Getting Link Love From Google Custom Search Engines

I’ve written previously about Google Custom Search Engines.  These vertical Googlettes let anyone create a search engine with results based on Google’s index, with an added layer of human editorial selection. Put more simply, you create a Google CSE; you select the sites you want in it, and then you let anyone search your CSE from your site. New Google CSEs appear almost daily. You can see examples at Google here, and there’s even a directory of them being maintained here. Google CSEs offer a couple link building opportunities, one of which might be described as affinity linking.

What is affinity linking and how do Google CSEs impact it?  As always, it best to illustrate by example. How’s this for verticality (no pun intended): Soaring Search. This search engine is oriented towards glider pilots, students, and instructors. This search engine gives higher rankings on glider-related results than other similar sky sports such as hang glider, para glider, RC glider, etc.

The first link building opportunity is to look for Google CSEs in your niche. If you run the Soaring Society of America site, then it’s a pretty good bet the folks over at Soaring Search will have an affinity for your content and include your site if they haven’t already.  Have they? Yes. But that’s an easy one. The Soaring Society of America is a non profit association-type site. Of course the folks at Soaring Search have heard of it and included it

I did a little more looking and found this soaring content that was not included at SoaringSearch. Zero matches equals opportunity lost. 

Don’t depend on the people running the many Google CSEs to stumble across your content. Be proactive and look for them. Use the Google CSE directory and see if there are engines that fit for your content. If you find one, contact the owner and suggest inclusion.

The second linking opportunity offered by having a Google CSE is from Google themselves.  Look at Google’s CSE picks again.  I bet those sites are getting several benefits from that inclusion, among them a little Google-centric link love.  Remember also to submit your Google CSE here of course. And here. And you might want to look through the results for the search "Directory of Google Custom Search Engines." They should yield a few links for your new CSE.

Lastly, forward-thinking link builders might plan for the possibility that Google could incorporate existing topical Google Custom Search Engines into regular Google results. It’s certainly logical. The people running topical Google CSEs are a secret army of human reviewers adding a layer of editorial oversight to what are normally spam-heavy results. Google’s CSEs are genius in that regard. I don’t know if or when the tipping point will come when CSEs are so prevalent that every subject has one, but as I love to say, the web is self organizing.  People find ways to make it better.

I also wonder if one day someone will use and search for "Soaring instructors", and among the results will be this entry

Try this search again at the topical Google Custom Search Engine Soaring Search.

If Google’s goal is to provide a better searcher experience, then wouldn’t a well maintained vertical Google CSE be a logical place to steer the searcher?  

I walk the walk as well.  I have my own Google CSE for the three sites I run. You can use the box below to search,, and Give it a try.

Remember, don’t ignore the other players in the custom search engine space, like Rollyo, swicki, Gigablast, and Yahoo Search Builder. They offer similar opportunities, as well.

Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers, The Ward Report. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Custom Search Engine | Link Building: General | Link Week Column | Search Engines: Custom Search Engines


About The Author: has been creating linking strategies for clients since 1994. Eric publishes the strategic linking advice newsletter LinkMoses Private, and provides linking services, training and consulting via

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  • Eric Enge

    Great post. It’s a great example of how complicated search marketing is getting. There are those who think that search will become distributed broadly, and that the vertical search sites will decline in importance.

    If so, Custom Search Engines, and those products offered by other parties, will become increasingly important. So how do you get in? You develop relationships and earn the trust of the people who are building them.

  • Michael Martinez

    I’m not so sure I agree with your advice. I’d rather not be inundated with yet more gratuitous link requests from hopeful Webmasters.

    When you run a hand-edited directory, you usually solicit those link requests and we do accept them for our hand-edited directory.

    But my Google Custom Search engines represent my personal choices for quality content and I will not for any reason tolerate a link request from any Webmaster who has not been included in those CSEs.

    A CSE is not a substutite for a hand-edited directory and they should not be promoted as such.

    Rather, people who want to included in such directories should create their own and then enhance their existing content by adding more content.

    There are less annoying ways of creating visibility for one’s Web site than sending unsolicited link requests. That behavior is no better than spam now.

    People can create blogs and write about their Web sites on those blogs and submit the RSS feeds to various distribution services and get the links and attention they want from people who are seeking content for specific topics.

    While that may entail more work than sending spam emails, it’s more Internet-friendly than sending spam emails.

  • Kimber Cook

    Great post, Eric! You inspired me to create a CSE for one of our clients. I’m excited to see what kind of benefits we will be seeing in the future for this.

    As I just created my CSE, I found a bug in the Google Co-op for statistics in my account and wondered if you were seeing the same thing. I referenced your blog in my post about this bug where my statistics are showing the date as Jan. 1970. Anyone else seeing this? or is it just me?

    Google Custom Search – The Future of Search? Or is it the Past?

  • eric_ward

    Michael – I admire your work greatly, and agree with so much of what you write, but on this one how about if we agree to disagree? Not every CSE is created just for use by the individual who created it. Many are created for the public to use, and anyone running a CSE for public use would be foolish to believe they alone are perfect arbiter/selectors of the best content for the niche served by their CSE. Maybe if your CSE is about a topic so nichy that only a few sites are worthy of inclusion…That said, I would NEVER NEVER NEVER encourage anyone to spam anyone else, and I’m pretty vocal in that regard, having also consulted to the FCC on spam related issues. I despise spam.

    What I was trying to convey is that if you have created a CSE about disc golf, and if you as the editor of that CSE are told about a truly exceptional disc golf site that you have not included in your CSE, then as editor you would likely be glad to take a look at that site and if you found it worthy, include it.

    I can see where people might take this to the extreme, and submit sites that are not worthy. This happens every day, as my own inbox will attest :)

    There are also private CSE’s, like the one I created about hearing loss, which I use for highly personal reasons. Nobody knows this CSE exists but me, and I want it that way right now. Thus nobody can submit a site to me. Yes, I might miss some good ones, but I have ways of finding them. If by chance someone reading this comment sent me an email to tell me about a hearing loss site I had not included but which was truly exceptional, I’d add it in a heartbeat, and I wouldn’t consider the sender of that URL to be a spammer.

    Some folks who run Google CSE’s even seek submissions. Have a look

    Thus while I agree with your assessment that CSEs could encourage spam, for those of us who are selective with the content we represent and equally selective with the sites we submit to, everybody wins, and nobody gets hurt.


  • Lucky

    Hey Eric, may I suggest that you style your search button instead of letting it be the usual incongruous gray.

    Pl see:




  • Michael Martinez

    “Some folks who run Google CSE’s even seek submissions.”

    In such cases, my objections would not apply, naturally. I just want people to be more selective and considerate when seeking links. Many boundary lines have been drawn but people in their endless quests for links often ignore those boundaries.


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