search engine can deliver helpful results.
Start with just a handful to get going, and your search engine could pick up a reputation for being ineffective. Returning users who searched once and failed to find a good result because the pool of searched sites was so small will know to ignore it in the future, cutting you out of the income from their searches.
Using a Custom Search Engine properly then takes a little time and a little thought. A better option is to choose “the entire web” initially, then set aside a couple of hours to come back later, plug in the list of websites to search, add the keywords, and do all of the refinements that you can only do when you search selected sites.
That selectivity is particularly important for keywords. These aren’t difficult but they are vital. The keywords you provide for your search engine give Google a clue about the nature of your site’s topic. The example that Google likes to provide is a search for “tiger.” List keywords related to animals, and the search engine will list results about big cats. List keywords related to Copyright © 2011 Joel Comm and Flying Monkey Media, Inc. – All Rights Reserved
Macs, and Google will return results for operating systems. List keywords related to golf, and Google will return results about Tiger Woods.
You should throw in a few keywords initially to help keep your results focused but do come back and add to the list later. The more you can target your search results, the better you’ll target your ads — and that means more clicks.
Choosing the country should be fairly straightforward but remember that your choice should match the location of your users rather than your own location. A publisher based in the UK whose users come from the United States, for example, would be better off picking the United States as his country or territory.
Custom Channels are important, but you’ll want to create a unique channel for your search box. Just hit the “Create new custom channel” link, enter a name and you’ll be able to track the clicks your search engine generates separately.
That just leaves the Search box look and feel; and the Search results and ad location
The Golden Rule that applies to AdSense units doesn’t apply to the search box. You don’t have to blend the search box into the page in the way that you need to do with ad units. The Search box is an element on your Web page, not an ad, so it doesn’t matter if it stands out.
In fact, you want users to be able to find it.
When it comes to “look and feel” then, choose the option that best suits the style of your site. Usually, that will mean ignoring the gray and black background options, sticking with white… and scratching your head about where to put the “Google Custom Search” tag.
Fig. 4.1 Google’s Search options. Which of these will make you rich?
Putting the tag inside the field is a pretty good default and saves you real estate space on your Web page. But it’s easy to see how the title might help
a link unit to blend into a hot spot just beneath the search box. Start with the tag inside the field then, and if you’re thinking of placing a link unit nearby experiment with placing the tag outside afterwards.
The width of the field should match the width of the column in which you’ll be placing the search field. You want it to look nice.
The “Search results and ad location” is much tougher. You’ve really got two choices: stick with the default Google palette and you’ll send your users to a page that looks like something from Google, giving you the kind of clickthroughs that Google satisfies itself with.
That might be fine, especially if you’re offering to search the entire Web. It’s not a bad place to start your testing.
But the results will depend on the behavior of your users. If you’ve added keywords then the results should be better targeted. That might mean better targeted ads, but it could also mean better search results — and therefore less reason to click the ads.
Use the color palette to match the search results page with the design of your own website, adding your logo to the page as well, and the results page will look like content rather than a list of results from Google. Even the ads will look like links to articles on your site. That might give them some more clicks.
The only way to know for sure which of those two approaches — a Google page of search results or a branded page of search results — will be to test them. Start by letting users search the Web and see the results on a page that looks like Google. Next, restrict the users to seeing results from sites that you’ve chosen. Finally, match the design of your search results page to the design of your own site. Compare the results and you’ll know which option works best for your users.
The last decision you’ll have to make when you put an AdSense search box on your site is where to bring up the results page. You have three choices:
? On a Google page in the same window;
On a Google page in a new window;
On a page on your website, inside an iframe.
Combined with a branded search results page, I’ve found the last option to be the best. Not only do I get a page of search results that look like they’ve come from my site, I also get to surround them with my own navigation — and more ads too, I want.
You’ll need to tell AdSense the URL of the page on which to place the frame, the width of the results area and, most importantly, whether to put the ads top and right, top and bottom, or right.
Top and right is usually best, but once you’ve got the frame working on your site, those three positions can be tested easily.
You’ll be given two blocks of code: one for your search box; and the other for the search results.
Fig. 4.2 Users had to scroll past an entire screen of ads and links to reach the search results on one design of my site WorldVillage.com.