Build Your Own Search Engine
In our last “Sites for Sore Eyes column” (June 2008), we talked about search engines and other ways to find content online. Although we showed you some excellent sites, how cool would it be to design your own search engine—customized to search specific websites? Pretty cool, we think! Well, a custom search engine is not only possible: It’s easy!
It probably never occurred to you to create a customized search engine, but think of what a valuable tool that could be. Suppose a tax lawyer realizes that she primarily relies on eleven different websites for 90% of her information searches. How much simpler her research would be if she had a custom search engine that searched only those eleven sites! And if she could add her custom “Tax Search Engine” to her law firm’s website as a public service (and marketing tool), then so much the better!
Think of how much traffic your law firm website might generate if you had a custom search page for news and information about your city or geographical region (particularly in a small town or city). Custom search engines are really only limited by your imagination. You could have a custom search page for your hobby, whether it’s golf, bowling, or knitting.
What about a custom search page for your favorite sports team, combining fan blogs and sports news sites? Take a look at Red Sox Nation Search created by Wall Street Journal technology columnist Walter S. Mossberg at http://rollyo.com/wmossberg/red_sox_nation.
Or perhaps custom search engines dedicated to your columnists, Courtney or Jim? Well, OK, our parents and relatives might like it, but there are not really enough websites devoted to us just yet. But keep a happy thought, and maybe we will return to that idea in the future.
How to Easily Build a Custom Search Engine
We will cover two easy ways to do this: Rollyo and Google Custom Search. There may be other ways to do this as well, but if you have one way to build a custom search engine powered by Yahoo and one way powered by Google, we think you are in pretty good shape.
Rollyo is located at http://rollyo.com/, and the name stands for Roll Your Own Search Engine. As noted, it is powered by Yahoo.
Rollyo allows you to create custom “Searchrolls” that you can use for your own research purposes or share with others. Before you create your own, check out the examples of Searchrolls on Rollyo, including some created by celebrities like Arianna Huffington or Debra Messing.
Registering is quick: just create a username, password, and provide your email address. Then you can get right to creating your own Searchroll by selecting sites from your own Bookmark file or browsing through other Searchrolls for ideas. You can use the Rollyo Dashboard tool to personalize your search page and pick search engines to add. Add sites to your Searchrolls on the fly using the RollBar Bookmarklet tool, one of the free apps Rollyo offers.
When finished, add a Rollyo Searchbox to your website with site search and as many Searchrolls as you want. As shown with the Red Sox Nation Search example above, your custom search engine page will have its own unique link that can be shared with others if you choose.
A really fun section of the Rollyo website is http://rollyo.com/explore.html, where one can explore the Searchrolls made by other people. There is a list of the most popular Searchrolls, or you can perform a search. The query “law” found dozens of Searchrolls, the majority of which were indeed law-related, but it also found “c lawfoot bathtub” and “ lawncare.”
Rollyo is easy and free, and, most important, it works. But we haven’t heard as much about Rolloyo since Google developed its own custom search engine product. Start yours at the Google Custom Search page: http://www.google.com/coop/cse/.
Of course, you have to have a personal account with Google to do this. If you already use Gmail, iGoogle, Google Calendar, or one of the many other services offered by Google, you’re good to go.
Google Custom Search is as easy to set up as Rolloyo on the basic level. But there are some very advanced features for those who like to tinker.
The basic search can be demonstrated by a custom search page Jim set up a few years ago to search law practice management resources like practice management blogs and ABA Legal Technology Resource Center. Here is the link to Jim’s Oklahoma Law Practice Tips Search http://tinyurl.com/yredb3 (or see Courtney’s South Carolina search engine at http://tinyurl.com/66cus4).
If you really only want one custom search engine, we suggest creating one and inserting it as a gadget on your iGoogle page. That way, once you have logged into Google at the beginning of the day, anytime you do a Google search your custom search engine will be ready to use if you need it. Of course, you can insert many other gadgets in your iGoogle page, such as RSS newsfeeds, weather, games, or photos. Google’s custom search page makes insertion into your iGoogle a snap.
In fact, there are so many facets to Google Custom Search, there is a technical blog dedicated to it: http://googlecustomsearch.blogspot.com/. Don’t worry if you don’t understand all of the high-level development posts there—it’s really geeky.
We had a hard time deciding what to include in this article as we kept stumbling across cool items that we hadn’t seen before. You can automatically generate a search engine based on the links on your website or blog with “Google Custom Search on the fly” http://www.google.com/coop/cse/onthefly. Just copy some code from this page and paste it into your webpage. It will create a custom search that will search only the links included on your site or blog—no special expertise or knowledge of html code required.
For Google’s set of examples and featured custom search engines go to http://www.google.com/coop/cse/examples/GooglePicks.
Custom search engines are a great way for solo and small firm lawyers to jazz up their websites for free. To start with, add one focusing on your areas of law or expertise, and one for your community or region. It’s a unique way to market your law firm.
Finally, another custom search tool has been released. This one is from Yahoo. It is called Alpha, and it is in beta http://au.alpha.yahoo.com/. This is a bit different from the other tools discussed above and we will let you explore it on your own for now. We just included it because we like saying it is called Alpha and it is in beta.
And if any of you create a really great custom search engine, send us the link. We’d love to see it.
Jim Calloway is the director of the Oklahoma Bar Association Management Assistance Program. He served as chair of the ABA TECHSHOW™ 2005. Calloway publishes the weblog, Jim Calloway’s Law Practice Tips, at http://jimcalloway.typepad.com, and was coauthor of the book, Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour. He serves on the GP|Solo Division Technology Board. Courtney Kennaday is the director of the Practice Management Assistance Program of the South Carolina Bar. She advises bar members on practice management and law office technology.
© Copyright 2008, American Bar Association.