Posted March 18, 2008 10:59 pm by with 4 comments

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Sometimes the simplest solution is also the best solution. I was reading Marshall Kirkpatrick’s most recent blog post over at Read Write Web where he discusses turning useful lists into custom search engines. At first I thought it was a pretty cool idea and in fact I still do, but I also think it is a solution to a problem that didn’t exist in the first place.

Part of the value and effectiveness of a really good list is that a person unfamiliar with the contents of the list can quickly scan through the list and review the contents of the list in its entirety. Having that same list inside of a custom search engines, eliminates that value.

The second and possibly more immediate problem for an Internet marketer is that when data is in a custom search engines it is extremely difficult to judge the value of the data. How many sites are involved? Are they authority sites? Are they all topically relevant? Would you link back to a resource that you couldn’t accurately describe that value for yourself or your websites users? I know in most cases I would not.

Finally I believe searchers are more inclined to interact with a finite set of data like a list. I believe it is much harder to encourage someone to engage with a search box, especially if they have just used a search engine or other search resource to locate the custom search engine in the first place.

Personally it feels like making a custom search engine available to enhance the value of a list might be a better way to go. Conceptually I really like the idea that if a site had a really long or in depth list of resources and all of them appeared to have information a searcher might desire, then having a custom search engine feels like a real benefit.

Lastly I want to point out Marshall’s summation for the reasons he wrote his article, which I hole heartedly agree with.

“The point is that linkbait style lists are often not as useful as they might seem. Readers are growing increasingly cynical. They are much better served if you can put just a little extra time into offering them tangible value and demonstrating meaningful investment of energy on your part.”

So hopefully authors and Internet marketers will be sure to ask themselves, why are they creating their lists? A list that is really useful for a specific audience generally also becomes really good linkbait. A list created solely for the purpose of being linkbait often fails because it forgets about the quality of its audience.

  • To be useful as a custom search engine, it seems like the list would have to be quite long – long enough that scanning the list for your desired results wouldn’t be practical. I guess the CSE would be a good way to generate a little extra revenue, but as a user I would nearly always prefer the plain old list.

  • Short lists don’t make any great search area.

  • I think the answer is do both. Put your list up on Google docs so that people can download it and slice /dice it to their heart’s desire, and publish a custom search engine that lets them query around with it without jumping into a project.

  • it depends on a lot of factors, like quality of the list, the niche, your authority to even publish that list, etc.. i mean i wouldn’t link to the “Top 10 causes of heart attack” list from a heath and fitness blog written by a 15 year old.