Daniel Burstein

Site Search Solutions: 3 methods for implementing search on your site

In looking to improve the site search on MarketingSherpa (the site is 13 years old, and we have 2,991 case studies and articles, so an effective site search is crucial to helping you find marketing industry information to help you do your job better), the tech team here at MECLABS has explored different site search tools.

The team identified three predominant site search methods:

 

Method #1: Install a search engine on your own server                

In our case, we were specifically looking at PHP scripts, since we use that on MarketingSherpa.

In general, there are two types of PHP or Perl search engine scripts. One will search your entire website for the relevant article each time your visitor invokes the search engine. The other creates an index of your site, and only searches the index when the visitor uses the engine.

The former is easier to configure and use for the newcomer, but it quickly becomes sluggish when your website grows big. The latter is more efficient, but often requires you to remember to re-index your site each time you change your pages.

Advantages:

  • Customizable page results
  • No third-party advertisements
  • Re-index as needed
  • Re-indexing your site does not increase your bandwidth utilization, unless the script accesses your site via HTTP

Disadvantages:

  • Need PHP support on Web server
  • Will need to be able to edit PHP to configure your site search tool

Some PHP Search Engine scripts:

 

Method #2: Use a free or commercial third-party hosted search engine service               

These services index your site for you, and provide you with the HTML code to plug into your webpages. You get a working search engine for your site with few installation woes.

Advantages:

  • No need to run PHP scripts on your Web server
  • Don’t have to know how to configure PHP scripts
  • Apart from configuring things like the frequency you want your site indexed and the appearance of your results page (through a convenient Web interface), all you usually need with such services is to plug the supplied HTML code into your pages

Disadvantages:

  • Often include banner advertising or links back to the third-party company’s site (some have a paid option that is free of ads)
  • The URL displayed in the location box of your visitors’ browsers will not be your site’s URL, but the search engine’s. However, this can easily be circumvented by putting the results in an invisible (or visible) frame on your site
  • Although most services allow you to customize your search results page, many do not provide the facility to completely control the output the way you might want to in order to fit your site décor
  • Some search engine hosting services impose a limit on the frequency you are allowed to re-index your site
  • Re-indexing your site typically requires the search engine to spider your site, thus adding to your website’s bandwidth usage

Some third-party hosted search engine services:

 

Method #3: Use the major search engines                         

You can use the major search engines, like Google, as your site’s search engine.

Advantages:

  • Free

Disadvantages (all the same as third-party hosted search engines mentioned above, plus …):

  • You have basically no control over the frequency that the major search engines index your site. This means the search engines results will frequently be inaccurate. And, if you add new pages to your site often, your site search engine will not be able to locate them
  • The results page has the search engine’s advertisements and formatting. You have even less control over the output than when using the third-party search engine remotely hosted services mentioned above

Some major search engines:

 

Related Resources:

SearchTools.com

MECLABS Open Source Site Search Tools Listing (plus Google)

On-site Search: How to help your customers find what they want (to buy)

Email Marketing: Triggered content for on-site searchers

Optimize your Site for Mobile Search: 5 Strategies

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