Google Site Search allows Google to create a search engine for your website that allows users to search within your site. Users can also search on Google using site colon search. So what’s the difference between these two? Jesse Laffen explains in this week’s Ask An SEO Expert why these two methods are different and the type of results each will return.
So this question: “What is the difference between a site colon search on Google and a Google site search on my website? For example, searching ’webinar’ at site:www.domain.com on Google versus searching ‘webinar’ on the Site Search within my website, which is powered by Google.”
That’s a real interesting question. Google does offer a product that’s called Google Site Search. Basically, you can ask Google to come into your website and create a search engine for your website, so that when somebody lands there, there can just do a little search.
Just to be really clear, the difference in the question is when I go to Google and type in site:some website, and do a query after that, Google’s only going to return results from that website on Google’s actual page, versus going to this little search box up here that is powered by Google. You’ve downloaded the product and you’ve used it, and they’re still going to only return results from that website. The real difference here is that this is on a site that’s not Google, and this is something that you actually typed in to Google.com, or Google dot whatever.
So the really, really short answer is there’s only a little bit of a difference. Typically, Google has a way to index and rank things. They kind of stick with that.
Now there are some exceptions. The biggest one is the actual size of the index from your website. If this is my very, very simple, four-page website, here’s my home page and here’s the three pages that come off of it, it’s entirely possible that Google shows up and says, “Yes, I like that page right there. I also like this one, and I like this one, but this one down here that one wasn’t so relevant, so I’m not going to put it in my index.” When you use Google Site Search, you can actually specify an index of pages on your website that you want it to crawl. It has maybe a little bit of a different index to return results from on Google.com than it does
from your site search on your website.
The other really big difference is that a website owner can actually curate some of the results on their own website. For example, if I want to say, when somebody types in this very specific query or some sort of match to it, “Please rank this page on my site above that, and here’s a description for it, and here’s the URL that I want you to return.” Google’s product will actually take that and drop into the results in front of their organic or somewhat organic results that they would otherwise return.
One other thing to keep in mind is that on a Google site colon search, most likely on a site search that you’ve installed on your own website too, the algorithm that they use to return pages is a little bit different than the main algorithm that they use to return search results. Just because you go in and type site colon or you go to your site and you type a keyword phrase, that doesn’t always 100% guarantee that Google finds that page to be the most relevant in their normal search results too. Some things to consider are that they will rank pages higher, and probably both of these that are closer to the home page. They’ll also return pages higher in those
results that have shorter URLs that are easier to understand.
So there you go. It’s a world of similarity with just a few minor tweaks in difference between those two things.