BEWARE CUSTOM SEARCH USERS. I made the mistake of paying google so that I could avoid daily limits of 100 queries with my custom search engine. I had a free Custom Search Engine (CSE) with google, which means that results are limited to 100 queries per day, and that adds are displayed with the search results. I did not care about the ads at all because I am using thier CSE with a program, and grabbing only what I need from the results. However, my program is a datavis of over 1800 mammals, and the daily limit was killing me. I needed to grab 1800 images all in one go to just save the images in a database and have it done.

Google does NOT make this easy. Through my own stupidity or Google’s lack of clarity, the only option for getting rid of the 100 daily limit seemed to be by paying them for an annual amount of queries (e.g, $100.00 = 20 000 queries annually) and even though 20 000 queries was way more than I needed, I decided it would be worth it to save my time and I shelled out the cash.

But I was still hitting the 100 query limit. Why? I sent an email to Google asking about this (by the way, Google does not provide email support until AFTER you have made a purchase- if I had been able to inquire about my needs before doing this I could have saved myself a lot of time and money), and to their credit, they gave me an incredibly detailed response with a bunch of links to different APIs and references, explaining that I had basically purchased the wrong thing. The purchase of annual queries gives you something called a ‘Google Site Search License. (GSSL)’ The GSSL gives you an annual amount of queries, no ads on the results pages, and limits you to searching only certain sites, instead of the entire web. However, it is run off a completely different API. When google gives you the option to ‘switch’ or ‘convert’ to a google site search, their terminology is entirely misleading. You are not switching or converting at all, you are buying a completely new service from google. You have to completely recode the part of your program that deals with google’s earch API, because the CSE and GSS search APIs are different. This is no conversion, this is a separate entity TIED to the ID that your former GSE had.

  • Google Custom Search (CS) API:
  • Google Site Search (GSS) API: (Notice the URL? It is still referred to as a CUSTOM SEARCH. Both the URLs could be mistaken for the same thing, but they are both different. This had caused me some problems when I first started with my free search engine, because I kept using this API by mistake. My professor had told me that this was a ‘depreciated’ (old, defunct) CSE API and to use the ‘new’ one instead, and my code worked. Little did he and I know that this is not depreciated at all, but a separate (albeit similar) API reserved for paying customers only.

Even after making my ‘conversion’ to a GSS, my search engine (redListSearch) is placed under a misleading ‘Custom Search’ heading. It is not a custom search engine. It is a google site search engine. It uses a different API.

Misleading stuff from google.

The google help email informed me that:

Custom Search API license is query volume based, on monthly billing. Where as, GSS license is annual query volume license with no ads in search results…

So apparently there is Custom Search billing? Is there a CS license I can buy instead? This would have been exactly what I wanted. But I struggled, for weeks trying to find out how to pay to get more queries. I came across dozens of people, asking the same question on google help forums (since free GCS users are literally left in the dark by google help-wise… they don’t even list a support email publicly, you only get the address once you’ve paid them something). No one had the answer. Peope were willing to literally throw money at google and get per-query billing, but didn’t know how to do it. Talk about bad design! There was no easy PAY HERE TO ENABLE PER-QUERY BILLING button under the settings tab, there was only a run-around of links referring to links referring to links that talked ABOUT referring to billing that was mentioned somewhere in the google developers help section three years ago etc etc.

Searching now, I can still not for the life of me find a ‘per query’ billing option.