Have you ever wanted to create a custom Google search engine that searches only specific websites? You can easily do this with Google’s Custom Search Engine tool. You can bookmark your search engine and even share it with other people.

This trick works similarly to Google’s site: operator, but you won’t have to type the operator every time you search. It’s particularly useful if you want to search a large number of sites at once.

Creating a Custom Search Engine

To get started, head over to the Google Custom Search Engine page and click the Create a custom search engine button. You’ll need a Google account for this – the search engine will be saved with your Google account.

Enter a name and description for your search engine – these can be anything you like.

The Sites to search field is the one that really matters. Here, you’ll specify a list of the websites you want to search. For example, if you wanted to search both howtogeek.com and microsoft.com, you’d enter:



The * character is the wildcard, which can match anything, so the /* characters tell your search engine to search everything on both of these websites.

There are more advanced things you can do with this box – we’ll get back to that in a bit.

After clicking Next, you can specify a style for your search results and test the search engine you created.

Once you’re happy with your search engine, click the Next button at the bottom of the page and you’ll end up at a page that gives you an embed code for your search engine.

You’re probably not a web developer, so you’ll want to ignore this page. Click the Google Custom Search logo at the top of the page instead.

To get to your search engine’s page, click its name in the list of search engines you’ve created.

You can bookmark this page for easy access your search engine. You can also share your search engine with anyone by sending them the full URL that appears in your address bar.

URL Tricks

You don’t have to specify an entire website while creating your custom search engine.

For example, the custom search engine above searches all areas of microsoft.com. If we do an example search, we might see that there’s useful information coming from windows.microsoft.com and support.microsoft.com, but the results from answers.microsoft.com (Microsoft’s support forum) are not very helpful.

To exclude answers.microsoft.com and include the other subdomains, we could use the following URL list while creating a search engine:


Note that there’s no way to exclude a specific subdomain – we can only include the ones we want to search. This list will search only the two subdomains on microsoft.com.

There are several other types of URLs you can define in this list:

  • Single Page: You can define only one specific page by entering its URL, such as example.com/page.html. This will include only a single web page in the search engine.
  • Part of a Website: You can use the * character in other ways. For example, the URL support.microsoft.com/kb/* will search only Microsoft Knowledge Base articles. Using the URL example.com/*word* will search all pages on example.com that have word in their URLs.

You can continue fine-tuning the search engine until you’re happy with the results by clicking the back to step 1 link, modifying the URLs, and then performing another test search.

Once you’re done, you can even add your custom search engine to your browser’s search bar.

Profile Photo for Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times and Reader's Digest, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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