Become a Power Searcher_ How to Use Chrome Custom Search Engines

First Published: February 15, 2017  | Last Updated:

The gist: Your Chrome address bar can search more than Google. Learn how to customize it to search whatever sites you want in this tutorial.

Become a Power Searcher_ How to Use Chrome Custom Search Engines

You’re clicking around more than you need to be to search online. WAY MORE.

It’s just a fact – sure it might only take a second at a time, but that happens a few dozens times a day, adding up to hours quicker than you realize.

For example, how often do you search websites other than Google?

Maybe it’s Twitter or LinkedIn. Maybe you’re hunting for the perfect reaction on GIPHY. Or maybe you need Amazon’s Prime shipping for something real quick.

I don’t know about you, but I do this dozens of times per day, and the time adds up fast.

But if you’re using Google Chrome (and I bet you are), it COULD take 5 seconds.

Why? Because the Google Chrome Omnibox is a magical thing.

In this post, I’m teaching you how to customize the Chrome Omnibox to create custom search engines for all your most used websites.

How It Works

Let’s say I’m bingewatching Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt…again. There’s a minor character that looks familiar, and I wanna find out where else I know them from.

In the time that it takes to type in IMDb, then search the actors name, then review results,

Or, a more business-minded example:

We all have our favorite industry resources.

For me, I work in content and inbound marketing, so I spend a lot of time doing research on HubSpot’s website: either one of their various blogs, or one of their hundred (maybe thousands?) of downloadable resources like ebooks and templates.

So if I wanted to do some research on, say, social media analytics, I might first head over to the marketing blog, and enter “social media analytics” into the search bar. If I didn’t find anything there, I might try their agency blog next. Then their ebook library.

Unless I was using the Omnibox.

The Omnibox makes it easy to hop straight from one search results page to another.

You know that you can perform Google searches by just typing your query into your Chrome browser’s address bar. No typing in Google(dot)com first.

But did you know you can customize it to search more than just Google?

Check it out:

Sure, you may only shave 5 seconds off any one search. But think about how often we search the web every day.

I’m sure my count is probably no less than 50. That adds up to about half an hour per week – that’s 26 hours each year. Small amounts of time add up – so save a second when you can.

About the Google Chrome Omnibox

The Google Chrome Omnibox is the bar at the top of your browser where you can type in website URLs and search terms. But most people don’t realize they can use it to search more than Google.

One of my favorite ways to customize Google Chrome by adding my most frequently visited websites as custom search engines to the Google Chrome Omnibox (the address bar you type URLs into).

That way, the box is searching the content of that website instead of Google. It’s the same thing as using the search function on the website itself, like a box in the sidebar.

In fact, the search result URL is the same – same destination, just a quicker route. 🙂

You can use it to search engines other than Google (AOL, Yahoo, etc. are actually already added there for you, but tbh who needs them?).

But even better, you can add forums, blogs, social networks, and websites. Any website, really.

And you can set a keyword shortcut so that it can only take 1 or 2 keystrokes to search anywhere. It’s completely awesome.

What you can use it for

Here are all the custom search engines I have set up on this Chrome profile (I have separate profiles for work, personal, blogging, etc., each with different settings):

chrome omnibox custom search engines

The custom search engines I use most personally are:

  • BrittanyBerger.com – searching my marketing blog for my own past content
  • Giphy – searching for the perfect reaction gif for any given moment
  • Goodreads – search Goodreads while working on my book blog
  • Google Drive – quickly find files and documents
  • Quora – if I have a question, someone else likely has too…and already found an answer
  • Twitter – for hot takes, current events, etc.

Here’s what you might want to set up as custom search engines:

For personal use:

  • Your own business website or blog
  • Your favorite social networks (as long as making them easier to access won’t be too distracting!).
  • Your favorite news sites (for me, that’s stuff like The Next Web, Mashable, and for the LOLs, BuzzFeed).
  • Question and answer websites like Quora.
  • IMDB, Wikipedia, song lyric sites, etc.
  • Google Drive, Dropbox, or wherever your cloud storage is located.
  • Any forums you spend time on (subreddits, Facebook groups, etc.).
  • Where you shop online.
  • Streaming sites like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
  • Your favorite resources for research (Google Scholar, data sources, niche sites).
  • The support sections / knowledge bases of your most frequently used tools.

For freelancers:

  • Client / partner websites.
  • Sites you use for finding new leads.

For marketers:

  • Growth Hackers, HubSpot, Moz, Marketing Land, etc.
  • Cloud storage folders for your most important campaign documents.

For writers:

  • The sites involved in producing a piece of content (stock photo site, font store, stuff like that).
  • Sources you frequently link to.
  • Grammar / editing resources like Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips

How to add your own custom search engines to Chrome Omnibox

1. Navigate to your Chrome settings by clicking the 3-bar icon in the top right corner, and select ‘Settings.’

2. Under the ‘Search’ section, click on the ‘Manage search engines…’ button (Alternate: click inside the Omnibox, then right-click and select ‘Edit search engines.’)

3. Add your first site to the ‘Other search engines’ area by clicking in the ‘Add a new search engine’ text field. In it, name the custom search engine.

4. In the ‘keyword’ section, enter the shortcut you’d like to use to tell Chrome “search this site for me.” It can just be one or two letters, but make sure you’ll remember them all – especially if you have more than one website starting with ‘g,’ for example. 🙂

5. In the URL section, enter the beginning part of the search result URLs, replacing the search term with “%s”. For a lot of sites, it’s just “/search?q=%s”. But not always. Here’s a list of URLs for popular sites. You can also find the URL by doing a search on the website itself, pasting in the results link, and replacing your query with “%s”.

Here’s how to quickly search for the perfect reaction gif by adding Giphy as a custom search engine:

chrome omnibox customer search engine setup

Now it takes less time for me to respond to your tweet with the perfect Will & Grace punchline:

chrome omnibox in action

(Sorry the tutorial gifs are so slow – my internet sucks. I actually had to go somewhere else to record this one since the page was taking like 20 seconds to load in my apartment. #TheStruggle)

Shave it off

When most people try to find areas to improve productivity, they only at the most time-consuming projects. While that’s great, we can only have a limited number of projects taking up a ton of our time.

In tracking my workdays with Toggl, I noticed that most weeks, 50% of my time was being spent on 2-3 projects – but the other 50% was spread out among 10 or more items!

If I only looked at saving time on the big hairy projects, I’d only be touching half my day.

The reason shaving a minute or two off of a small task works so well is because we have hundreds of them each week.

And we complete them almost automatically, without thinking about it. Not to mention that the task is already so small, shaving just a few seconds can reduce the total time by a large percentage.

Talk about low-hanging fruit, right? 🙂

Do you use custom search engines in your browser? How do you (or how could you) use them to save time?

If you liked this, you’ll love:

But before you go, pin this post:

How to Become a Power Searcher Using Chrome Custom Search Engines

(This post was originally published on my personal blog, BrittanyBerger.com, in 2015)

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