Google has announced the Custom Search Business Edition, an ad-free version of their Custom Search, which allows small to medium businesses to use the search engine to index and query their website or specific other websites. For a fee ($100 per year for 500 pages, and $500 for up to 50,000 pages) you can use Google's index and search, with your own branding, without the ads, and limited to your own domain.
This might fill the void left when the company stopped taking new subscriptions for their very similar Silver and Gold WebSearch and SiteSearch about two years ago, as evidenced by the fact that those customers have now been transferred to the new service. Google must have wanted to avoid having SiteSearch compete with the Google Appliance back then, but increased capabilities in those machines now leaves room for an entry-level hosted solution again.
Of course, several new features have been thrown in for good measure:
- search results are ad-free with a branded header and footer as before, but for those seeking more control over the presentation it's now possible to get them in XML
- "refinements" offer a poor-man's version of fashionable facetted browsing, managed manually
- basic statistics show a broad overview of queries
But there's still no guarantees as to what the update frequency will be, or even that all of your site will be indexed. In using Google's web index, the service lacks the ability to search an intranet, fileserver, or database. So it's not clear that it's a step up from other hosted search services -- other than that it has Google's name behind it.