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How do you replace Google Site Search?

I’ve gotten a flurry of phone calls recently because Google has announced that they are withdrawing their popular Google Site Search product, which many companies—even large ones—have been using as their website search engine.

The calls are coming because:

  • Google Site Search worked pretty well: There are lots of better search engines out there, but it worked well enough for most people.
  • Google Site Search was no work at all: Those “better” search engines do provide better search results, but they take a lot more work to get there—work that I help companies do every day. If you want better results for your business, do the work with a better search engine. If you want “set it and forget it” and you don’t care that you are losing sales and paying higher call center costs, get Google Site Search. At least that is what I used to say.
  • Google Site Search was dead cheap: I know huge companies paying less than $1000 a year (yeah, not a month—a year) for Google Site Search. Even if you replace it with a free open-source search engine, you’ll probably pay more than that just for the hosting.

So, it’s the end of an era. If you were happy getting decent results that cost nothing and required no work, you were the ideal Google Site Search customer. But now, you have to change.

The path of least resistance is to do nothing, because Google will happily replace Google Site Search with Google Custom Search Experience (CSE). When that happens, if you made some custom changes to your experience, they might go away, but the “good enough” search results will still be there. And it’s free! Such a deal!

Except for one thing. Google will be showing paid search ads on your website search page. The great majority of the companies that I have spoken to basically say, “Over my dead body will ads be shown on my website.”

But in case you are thinking, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe we could live with that,” let me tell you about the other calls I am getting.

Companies want to know, “How can I get my ad shown on my competitor’s site search results page?” And the answer is that if they let their Google Site Search simply revert to CSE at the witching hour, it will be very easy. Just buy the right keywords and you will start to show up. That should be a fun conversation to explain to the boss why our search results page is showing our archenemy’s ads.

So what else can you do?

You can go out and get one of those better search engines, pay more, and work harder (or pay me to work harder for you). If you do, you’ll undoubtedly raise your sales and lower your service costs because people will find what they are looking for more often.

And you will HAVE to. Because there was nothing in the budget for replacing the search engine this year and paying higher operational costs. So you need to carefully work out your search improvement program so that you can justify why we have to spend more, because we are going to make more.

If you don’t, even if you get the boss to fork over to bring in a “better” search engine, if you don’t have a program that constantly monitors your search results and ensures that searchers are finding what they are looking for, you will get a drop in sales from Google Site Search and a rise in call center costs. So I am getting those calls because they know that they can pay now or they can pay later.

If you are using Google Site Search, what are you going to do?

Mike Moran

Mike Moran is a Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also served as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website,, most recently as the Manager of Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He was a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research and is now a Senior Fellow of The Conference Board. A Certified Speaking Professional, Mike regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide

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