DIY Search Engines as Instructional Aids

In every webinar that I host about teaching search strategies I always include a brief demonstration of how to create your own search engine. That’s because whether you teach elementary school, middle school, high school, or college students there are good uses for making your own search engine for students to use.

How to Create Your Own Search Engine

It might sound complicated, but it’s not. In fact, it’s no more difficult than completing a Google Form.

To create your own search engine head to There you’ll select “add new search engine” and on the next screen all you have to do is enter a list of websites that you want your search engine to index. When your list is complete you’ll be given a URL for sharing your unique search engine. A demonstration of the whole, five minute process can be watched here.

Uses for Custom Search Engines

At the elementary school and middle school level, creating and using a custom search engine is a good way to limit the scope of students’ searches so that they don’t end up viewing things that are distracting despite being otherwise innocuous (hopefully, your school’s web filter takes care of the truly inappropriate sites).

In addition to limiting distractions, having elementary and middle school students use a custom search engine that only indexes a handful of websites is also a good way to direct students through a path to an endpoint in a search strategies lesson. If you’ve limited the scope of the search engine, you can better anticipate where students will end up on each step of your lesson.

At the high school and college level, creating a custom search engine for students to use can be a good way to direct them to utilize a set of helpful websites that you’ve bookmarked. For example, years ago I created a search engine for my U.S. History students to use. That search engine indexed a list of state and local historical society websites that housed interesting digital archives.

Finally, it’s important to note that Google will let you create as many custom search engines as you like. One of my Google accounts currently has more than two dozen custom search engines in it. So go ahead and try your hand at making your own search engine this week.

If you’re interested in learning more about search, take a look at my on-demand course about search strategies or read Dan Russell’s The Joy of Search.