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 Google.com 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?
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.