Adding Search To Your Site

You may think your website is so simple and well organized that a search function is unnecessary. You would be wrong and that mistake would cost you money. Here’s why you need to add a search engine to your website…

Why Your Website Needs a Search Engine

It’s well known that people learn best in different ways; some learn by reading, others by discussing, and still others learn by doing. Likewise, people look for things on a website in different ways, and if you don’t provide the way that someone prefers, the visitor will go away, leaving you empty-handed.

Some prefer to browse a website using the standard navigation bars that appear across the top or left-hand column of a site. But many users want to zero in on the desired page with a keyword search. You need search in order to maximize visitor engagement and profits.
Adding Search to Your Site

If your site is powered by a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress, it probably has search built into it. Themes included with WordPress generally include such interfaces. If not, all you have to do is add a plugin or customize your theme to make the search engine accessible on all of your site’s pages.

If you have built your site from scratch, adding search to it is free and easy. There are three ways to add search:

  1. Install a search engine script on your website
  2. Use one of the major search engines directly
  3. Use a remote hosted search service

Scripts are relatively small programs written in a programming language such as PHP or Perl. Your Web hosting service must support the script language you choose. You don’t have to write the script; there are plenty of free search engine scripts out there, such as the Spider PHP Search Engine and TSEP (The Search Engine Project). Both are powered by PHP. Some Perl search engine scripts include Fluid Dynamics Search Engine and Perlfect Search.

Control, Availability and Customization

The key advantage of scripts is control. A script runs on your server, so its availability is not dependent on an Internet connection to a third party’s server and you can easily switch the script on or off. You determine how often the pages on your site are indexed (added to the search engine database), and you can customize the look and functionality of the scripts as much as your programming skills allow.

Hosted search engine services don’t require PHP or Perl support on your Web server and there’s nothing for you to configure or maintain. The hosted service indexes your site’s content and gives you a small bit of HTML code to insert in your Web pages or CSS stylesheets that displays the user interface to your site’s search engine. Hosted search engines may include capabilities that scripts do not, such as indexing the contents of PDF files or image-matching. Examples of hosted search engine services are FreeFind, SiteLevel Basic and JRank.

The downside of free hosted search engines includes advertising on your site’s search results; some hosted services offer subscriptions that eliminate ads. All remote services may be interrupted by Internet outages occasionally. Your site’s content will be re-indexed on someone else’s schedule, so new content won’t be searchable immediately. Remote indexing consumes bandwidth for which you pay.

Using a major search engine is an option. Google Custom Search puts Google’s familiar search capabilities (and ads) on your site. However, you’ll have even less control over the frequency of re-indexing than you have with most smaller hosted services. For content sites that use Adsense, this is a good option because you’ll get paid when people click the ads that are displayed along with the search results. On an ecommerce site, you might end up serving ads for your competition.

Whichever option you choose, adding search to your site is a good investment. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below…

More Posts about Webmaster:

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  • Google Webmaster Tools

  • Adding Search To Your Site

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