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Picking a Replacement for Google Site Search (Now That It’s Gone)

Google recently discontinued Google Site Search and Google Search Appliance — two of the most popular options for internal search on your website.

They now offer a single free option, Google Custom Search, which can provide basic search on your site. But it will include advertisements in the search results (unless you’re a registered nonprofit organization or accredited educational institution).

You probably don’t want ads appearing in your search results — in part because your competitor’s paid ads might show up on your site.

We’ve been looking into other internal search options. But before you pick one of these options, you’ll want to ask yourself some questions about your organization.

QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE PICKING AN INTERNAL WEBSITE SEARCH ENGINE

1. Does your website’s search engine need to index the content of PDFs?

Every content management system we build here has robust options for searching your website’s content. But most CMS search tools won’t index the text contained in PDF (or other) files.

Note: There are a few exceptions to this restriction — including Apache Lucene (built into Kentico CMS) and Apache Solr (available as an add-on to many CMS platforms). But even these options come with restrictions — e.g., they can limit the size of PDF files that can be indexed.

2. How many pages do you need to index?

The size of your website will influence which search tool to adopt. Some options are better suited to small sites (under 1,000 pages), while others are more powerful (for large sites of 5,000+ pages).

3. How many internal website searches do you expect each month?

The more site searches you anticipate, the more powerful and configurable you’ll need your search tool to be. Check out your current Google Analytics: How many site searches are you receiving each month? A dozen or a few thousand? Somewhere in between?

Note: Often, a large number of internal website searches — especially as a percentage of overall website visits — is a sign that your website’s content architecture isn’t well-suited to your needs. I.e., if your users feel the need to use your site search often, it’s probably because they can’t find what they’re looking for quickly enough.

4. How much control do you need over how the search tool works?

Do you have specific ways you want search results to be displayed? Do you have a large site and want to control how the search tool ranks different sections of your site?

A simple test can help you answer this question: Simply see what results display when you search for the 3-5 most commonly searched terms on your site. Do the first- or second-place search results lead users where you want them to?

Search Tools We Like

AddSearch

  • One of the more inexpensive third-party search options
  • Scans the text of PDF files
  • Controls how different website sections are weighed
  • Starts at $29/month (+ another $29 for PDF indexing)

You can provide AddSearch a link to an RSS feed, then set it up to use that RSS feed to add new or updated webpages to the search index very quickly.

AddSearch doesn’t offer the same customization options as other options. For example, you can’t customize the order of results based on specific keywords. But it does offer a powerful search engine at a decent price.

Swiftype

  • Excellent customization options
  • Drag-and-drop search results based on specific keywords to control the order they display
  • Build “synonym sets” and weigh the importance of different website sections
  • Starts at $79/month (+ $199 for PDF indexing)

One downside to Swiftype: To take advantage of all of Swiftype’s full suite of features such as robust category filters, you’ll likely need help from a web developer.

Cludo

  • Easy for almost anyone to use
  • Includes category filtering and banners
  • Allows for weighing the importance of each webpage
  • Starts at $199/month or $399/month to index PDF files

Cludo offers some unique features, too — including “intelligent rankings,” allowing you to improve search results based on previous users’ interaction.

The cheapest version of Cludo doesn’t contain many features and still costs $199/month. For the full-feature version, including PDF indexing, you’ll spend $399 or more per month.

Good luck on your hunt!

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