Google has made a series of announcements today about its Custom Search Engine service, including a new integration with Wikipedia that substantially changes the search experience on that site for users who opt-in. Other Custom Search announcements today include new custom themes and layouts, as well as better support for “rich snippets.” More on those in a moment.
With the new Custom Search Wikipedia Skin, users can now get Wikipedia search results from Google inline on the Wikipedia page you’re viewing. The skin provides tabs to show custom search results from all Wikipedia pages, only Wikipedia pages linked from the one you’re viewing, or any page linked to from the one you’re viewing. The screenshot here shows the three tabs when you search for “sequence” while on Wikipedia’s DNA page.
Without the custom skin enabled, the same search leads you directly to Wikipedia’s mathematical “Sequence” page, which isn’t relevant to the original DNA content. This should prove to be helpful to searchers who spend a lot of time on Wikipedia. Instructions for enabling this new skin can be found here.
That’s just one of the Custom Search-related announcements today. Google has also introduced new ways to customize how custom search results appear on your web site. The new Custom Search Themes option in the Control Panel includes three layouts and several pre-designed themes you can use, and you can tweak those themes to match your site’s color, fonts, etc., if needed.
The final announcement is about improved support for metadata in Custom Search results. Users who provide specific markup in their web pages, and use a new hosting option called Element, can include things like image thumbnails and specific “action” links in the search results that Google shows. You can now also do special metadate-based searches, such as looking for articles on your site from a certain author. All of this can be tested via a new “Rich Snippet Preview Tool” that Google has also launched today.