Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

It is not necessarily simple to do this, but personal searches can be set up with Google's CSE (Custom Search Engine) function.

How can a search be done for one item on multiple sites of one's choice? Such as searching multiple movie sites of one's own selection for a particular movie to watch to find which ones offer it? Or searching multiple shopping sites of one's own selection for a single item to find out which stores and shopping sites offer that item? And perhaps to compare the prices? I searched this question and cannot find an exact answer, probably because the question itself is complicated.

I am primarily using IE 8 and Windows 7, but do use other primary browsers, and so do your subscribers who also would benefit from this question. Maybe it can't be done, but it's very time consuming and frustrating to search each site of your own preference for a particular book, movie, or TV show to watch.

I'm not trying to search multiple search engines at once, such as Dogpile, or to combine several search engines of my own choice. I hope this question is clear and complete enough for the examples given per your criteria regarding questions.

In this excerpt from Answercast #13, I look at how to use Google's Custom Search Engine function to search multiple sites at the same time.

Search multiple sites

Absolutely. And in fact, I have done this; I will tell you that it is not simple.

I have a solution in place for this that I use myself. It's exposed on Ask Leo!

If you do a search on Ask Leo! for a topic, and you don't like what you find in the search results, near the bottom of the search results you will find another box that says "Search Partners." That is a search box that uses a Google Custom Search Engine.

Google Custom Search Engine

What you're allowed to do with a Custom Search Engine is set up a search over a specific set of sites.

So, mine, for example, includes sites like Annoyances.org, AskBobRankin.com, AskDaveTaylor.com, Daves Computer Tips, DaniWeb, Fax Answers, GroovyPost... In other words, a bunch of websites that are related to my technical scope. These are sites that I have some level of trust in, that, if you're not going to find an answer on my site, maybe you'll find it on one of these.

Setting up custom search

The thing to do is to go to Google.com/cse (that's CSE for Custom Search Engine).

You can create a custom search engine of your own that you can use for exactly this kind of thing. The downside is that it's a little work to set it up.

It's not something that's easy to change. If you want one for movies and one for shopping, you could certainly set up more than one. But if say today, I want to search these three stores for shoes, and tomorrow, I want to search these five stores for shoes, you actually have to go in and change the custom search engine.

That's the only solution that I'm actually aware of. It's a robust solution; it's built off of Google and it works fairly well. That's the kind of thing I think it's going to take to solve the problem as you've laid it out.

Article C5274 - April 30, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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4 Comments
Kamil K
May 1, 2012 9:19 AM

Your Google CSE hyperlink has a period (.) before the www

Mark J
May 1, 2012 1:55 PM

@Kamil
Thanks for the heads up. It's fixed now.

J G
May 1, 2012 2:13 PM

Take a look at a site called Rollyo.com. The home page seems to be in limbo for the moment but other pages work so you can figure out how it works.
If I remember right there might even be a way to add your custom searches to the search bar in Firefox.

Michael Bell
October 17, 2012 1:11 PM

Actually, one can do a satisfactory job of this straight from the Google search form. Use site:. Then add in some sites like this -

site:refdesk.com | ipl.org | infotopia.info | usa.gov/Topics/ . Then space and add search terms & hit return:

site:refdesk.com | ipl.org | infotopia.info | usa.gov/Topics/ climate change .

This works great and you can add many sites.

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