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The Most Important Feature Missing In The Google Search API

Posted by on Thu, Oct 05, 2006

At my startup, HubSpot, we have been working with the Google Search API to implement some of the features we think would help our customers.

The Search API is reasonably robust in that it supports the various features of the Google search engine (finding related links, approximating the number of results, etc.)

But, there is one critical feature that the brainiacs at Google either forgot to include (which is bad) or intentionally left out (which is really bad).

Outside of normal “search” type stuff, I think one of the most common reasons people would use the API is to answer one simple question:

Most common question:  For a particular search phrase, where does my site rank on Google?

The reason this question is common should not be surprising (most webmasters, bloggers and SEO consultants care about this issue).  It’s also difficult to answer this question via the regular search engine (without manually entering the search term, and paging through the results looking for a “match”.  There are web utilities out there (that let you enter your API key and run a query), but they’re just doing a brute-force iteration over the result set too.

Here are some thoughts on the topic:
  1. As it stands, there is no way to answer the above simple question without making repeated calls to the Search API (basically retrieving a page at a time and checking the results until a match is found).

  1. This is even more annoying because Google only allows you to retrieve 10 result items at a time.  So, to figure out if you are in the top 100 hits for a search phrase, you have to hit Google 10 times.

  1. This is made yet more annoying because Google limits the number of calls you can make to their API to 1,000 (with no clear way of increasing this limit – even by paying money).

  1. It seems (at least from my perspective), extremely easy to implement this feature.  All they would have to do is include a separate method call that took a search query and a site name as parameters and returned the position of the first “match”.  This way, I could figure out that when searching for “software startups”, that this site ( is the #5 hit.

Given how smart the Google folks are and how common this particular need likely is, I have only two theories about why they left this feature out:
  1. Google intentionally left this feature out for some “strategic” reason.

  1. Google doesn’t realize how important this missing feature is.

For the Google API experts out there:  Am I missing something simple?  Is there a work-around to this, or have I stumbled into something that is already widely known and has already been discussed to death?  If you have insight, please leave a comment.  All help is appreciated.

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Launching A New Blog: Small Business Hub

Posted by admin_halligantravel admin_halligantravel on Wed, Aug 23, 2006

Today marks the launch of a new blog I’m kicking off called “Small Business Hub”.

The website is here:

The blog will be written for small business owners and managers with a focus on how they can use the right technology to survive and succeed.  I’m hoping to intersect my passion for technology with a fair amount of experience working with and within small businesses.  As is the case with any new site, it’s going to take some time to find the right rhythm and build a readership.  The good news is that I have a couple of colleagues that will be helping me write the content for Small Business 2.0.

In case you’re wondering why I felt the need to start a different site for this new blog instead of staying focused on, here are my reasons:

Reasons For Starting A Different Blog For Small Business Hub
  1. Different Audiences:  Though most startups are small businesses, not all small businesses are startups.  I think most of the readers of are interested in software startup topics.  The target for Small Business 2.0 is a bit broader focusing on many types of small businesses:  professional service firms (lawyers, consultants, design firms, etc.), technology companies (both hardware and software) and basically any non-retail small business (i.e. no shops, hair salons). 

  1. Staying Focused:  The reason for the success of is that I’ve remained true to the original goal of serving software startup entrepreneurs.  Over 90% of the content on the site is useful to that audience.  Rather than mess with the success I’ve already built (and irritate my current readership), I thought it would be better to start a different site to focus on the new audience.

  1. Leveraging Experience:  My current startup is working exclusively with small businesses.  I’m learning a lot through this process.  I’m hoping to leverage this experience and write on topics of interest to small businesses.  

  1. There’s A Need:  Though I’ve found lots of good blogs on the web focused on small businesses, I have not found any that really tackle it from the perspective that I’m interested in.  My area of passion is taking some of the newer technologies (and yes, some of them that are part of the whole “Web 2.0” thing) and figure out what is relevant for small businesses.  My hope is that my tech-geekiness combined with a somewhat pragmatic nature will create something of value for all the small businesses that are sitting on the sidelines and not really getting into the game.

So, if you’re a regular reader of OnStartups and know people that are involved in a small business, please spread the word.  Getting started is the hardest part and it’s been a while since I’ve had to deal with having only a handful of people read my articles.  I’m hoping that the same devotion and passion for a subject that attracted readers here will attract them to SmallBusinessHub as well.

Thanks, as always, for your support.

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