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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters

Switching to Google Custom Search

April 24th, 2013 by mdmcginnis

After several months of thought, research and discussions with TAMU IT, we have decided to switch to the Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) and discontinue the Google Search Appliance (GSA) in November, when the contract with Google expires.

As a result, if your website search box uses the Google Search Appliance, it will stop working this fall. So we encourage colleges and departments to set up their own Custom Search Engines now. To make that easier, we will be posting details and code samples on our new MarComm website. Personally, I’ve found Google’s CSE documentation quite clear and helpful. However, if you only want to search all Texas A&M websites, you can copy our search box code.

A Google Custom Search Engine allows a webmaster to specify which websites to include in search results, similar to a GSA Collection. Like many other large universities, we realized that the Google CSE has almost all the features we’ve been using, plus quite a few more.

In our testing, we’ve found that CSE search results are almost indistinguishable from GSA search results. And since we’re a non-profit institution of higher education, our search results won’t show any ads.

Will we miss out on anything by switching? We never used Google Search Appliance’s fancier features anyway, such as OneBox. We’ll still have access to more on-demand indexing than we need. We’ve occasionally contacted tech support about our search box, but we will no longer have to do that if we no longer have a search box…

True, the free version of Google Custom Search doesn’t offer search results in XML format, and it only indexes public websites. But if you need to parse XML feeds, crawl intranet sites, or get tech support by email, you can always sign up for the paid version, Google Site Search – $100-$250 a year for the typical college.

On the other hand, the CSE includes options that aren’t available with the GSA, such as autocompletion/search-as-you-type, automatic thumbnail images, and enhanced KeyMatch (Promotions) descriptions.

So things are looking good. We welcome your questions, and I’ll provide more details in my next blog post. We’re planning a meeting after the semester ends, where webmasters can discuss tips and best practices for search.


Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 Search
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2 Comments to Switching to Google Custom Search

  1. Will have the CSE results? I assume you will drop indexing of other subdomains?

    It has been our experience that if you don’t severely limit the scope of CSE indexes that they run wild on external links. For example State of Texas (required links) could show up.

  2. Chris Siems on April 29th, 2013
  3. Right now, we’re testing our CSE at, but we will be moving that to this fall. Yes, we are indexing all of *, plus and So far, we don’t seem to have a problem with unwanted external links, such as See

  4. Michael on April 29th, 2013

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