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Using the Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) to Boost Your Adsense Earnings

You want to make money online and know about Google Adsense. So you start a website or blog, slap some ads and watch the money come in. Great, but are you maximizing your earnings from Google Adsense?

Google CSE

In this post I want to share another Google Adsense earning optimization tip in detail.

If you haven’t yet, you can read my detailed notes from my meeting with the Google Adsense staff here.

You can also read about another effective strategy I have been using the boost my Adsense CTR and overall earnings here.

The strategy I will share is one that I personally use on several websites, including this blog.

It is the use of the Google Custom Search Engine feature, also called the Google CSE.

This is what the Google CSE is and how it looks like:

Google Custom Search Engine CSE

Yes, it’s a search function similar to a static HTML one, or that which most WordPress themes have embedded in them. The difference is that this search function can be automatically synced with your Google Adsense account so that you can maximize your earnings.

If you were to use a standard search function like the one that comes with WordPress sites, your search results page will look like the following to your readers:

Search Results Using a Regular Search Bar

If you are using a Google CSE function, your page will look like the following:

Search Results Using the Google Custom Search Engine CSE

Notice how Google Adsense ads show up on this page?

Not only does the search results page display Google Adsense ads, but your users have a higher probability of clicking on these because they are searching for something specific. Because Google Adsense is a contextual ad program, it does its best to serve ads closely related to search queries.

Unfortunately I cannot share with you specific CTR and earnings numbers because of Google’s rules, but I can tell you that my CTR and earnings have significantly increased as a result of using the Google CSE feature. The CTR is significantly higher for my Adsense for Search Ads.

Google Adsense for Search

The Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) Customizable Menu

If you already have a Google account of any sort (Gmail, Youtube, Google +, etc), simply login to Google and go to the Google CSE page here.

Once there you can create your own search engine for any number of sites you own in a matter of minutes. This is how the Google CSE control panel looks like:

Google Custom Search CSE Control Panel

This tool is robust and very powerful, and although there are several options on the left hand navigation menu, the three most common ones I use are the ones in the box. But before going there, notice the middle section requires you to name your search engine, add some keywords and a description.

Once done, go to the look and feel option to the right. Work with the options to design a search results page that is consistent with the theme of your website. For example, use the search function of this blog and notice how I have customized the look and feel to match the overall theme of the site?

Once done, go to the “Get Code” option and simply copy and paste the code to your site. For example, this blog is designed using WordPress. The search engine code is simply embedded into a text widget. Basically, place the code wherever you’d like the Google CSE to appear.

Google CSE is very flexible. You can enable users to be served results from the world wide web or your own website’s content, or both. I choose to display results from only within my site.

In addition to customizing the look and feel of the search box as well as the results page so that it stays consistent with your website for a smooth user experience, you can also enhance ad targeting by refining the CSE attributes such as adding synonyms for more targeted search results. All these options can be found in the control panel as seen in the image above.

This entire process takes less than half hour at best even for a non coder like myself. The results however are long lasting.

Google Adsense Is Not The Only Reason You Should Use Google CSE

Here is a sad truth. Many websites built on the WordPress platform are inherently flawed from a search standpoint because the built in search engine in WordPress prioritizes based on most recent material and not necessarily most relevant material. This is very important and a cause of frustration for many including myself when searching on other blogs and websites.

As if that’s not bad enough, WordPress search results mostly display full posts instead of just the Title and description, so you have to scroll through a mammoth page if you were a user. What a terrible experience!

There are two ways to fix this. You can download plugins like Relevanssi to improve search results, or use the Google CSE feature and make money in the process. I like the later option better (most of my niche sites have the Google CSE implemented while this blog right now has the default WordPress feature).

To Host on Google’s Servers or On Your Own Host?

While in the Look and Feel section of the Google CSE control panel, you will have the option of displaying search results on your server or on Google’s. The default option is to leave the results on Google’s servers.

While this is the easiest option, one can argue it is not the best because your readers will leave your site after conducting the search – although my argument is that if they find the most relevant result to be an article on your site then they will land right back onto it. But this is besides the point.

Honestly speaking, many don’t even know that they are leaving your site, especially if you do a good job making the search results page consistent with your site’s look and feel in terms of color theme, link colors, etc. You can do all of this in the Google CSE control panel. However, keeping them “on your site” does increase the time spent on your site attribute.

The problem is that Google hasn’t really designed the whole keep the search results on your site process easy enough to quickly set up search results on your own server. It’s not a difficult process, but does involve some steps and messing around in your site’s code.

If you are interested in learning this process please let me know in the comments below. It’s nothing that can’t be done. I don’t code and was able to figure it out. I can walk you through it.

Hope you found this post useful. You can take action now and get this done in less than half hour. When you’re done, you can check out another specific strategy to boost your Google Adsense CTR and earnings here.

Are you using the Google CSE or are you using the default HTML search bar that came with your website theme? Why? What do you think about using the Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) to boost your Adsense earnings? What questions or concerns do you have regarding this topic?

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29 Responses to “Using the Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) to Boost Your Adsense Earnings”

  1. Thanks for the tip. I’m going to install a CSE on my site too.

  2. I use the free Search Meter plugin to measure my on-site searches and find that even on my higher traffic sites I don’t get too many searches – I think most of my visitors click on the contextual links within my posts rather than using the search box. As a result I’m not sure this would have much of an effect on my Adsense – but having said that if I haven’t tested it I just won’t know, will I?

    Question for you Sunil – are you aware of any plugins for adding this to WordPress?

    • Sunil says:

      I am not, but you can create a page within WP and simply not link to it from within the site. you can link to it from your newsletter. I’d like to know how this works for you relative to contextual clicks. how is your current CTR for your in-context links?

  3. marcus says:

    Very cool tool, I will be implementing it on my sites asap. Thanks mark

  4. Now that you’ve pointed it out, I’m back to using my CSE for If You Can Read, You Can Cook and wound up using a different page template for the search page so that the sidebar wouldn’t be in the way. However, at the end of the day, less than .1% of my total traffic ever performs a search on my site. So a CTR of 100% is still only going to provide only pennies per month.

  5. Awesome – I have a site in the fitness niche that does very well with adsense, so I am going to add this immediately.


  6. Sigal says:

    Would you remove the original search box in the WordPress theme, before you implement CSE? If yes, how?

    • Sunil says:

      you can have both but they serve the same function. I’d personally remove the default and add the CSE instead. the default should be a widget you can simply drag out from the widget back end in wordpress. the CSE is just a snippet of code you place where you want it to appear

  7. Terence says:

    Very interesting and useful information.

  8. Jessica says:

    It was really helpful that you are sharing this details to your readers, I do personally having a worth while in the article. Thanks for sharing such good release.

  9. David says:


    Great post. We implemented this on our site and have some interesting preliminary results.

    First of all, the sample size is very small right now so we can’t draw too many conclusions just yet.

    Our CTR is significantly higher. Way higher. But small sample size. I expect this to “normalize”.

    What I don’t understand is why the CPC is significantly LOWER for the CSE ads. Again, like 1/10 of the CPC for the rest of the site.

    Any insights on this?



    • Sunil says:

      very interesting David. in most of my sites, the CPC is also lower. the last I attempted to decipher this the best reason I came up with is that searches are rather targeted (more narrow) and maybe advertisers don’t target place ads on search pages vs context heavy pages. this is at best a guess, but I can confirm consistent experience with yours. if you don’t mind disclosing, how much is your site generating with Adsense? do you have other ventures as well? hope all is well in big D

  10. David says:

    Hey Sunil,

    I don’t want to get too specific. But we are in the hundreds of dollars per month range.

    We waited to start generating some traffic before placing adsense on the site. Then, last fall, we put adsense on there. Initially, just “turned it on” and waited to see what happens. And hardly anything happened.

    Then I came across your post after you met with the Googe folks. That redirected our attention to Adsense and we tried to optimize the ad placements for our site. That simple little change caused our adsense revenue to increase about 10-fold.

    So thanks for that too.

    Now we implemented the CSE and are curious to see how it affects our adsense revenue.

    No other sites right now. This was our first. We are still very green with all this. But we do have a few more sites planned and will hopefully get them launched soon.

    Take care,


    • Sunil says:

      excellent news David. glad the notes from the Adsense meeting were of use. curious though how the results fluctuate over time months from now.

  11. Osho Garg says:

    I already added Google Custom Search in my site. But the shocking news is that I saw visitors search very little in Search Box. So I don’t earn enough from the custom Search. I’ll try your tips

  12. James says:

    Very interesting and useful information.Thank you so much!

  13. It sounds interesting. I am going to install the Google Custome search into my blog.
    Thank you for this precious posting.

  14. Andrew says:

    Thank you very much for this post bro!

  15. Good to know. I have always stayed away from adsense. I will have to reconsider.

  16. T. Borden says:

    I am interested in keeping the search results on my site process. Please walk me through it. Thanks.

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