Google added Custom Search Business Edition to its services offerings on Tuesday. The new product, similar to the free advertising-supported version, provides ad-free search for a small annual fee.
Dave Girouard, Google Enterprise vice president and general manager, said in a statement that the company's hosted search services can reduce "cost, complexity, and time so that small businesses can help customers find what they need every step of the way."
$100 for 5,000 Pages
The Business Edition is powered by the Google infrastructure. To sign up, businesses step through an online wizard and add some code to their pages. This involves selecting the site or sites to be searched, customizing the search box, and excluding any site sections if desired.
Online reports can provide information about visitor behavior. E-mail and phone support is optionally available.
The rate is $100 annually for searching up to 5,000 pages, with a sliding scale that goes up to $500 annually for searching up to 50,000 pages. Higher volumes can be supported, although prices for the larger volumes were not announced.
The hosted services are a lower-end complement to Google's enterprise-targeted appliances. The Google Search Appliance and Google Mini are "integrated hardware and software products" designed to give enterprises secure searching of intranets, Web sites, and other content.
While the hosted services are free or low-cost, the Mini starts at $1,995 and the Search Appliance's prices begin at $30,000.
The 'Biggest Gotcha'
Matt Brown, an analyst with industry research firm Forrester, noted that one of the biggest challenges of any small business is looking bigger than it is. Ad-free search results can aid a small firm's image because ads can make a small business site look as if it's trying to squeeze out a few dollars.
Brown noted that Google's new service is targeted at the price-sensitive market that is not yet ready for the Google Mini because of budget or because of I.T. staffing constraints.
The "biggest gotcha" with the Business Edition or the free custom search version, he said, is that there is no control over when the search engine crawls and indexes a site, as there can be with the appliances. This means, he said, that if a company has a new press release going up as part of a coordinated campaign, there is no way to be sure that the free or low-cost Google search service will find it when the campaign begins.