Add a Search Engine To My Site
My website has grown to the point where it's difficult for visitors to find things without a lot of clicking. I've seen sites that have their own search engine, but I'm not a programmer so I don't know how that works. How can I add site search capability to my website?
Adding Google Search To Your Site
If you have a Web site of any significant complexity, visitors expect to find a search box. Most visitors will be familiar and comfortable with Google Search, so that's what you should give them. Google makes it very easy (and free) to add Google Search to your site. You can even apply your website's look and feel to the search results page.
Start at the Google Custom Search Engine page. If you don't program in HTML, don't worry. Just click on "Create a Custom Search Engine" and Google will do the programming for you. Here is all you have to do:
Enter a name for your Custom Search Engine, i. e., "Search Bob's Site".
Add a description; typically, what the search engine will search, i. e., "Search Bob's article database and all files available for downloading"
Select the language of the site(s) that will be searched, i. e., English, Swahili…
Specify whether search should be restricted to only site(s) you specify next, or if search should include the entire Web with results from your specified site(s) shown first. If you want to maximize clicks on your site(s), or restrict visitors' attention to what you have to sell them, then you will want to restrict search results to your site(s) alone. If you want visitors to view your stuff first but still have the option to leave your site for others, then select the "entire Web" option.
Next, list specific location(s) on the Web that you want the Custom Search Engine to search. Locations can be very general, such as a complete domain (askbobrankin.com/); a specific directory (i. e., askbobrankin.com/pictures/); or even specific Web pages. Note that you always omit the protocol specification - http:// - and add a "/" to all locations except specific pages.
Ads or No Ads?
Select the "edition" of a Custom Search Engine that you want. If you want Google Search the free Standard Edition, you have to agree to the display of ads along with search results. Non-profits, universities, and government agencies can choose to disable the ads, but if you don't fall into one of those categories, it will cost at least $100 per year to display ad-free search results using the Business Edition option.
You can also sign up for Google AdSense, which puts paid Google ads on your search results and pays you commissions each time someone clicks on an ad. Most people don't make a lot of money from AdSense but every nickel helps.
Read the Terms of Service and check the box that indicates you agree to them. Click the "Next" button for a "preview" page where you can enter search term(s) and see if you specified all your locations correctly. If you get unexpected results, go back and tweak your location specifications. The most common error is forgetting to add the "/" at the end of a location name.
Click "Finish" when you are satisfied with your search engine's basic configuration. Next, you will see several options for fine-tuning your search engine's performance, look and feel, and indexing by Google.
Snippets of HTML code are available to paste onto your Web pages, to create a search box, or link to your search engine's home page.
Alternatives to Google Custom Search
There are a few potential downsides to the Custom Search Engine from Google. The first, which I mentioned above, is the presence of ads on the search results pages. That might not matter to you, but you do have the option of using the paid Business edition to eliminate the ads.
One other aspect of using Google search on your site is that new pages will not be immediately visible in the search results. When Google re-spiders your site and finds the new pages, they will show in the search results. Depending on your site, that could take minutes, hours or even days.
There are two other alternatives to Google search that you might want to consider. The first is using a hosted search solution such as Atomz or FreeFind. Both are similar to the Google solution, in that you only have to paste a snippet of HTML on your website. But since they're free, you'll have ads on your search result pages. Freefind does offer a paid version which eliminates the ads, and gives you priority indexing.
Another option is a free script that you can install on your web server. This does requires a certain level of geekiness, or a geeky friend to help you. Perlfect is one Perl-based script that I've used. If you're more familiar with the PHP programming language, or your web hosting requires it, check into Sphider. Some content management systems, such as Moveable Type and WordPress include a search feature that can be easily integrated into your pages. Script-based solutions allow for the most flexibility, and of course do not require any ads in your search results.
Do you have a comment or question about adding search to your site? Post your thoughts below…
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 24 Dec 2009
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Add a Search Engine To My Site (Posted: 24 Dec 2009)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved