Google's hosted search service for business users has been extended worldwide for the first time, promising to make Web sites stickier by improving the ability for viewers to navigate the site.
Previously available only in the U.S., the Google Custom Search Engine platform lets users add Google search capabilities to their Web sites. A free, ad-supported version is available but the paid-for business edition gives administrators more support while allowing greater customisation.
"For many organisations, a Web site is their window to the world and significant investment goes into attracting customers to the site," said Google's European enterprise director, Roberto Solimene, on Tuesday. "Keeping visitors on a site once they arrive, however, is a challenge, and the absence of a search facility can be a major cause of a lack of Web site 'stickiness.' By improving the ease, speed, and accuracy with which users can find what they need, businesses can ensure their Web site justifies the investments made."
Both the Custom Search Engine free edition and business edition provide hosted search capabilities, obviating the need for installed appliances. They also provide reports to help administrators monitor usage behaviour.
The business edition, however, adds the option of e-mail and phone support from Google's enterprise group. It also adds the choice of whether or not to include advertising, and allows results to be fully customised using an XML application programming interface (API). This customisation extends beyond the appearance of the results to allow the highlighting or blocking of results from specified sites.
There have been two implementations of Google Custom Search Business Edition in the U.K. so far. One user has been Parliament, which recently started using it to make its nine million documents more accessible to the public. The other has been Monarch Airlines, which claims that integration of the application has reduced in-bound customer e-mails by 30 percent as customers search for answers to their questions about baggage regulations and airline security, rather than asking the airline directly.
The business edition of Google Custom Search Engine starts at around US$103 per year for searching up to 500 pages. The annual charge for searching up to 300,000 pages is around US$2,308, while those wanting to support larger volumes of pages need to speak directly to Google's enterprise sales group.