Control Panel

This page explains configuration options for your engine and gives you a tour of the Control Panel.

  1. Creating a Custom Search Engine
  2. Managing Your Search Engine
  3. Releasing Your Search Engine into the Wild

Creating a Custom Search Engine

The easiest way to get started with Google Custom Search is to create a basic search engine using the Control Panel. If you haven't done that before, follow the tutorial.

When you created your search engine, two sets of code were generated:


<CustomSearchEngine id="_6zdjrkhn3a" creator="001058780666577659641" volunteers="false"
keywords="" visible="false" encoding="UTF-8">
   <Title>Hello World</Title>
   <Description>Experimental search engine</Description>
       <Label name="_cse_id" mode="FILTER"/>
       <Label name="_cse_exclude_id" mode="ELIMINATE"/>



     <Annotation about="*" score="1">
       <Label name="_cse_id"/>

The more advanced sections of the developer's guide will walk you through the CSE XML. In the meantime, you can just skim through it. If you are curious about the code for your search engine, you can go to the control panel and click the Advanced tab. The next section tells you about the control panel and all the tabs.

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Managing Your Search Engine

You manage your custom search engines in the My search engines page and define the search engine specifications in the control panel.

Getting to Know the My Search Engines Page

You can create more than one search engine under your Google account. The search engines do not have to be related to each other. You can view, manage, and delete them in the My search engines page.

The My search engine page includes the following components:

  • Control panel - The administrative console for your search engine. Each search engine has its own control panel.
  • Statistics - The dashboard that shows the number of queries processed by your search engine. If enough users are using the same search terms, you will be able to see the most popular queries for your search engine. You can use this data to fine-tune your search engine.
  • Delete - Permanently delete the search engine. You cannot undo this.

Touring the Control Panel

After you create a custom search engine, you can use the control panel to modify it. You can access the control panel from the My search engines page.

This section describes the following tabs in the control panel:

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The Basics tab let you define public information and general themes about your search engine. The public information is displayed in your custom search engine homepage. The tab has three main sections, Basic Information, Language settings, and Preferences.

Warning: If you want to keep the changes you make in the Basics tab, click Save Changes before you move on to the next tab; otherwise, you will lose all your modifications.

Basic information

The Basic information section lets you define the following fields:

  • Search engine name - Descriptive name that could give people ideas about the type of search engine you are building. Short and descriptive names work well. Do not use a name that would violate other people's trademark.

    The name appears on your custom search engine homepage that Google hosts and the search results page that Google serves.

  • Search engine description - Brief information about your custom search engine, such as what it searches and who might be interested in using it. Be succinct, and don't repeat information. For example, if your search engine name is "Badminton Search Engine", do not describe it as "search engine for badminton". Don't just jot down a description in a hurry, because users who are looking for a specific custom search engine might be frustrated if they encounter search engines that don't work as described or have descriptions that are too vague.

    The description appears on your custom search engine homepage and results page.

  • Search engine keywords - Optional. Keywords are a quick way of boosting certain webpages in your search results and getting more search results about the subject. You can add as many keywords as you want, as long as you don't exceed 100 characters. List words or phrases—which are a short series of words enclosed in quotation marks (for example, "mountain bike")—that describe the content of the webpages or the coverage of your search engine. While Custom Search boosts results that contain those keywords, it does not demote or filter out results that don't contain the keywords.

    When you are in the early stages of defining your search engine, you can skip this setting. Later, when you are fine-tuning results, you can define keywords. For more information, see Changing the Ranking of Your Search Results page.

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Language Settings

The Language Settings section lets you define the following fields:

  • Search engine language - The language of the interface of the search engine, such as the search box button. It also boosts results in that language, but it does not keep results in other languages from appearing in the results page. For example, if you selected Chinese as your search engine language, Chinese webpages will be given higher priority than English webpages in the search results.
  • Transliteration - Enable the transcription of words in Romanized or English alphabets into another writing system. The query is converted into the phonetic equivalent of the script that the user has selected. For example, if you enabled Arabic transliteration, your users can search for news by typing "akhbar" and Custom Search transcribes it to its phonetic equivalent in Arabic (أخبار).

    If you select more than one writing system, your users can select the right script from a drop-down list besides the search box.

  • Search engine encoding - The text format of the search results. This setting must match the encoding of your webpage. In the vast majority of cases, Unicode (UTF-8) is the best option. This setting matters only if you embed a search box in your webpage.

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The Preferences section lets you define the following fields:

  • How to search included sites - The breadth of the coverage of your search engine. You can restrict the search to sites (webpages or websites) that you select, or you can create a search engine that emphasizes certain sites. You list the specific websites and webpages in the Sites tab.
  • Enable promotions - You can set your search engine to display promotions within the results page. Users of your search engine will automatically see your promotions and do not need to take special action. To learn more, read the Promotions page.
  • Enable image search - Whether or not image search is enabled for your search engine. When you enable image search, your search engine will display image search results on a separate tab.

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The Sites tab lets you tell Google Custom Search which sites to search. A site can be an exact or complete URL for a single page (such as or a URL pattern (such as **). For more examples of URL patterns, see the Help Center topic on URL patterns.

To include sites in your search engine, click the Include sites link under the Included sites section; to exclude sites from your search engine, click the Exclude sites link under the Excluded sites section. Once you've added at least one site to include in or exclude from your search engine, a menu bar with Add Sites and Delete buttons appear right above your list of sites.

If you have a lot of sites to add, you can add them in bulk by clicking Add Sites, and then clicking the Include sites in bulk link at the top of the dialog box. To remove sites from Custom Search, simply select the check box next to the site and click Delete.

You can list up to 5,000 sites across all your custom search engines.

Including or Excluding Sites from Your Search Engine

When you add a site, a dialog box with the following fields appears:

  • URL - Enter the site that you want Custom Search to crawl. If you enter the URL of a specific page without the subdomain (the www in, Custom Search automatically searches all the subdomains of the site. If has the subdomains, www, store, and home, Custom Search searches for, , and So you do not need to add each subdomain.

    If you use a URL pattern with wild cards (*), you can skip the next field and just click Save Changes; the control panel automatically selects the correct What to include option for you.

  • What to include - determines how extensively you want Custom Search to search the site. For example, you can have Custom Search search just the site you defined in the URL text box, or you can have Custom Search also search other webpages linked from the site. It includes the following options:
    • Include all pages whose address contains this URL - Custom Search also searches subdirectories and subpages of the site you defined in the URL text box. For example, if you defined your site as, Custom Search automatically includes every URL that begins with You do not need to recursively add the URL for subdirectories and subpages.
    • Include just this specific page or URL pattern I have entered - Custom Search searches only the specific webpage or URL pattern you have defined. It is the most restrictive option, because it instructs Custom Search to follow your URL pattern exactly.

Viewing List of Sites

You can view twenty sites at a time. If you have a lot of sites, use the URL contains text box to view only URL patterns you want to see. When you are done searching for a specific site, you can click Clear to see all your sites again.

Tagging Sites with Labels

If you have created refinement labels in the Refinements tab, you can apply labels on sites by selecting their check boxes, then selecting the label from the Label actions drop-down list in the menu bar, which is above the list of sites.


Refinements are a way for you to categorize sites by topics. For example, if you have a bicycling search engine, you can have categories of, say, bike maintenance, bike reviews, bike stores, biking skills, and so on and so forth. You can create refinement labels that you associate with the sites you listed in the Sites tab. The refinement links appear at the top of your search results page, and users can click them to narrow down their searches. A search page can have as many as 16 refinement links.

To create a refinement label, click Add Refinement, and define the settings. To tag websites with labels, go to the Sites tab, select check boxes next to the sites, and select the label from the Label actions drop-down list. You can tag sites with more than one label.

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The Promotions tab lets you create promotions that appear at the top of the results page and define search terms for triggering the results. For example, if you want users who are searching for "cool stuff" to discover your latest widget, you can create a promotion result that would show a link to the webpage about the widget.

You can create a promotion by clicking Add and defining the queries that would trigger the promotion, as well as the content of the promotion. The content includes a title, description, image, and the URL of the webpage. The description and the image, which are optional, are not displayed automatically. You must change the setting to activate that feature.

To display the optional description and image in your promotion, do the following:

  1. Click the Promotion Design Settings button on the right.
  2. Select the checkboxes to allow the inclusion of a brief description and an image for each promotion.
  3. Click OK.

To create content for the description or add an image, do the following:

  1. Add or edit a promotion.
  2. Fill out a description and add a link to an image. These additional fields are optional and do not need to be filled out.

To delete promotions, select the checkboxes next to the promotions you want to remove, and click Delete.

To change the appearance—such as the border, text, and background color—of all the promotion results, go the Look and Feel tab, which is described in detail in the Designing the Look and Feel with the Control Panel.

If you want to create a lot of promotions, create an XML file instead. To learn more about the XML format, see the Creating Promotions page. To upload the XML file you created, click Upload and select the file.

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You can expand your users' search queries by using synonyms, which are variants of a search term. For example, the search query,"food", could have the following alternatives: "meal", "chow", "cooking", and so on. If you create synonyms for "food" in your search engine, your users would not need to type multiple variants to find information they are seeking. The custom search engine automatically searches for all sites that are relevant to "food", "meal", "chow","cooking", and other related terms. For recommendations on the types of synonyms to create, see the Improving User Queries for More Relevant Results page.

The Synonyms tab let you create synonyms for specific search terms.

To create a synonym, click Add and define the search terms that would trigger the synonym expansion. To delete a synonym, select the checkboxes next to the synonyms you want to remove, and click Delete.

If you want to add a lot of synonyms, create an XML file instead, and use the Synonyms page to upload the file. To upload the XML file you created, click Upload and select the file.

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Autocompletion offers query options to your users as they enter their search queries on your search box. It is similar to the optional queries that you see on Google search. For example, if the user wants to search for "monkeys" and start typing the characters for the word, the Custom Search search box shows a drop-down list with possible query options. As the user types more characters, the list of possible query options changes to match the new set of characters. To see how this works, start typing a query on Google Search.

The Autocompletions section lets you enable the autocompletions feature, add custom entries, and remove entries from the standard query options.

The Custom Autocompletions section has the following tabs that let you customize your autocompletion terms.

  • Included Autocompletions - lets you add custom query options to the search box drop-down. These words are shown above the automatically generated autocompletions.
  • Excluded Autocompletions - lets you remove specific terms from automatically generated autocompletions. For example, if you do not want "bananas" to ever be offered as an optional query, you can exclude it.
  • Excluded Patterns - lets you exclude a collection of autocompletions with regular expression. For more information about regular expressions, see the glossary. Terms that match the regular expressions are excluded from the automatically generated optional queries.

On each tab the Add button is used to enter the term or regular expression, one entry per line. If you want to add a lot of autocompletions, create an XML file instead, click Upload and select the file.

For more information, see see the Improving User Queries for More Relevant Results and Designing the Look and Feel with the Control Panel pages.

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Look and feel

If you have your own website, you can change the design of your search box and customize the style of the search results page to match the look and feel of your website.

You can select one of the predefined themes that broadly matches the look and feel of your website. If the standard themes are not quite what you want, you can make further changes.

To keep the changes you made, click Save before you move on to the next tab; otherwise, you would lose all your modifications.

For more information, see the Designing the Look and Feel page.

Get Code

After you specify the look and feel for your search box and search results pages in the Look and feel tab, you can copy the generated code in the Get code tab and insert it in your webpages. Presto, you have an instant custom search engine.

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Make money

Make money with your custom search engine by connecting it to your Google AdSense account. When users click on an ad in your search results, you get a share of the ad revenue.

If you do not have an AdSense account but want one, simply click I am a new AdSense user and fill out the form. After your application is approved, you can see your AdSense ID. You can also create channels to track the monetization performance of your search engines. To learn more about channels, see the Help Center for AdSense.

Warning: If you already have an existing AdSense account, do not create a new one, even if you create multiple search engines. Google automatically associates your search engines with the same AdSense account. Creating another AdSense account might result in the termination of your AdSense account.

If you have an existing AdSense account, click I already have an AdSense account and fill out the form. All the search engines in your account will be associated with your AdSense account.


The Preferences section lets you define the following fields:

  • Advertising status - Whether Custom Search should show ads on results pages. You have to show ads, unless you are creating the search engine on behalf of an organization recognized as exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code or a charitable organization as defined under country-specific regulations or requirements if outside of the U.S. Define your AdSense settings in the Make Money tab to get a share of ad revenues that are generated from your search engine.

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When you've outgrown the control panel and want to start tinkering with the advanced features, you should consider using the Custom Search context and annotations files. The context file is in XML format, while the annotations file can be in OPML, TSV, or Custom Search XML format. Don't be intimidated if none of these terms sound familiar to you; the rest of the developer guide discusses them and shows you what you can do with the advanced tools.

Admin accounts

Adding an administrative account will allow collaborators to add sites, refinements, promotions, and more. For more information, see Admin Accounts page.

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When you tweak your search engine, you can test the changes in the Preview tab.


The Statistics tab displays the same dashboard that you can access from the My search engine page. It shows the number of queries processed by your search engine. If enough users are using the same search terms, you will be able to see the most popular queries for your search engine. You can use this data to fine-tune your search engine.

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