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Google released a shiny new version of its hosted enterprise search product today that includes new custom indexing and a synonym dictionary. While they were at it, Google changed the name of the product to Google Site Search, which replaces the old (rather awkward) moniker Custom Search Business Edition.

If you are like me, you may be wondering how Site Search is different from the free Google search widget I have on my Typepad blog, By Ron Miller. For one, the widget is free and Site Search starts at $100 per month for 5000 pages (reasonable I think by anyone’s pricing benchmark). When you look at results on my blog, you see Google ads, while Site Search results are ad-free. What’s more, using the Google XML API, you can completely customize Site Search results including the order of the results and pages that might not show up in the generic Google results. You can’t do that with the search widget. Finally, you also have control over the look and feel of search results (or you can leave it with Google branding if you prefer to have the power of the Google search brand on your site).

Although it may new to us, some customers have been using it since last summer when Google began rolling out the enhancements to select customers. Jennifer Dyni, Manager of Emerging Technologies at TechSmith, a software vendor that makes SnagIt and Camtasia, says her company has been using the new features since last August. She says that she likes the ability to target the search results in a way that isn’t possible using the generic search index alone.

“The new features that Google is making available speak directly to our number one reason for choosing Google Site Search – they are all focused on helping our visitors get relevant search results when using our web site. For example, being able to include a site map or index for Google to crawl -- in addition to what [Google's] web crawler is already indexing – will ensure that the content we want visitors to reach using Site Search will definitely be available.”

What’s more Dyni reports that it didn’t take her team long to incorporate the new features into the interface. “It took our team about 3 hours to get a pilot of the search interface running on our staging site for techsmith.com. We spent about 3 days after the pilot customizing the search experience, and that was mostly incorporating the search box into our site template.” She adds, they deliberately didn’t do any customization because they wanted customers to have the familiar Google look and feel. (You can test Techsmith's implementation by entering a search term in the Search box on the Techsmith site.)

One interesting side note is that the Washington Post/TechCrunch reported that in the days leading up to this announcement, there was a rumor that Google was replacing its Mini Search appliance with a hosted solution for indexing content. Well, the rumor was partly right. Google added custom indexing capability to its hosted product, but the Mini is still alive and well, which just goes to show how seriously we should take rumors. There is an element of truth, but what’s real is hard to know, a lesson those of us waiting for the iPhone announcement next week should take to heart.

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