Google fired a direct volley at its chief adversaries in the enterprise search market, Microsoft and IBM, with the July 17 launch of its Google Custom Search Business Edition service.
The Custom Search Business Edition is a hosted, fee-based site search service aimed at small and medium-size businesses—but available for any Web site—that adds Google-type indexing and customized-search capabilities. The services free version displays advertisements; companies with larger, more complicated sites can have the ads turned off for as little as $100 per year or buy the Google Search Appliance itself to provide site and intranet search behind the firewall.
Indexing up to 5,000 pages will cost $100 a year, while 50,000 pages costs $500. Prices start at $15,000 for 1 million pages and more, a Google spokesperson said. Google, in Mountain View, Calif., also will provide its own service support via e-mail or telephone.
“In three simple steps, businesses can sign up online for the hosted service, and in less than 10 minutes customers and visitors are able to search their site using Googles search technology for more relevant results,” said Nitin Mangtani, Google product manager for enterprise search. “You only need to add four lines of code to the site to make this work.”
This service should be a great help to the millions of businesses that have a Web presence but dont offer users any way to search the site, Mangtani said. “Instead of being left on their own to navigate content, visitors to these sites will be able to navigate through search results without ever leaving the site,” he said.
To set up the Custom Search Business Edition, businesses need only to: identify the site(s) to search, and select either “all” or “selective” searching of content; add the search box and customize the appearance by adding a logo and matching the sites look and feel; and customize search results with refinements that reflect site content (such as sectional groupings, for example).
The Custom Search Business Edition is built directly on the Google Custom Search Engine, a hosted search solution introduced in October 2006.
By adding business integration features through an XML API, Mangtani said, users have the option to turn off ads and design a more customized look and feel.
The Custom Search Business Edition joins other search offerings from the Google enterprise group including the Google Search Appliance and Google Mini, both of which offer additional control over crawl depth and timing, as well as secure access to internal documents.
Holiday Home Rental, a U.K.-based online directory of 25,000 holiday rental homes with more than 150,000 pages of content, has been using the service on its home site for several months.
The Google Custom Search feature is placed in the upper right corner of the site. Entering “Liverpool B&B,” for example, netted two full pages of listings from the site that looked similar to regular Google results.
“The number of referrals generated to our homeowner base has increased by approximately 30 percent, and at the same time, the number of customer service requests has also significantly decreased,” said Andy Steggles, president of Holiday Home Rental. “The results have been overwhelming.”
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There are a couple of “interesting” things about this announcement, Matt Brown, search analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Mass., told eWEEK.
“One is that this is software as a service—a subscription-based service thats designed for enterprises to search their corporate sites,” Brown said. “No ones really doing that for business right now. That whole concept is new.
“Also, the price point makes it very attractive. I can see it being very attractive to companies that have never bought search before, or want to just try it out and see how it works,” Brown added.
Microsofts competing product, SharePoint Server for Search, retails at about $4,000, Brown said.
“IBM has a product called IBM OmniFind Yahoo Edition that is a competitor, but still, its an installed search engine,” Brown said. “The software package is free for up to half a million documents. But the problem is, you still have to buy a server to install it on, and you have to have IT people to manage it.”
Alternatively, there is Lucene,an open source search engine written entirely in Java that is available for free download from the Apache Foundation, Brown said. But IT expertise also is required—coding, installation, maintenance—to make that work, Brown said.
“This [Google Custom Search Business Edition] is a very different offering. Pretty much anyone out there can go out and provision a little slice of the Google.com index for use in their business,” Brown said.
“This is great from the perspective of companies that want to add that kind of search capability to their site,” Rebecca Wettemann, search analyst with Nucleus Research in Wellesley, Mass., told eWEEK.
“Thats a lot of utility for anybody whos visiting [a site]. It also enables the smaller site players who couldnt afford an investment in a broader site management searching tool to really make their sites a lot more usable and customer-friendly.”
There are two ends of the spectrum in Web site search, Wettemann said.
“Theres the basic text-based searching that I can do with a Web site utility, where Id get the data dump of everything that remotely resembles what Ive searched for,” Wettemann said. “And then there are Web site search tools that you can integrate. Those tools tend to be comparatively costly—from a licensing and support perspective—compared to [Googles] 100 bucks a year.”
What Google Custom Search Business Edition will give businesses a clear alternative to specific software search tools “that are too expensive, given the value it provides for a Web site, when they can leverage the same kind of value using Google,” Wettemann said.
Google is taking full advantage of the hot on-demand business model, she added.
“This is a perfect example of where it makes no sense for a company to manage and support this themselves,” Wettemann said. “As search technology evolves, it gets better—the benefits of the incremental value associated with those enhancements are transparent when delivered over to the user.
“And they [customers] dont have to support it. For this, they get customers who potentially spend more time at their Web site and spend more money, eventually, with them.”
To sign up for Google Custom Search Business Edition, go here.