Google Site Search: A Brief Overview of the Discontinued Service

Google Site Search (GSS)

Google announced on February 21st, via email to all Site Search customers, that it will be phasing out its Google Site Search product. Whether you received this email or not, if you leverage Google Site Search on your website, you will need to prepare for the coming shutdown of the service.

Google Site Search is the search bar on your website that allows visitors to search directly for products, services or other content on your site.

This guide unravels the nuances of Google site search and unveils promising custom search options to embrace in its absence. Explore your options and discover the perfect fit for your search needs.

What Is Google Site Search?

Google Site Search (GSS), a paid service soon to be retired, empowered website owners to offer their visitors ad-free, targeted search experiences.

This technology, akin to Google’s own search engine, was utilised by over 500,000 websites, allowing them to curate tailored search results for their audience.

In-site search features, which can usually be integrated into Google Analytics for your convenience, provides you with a wealth of data to use in a number of ways. It’s also important for the user experience, as 59% of people frequently use the internal search function on a website.

Google Is Ending The Site Search Service

In a move that echoes recent product discontinuations, Google announced this past spring via email that Google Site Search, a service launched in 2008, will be discontinued in April 2017.

This news comes as a disappointment to many, as Google Site Search provided lightning-fast results, significantly enhancing website usability and user experience.

Current Google Site Search users will be transitioned to Google Custom Search upon depletion of their allotment.

What Is Google Custom Search?

Google Custom Search vs. Google Site Search: A Closer Look

While Google Custom Search and Google Site Search share some key features, they cater to different needs with distinct limitations and benefits.


  • Monetization: Both options allow integration with Google AdSense, enabling you to earn revenue from your site’s search results.
  • Support: Both offer access to Google’s extensive support forum, providing valuable resources and troubleshooting assistance.


Google Custom Search:

  • Free: This key benefit appeals to budget-conscious users.
  • Web-Searching Capabilities: Search beyond your own website, accessing a wider range of results.


  • No Image-Only Search: Filtering results by image is unavailable.
  • Unremovable Ads: Ad integration is mandatory, potentially impacting brand consistency and user experience.
  • No XML API Access: This restricts advanced customization and integrations.
  • Limited Personalization: You cannot remove Google branding or transfer account ownership, hindering personalization and control.
  • Restricted Sharing: Sharing query quotas with external collaborators is not possible.
  • Limited Support: Email support is absent, potentially impacting troubleshooting efficiency.
  • SEO Challenges: Embedded ads within search results may display competitors, impacting your SEO strategy.
  • Query Limit: Reaching the daily query limit can bring your search functionality to a halt, hindering user experience on high-traffic websites.

Google Site Search:

  • Enhanced Customization: Offers deeper control over branding, results ranking, and user experience.
  • Image-Only Search: Enables filtering results specifically for images.
  • No Ads: Provides a cleaner, more brand-consistent search experience.
  • Advanced Integrations: Supports XML API access for extensive customization and integrations with third-party platforms.
  • Greater Ownership: Allows removing Google branding and transferring account ownership, enhancing brand control and flexibility.
  • Flexible Sharing: Enables sharing query quotas with external partners, facilitating collaboration.
  • Comprehensive Support: Offers dedicated email support for efficient troubleshooting and assistance.
  • SEO-Friendly: Provides a clean search experience without competitor ads, potentially benefiting SEO efforts.
  • No Query Limit: Ensures uninterrupted search functionality regardless of website traffic volume.

Choosing the Right Option:

The best choice depends on your specific needs and priorities. For budget-conscious users seeking basic search functionality, Google Custom Search remains a viable option. However, for those desiring greater control, customization, and a cleaner user experience, Google Site Search offers significant advantages, despite its paid subscription model.

How is Google Custom Search Engine Different?

Google Custom Search Engine is free, but its limitations can hinder your digital marketing efforts.

Google Custom Search Engine throws a wrench in the works by letting ads sneak onto your website’s search results, and you’re stuck with them. This means curious visitors searching for products or services could get lured away, without ever reaching your checkout or contact page.

Worse yet, your competitors might be the ones serving those ads through AdWords. Imagine people regularly searching your website for “xyz widgets,” only to be bombarded with ads for your competitor’s widgets. That’s a lot of potential traffic slipping through your fingers.

Imagine someone walking into your store, browsing your products, and then leaving without buying anything. That’s essentially what happens when competitors steal your website traffic at the crucial decision-making stage.

All your marketing efforts, from brand awareness to lead generation, lead up to this point. If someone is actively looking for your products or services, they’re highly likely to convert.

CSE isn’t perfect for SMBs. While it’s free for up to 100 searches daily, limited support and ads make it a less than ideal solution for small businesses seeking a reliable search experience.

For everyone except non-profits, who get a free pass with proof of their 501(c)(3) status, the ads stay.

Though Google Site Search Faded away hasn’t been a major news story, it’s still crucial for SMBs to act. If you want to avoid ads on your site, replacing Google Site Search will require some effort and investment. But by recognizing the power of search features, you can transform this into a chance to supercharge your website’s lead generation potential.

Alternatives To Google Custom Search

In simpler terms, you have three main options for alternative search services: cloud-based, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and server-side solutions. Though their inner workings might be technical, understanding their value is a breeze.

Embracing the Cloud:

  • Google Cloud Search: Bundled with G Suite’s Business and Enterprise plans, this solution excels at internal search, crawling through Gmail, Calendar, and Docs.
  • Amazon CloudSearch: Offering location-based results, 34 supported languages, highlighting, and autocomplete, CloudSearch is a robust Google site search alternative.
  • Microsoft Azure Search: This solution provides features like spell check and advanced usability, making it a viable option for Microsoft-centric users.

Harnessing Your Server:

  • Server-side solutions: Leveraging your own server, these options offer more control and flexibility.
  • SearchWP (WordPress Plugin): Incredibly simple to implement, SearchWP is ideal for both beginners and SEO professionals.

Choosing the Right Path:

  • Cloud-based: Ideal for large corporations or websites requiring the most advanced search features.
  • Server-side: A good temporary fix or a cost-effective solution for smaller websites.

The Bottom Line:

  • Complex needs: Cloud-based solutions offer the most robust search capabilities.
  • Moderate needs: Alternatives like server-side solutions or plugins provide a balance of features and affordability.
  • Small or new websites: Server-side solutions offer a budget-friendly option while your website grows.

Final Thoughts 

With Google Site Search ending soon and few affordable substitutes on the horizon, SMBs need to act fast to find an alternative. In-site search features offer valuable data for optimizing your website, a benefit SMBs will lose by sticking with Google CSE.

Christopher Smith
Author: Christopher Smith

SEO and linkbuilding expert. More than 7 years of work in the field of website search engine optimization, specialist in backlink promotion. Head of linkbuilding products at GREAT Guest Posts, a global linkbuilding platform. He regularly participates in SEO conferences and also hosts webinars dedicated to website optimization, working with various marketing tools, strategies and trends of backlink promotion.

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