Google Launches Hosted Site Search; Not Ditching Mini After All

A couple weeks ago we reported a rumor that Google was going to replace its Mini search appliance with a new hosted solution for indexing content found behind the firewall and on corporate websites.

Turns out the rumor was just half correct. Google is not ditching the Mini but it is launching a new service called Google Site Search, which is basically a rebranding and enhancement of the existing Google Custom Search Business Edition.

Google Site Search is intended for organizations that want to add Google search functionality to their websites. It has three main improvements over the former custom search offering: it allows for synonym matching, results tweaking, and indexing of so-called “dark web” content.

If you a run a site that often refers to terms by their acronyms, or commonly uses different phrases to describe things, you can upload a list of synonyms to Google and it will treat them the same when a user searches within your site.

If you’re a news site (like TechCrunch) that tends to place a premium on newer content, you can bias content based on its date, forcing the newest results to the top. Similarly, if you’re an online retailer or provider of some other type of content, you can give preference to results for that content (in the online retailer’s case, any product pages where visitors might go on to buy things).

Google Site Search mainly relies on the standard Google crawler when scouring your site. But you can also hand it special sitemaps so that it recognizes areas of your website that might typically be overlooked by the crawler. These are results like those hidden behind forms or available only through intricate database queries.

Perhaps most compellingly, Google Site Search can be visually customized to match the look and feel of your website. This isn’t a new feature (it existed in the previous business edition) but something perhaps overlooked by most site owners. When you implement site search, you can customize the appearance with a WYSIWYG editor, or even request a raw XML file that can be parsed and displayed anyway you want (you don’t even have to include Google branding on your results pages).

On the other side of the firewall, the Mini is “alive and well” and has even received a recent set of upgrades. Google says that it expects organizations to increasingly use the Mini for only behind-the-firewall type queries (those that retrieve data not available publicly). With the new Google Site Search, there’s no real reason for people to use the Mini to index public websites anymore.

When asked whether Google might eventually provide a hosted solution for indexing private corporate data, company representatives say it’s not ready to announce anything but they “would hope [they] get to that point” eventually. While Google Docs and other online collaboration tools show that enterprises are gradually willing to put their data in the cloud, perhaps the market isn’t ready to hand over the whole basket just yet.