Get the Most From Your Website Search Tool
Have you ever sifted through a website trying to find the information you need, only to be road blocked by poor on-site search results?
I have. Did I give up and go to another site? Yup, and I bet you did too.
With comprehensive search engines like Google the norm it is no surprise that your website’s users expect the same level of quality from your on-site search. This includes the ability to do things like auto-correct spelling mistakes, respond to single word and long string searches and provide results that include EVERYTHING. Not just webpages, not just pdf titles, but every word on every document. Because that’s what they're used to.
And because that’s what they're used to, they're going to leave a site that makes it harder for them to find what they’re looking for. Which means that you’ll lose site users because they are frustrated, not because your site doesn’t have what they want.
Not sure if your site provides the best search experience possible? Give it a try. Can you find a particular pdf? Does the most relevant information appear first? Not really? Then let's get started!
Figure out what you need.
What does your on-site search need to do?
- auto correct text, or simply return results for the terms as entered
- return only the specific word or phase, or include results that contain them
- rank search results based on the weights you determine (i.e are documents more important that web page results), recency or relevancy
- support multiple filters to make searching easier (i.e return only documents, or return results of pages/documents created after January 1, 2015)
- index documents
- index text on documents, or draw only from its metadata
Find a solution that matches your needs.
Not surprisingly, Google has an on-site search tool. This paid tool – available via yearly subscription – provides the power of Google on your site.
For websites like the Town of Okotoks, where providing multiple quick and easy paths to information is a must, Google search adds another avenue for users. The Google search tool can be branded to match your website, so it blends with site design and offers both the quick search box, placed on the homepage, in addition to a /search page.
Keeping the search results confined to current information is as easy as deleting or archiving old pages on your site so that they are not indexed (something that you want to do for the normal search indexers anyway).
Need more power?
If you are housing a library of documents, like the italaw website does, you may want to consider a solution that specialises in indexing documents and offers advanced search filtering (or faceting).
An open-source, subscription-based tool, Apache Solr, along with its operating mate Acquia search, is really, really good at faceted searches – which is what you likely will want for content rich sites. A faceted search uses filters that are based on your content’s meta data (which can include author, type, and any tags assigned to the content) that help users quickly find the information that they want.
The italaw website, which features a massive library of legal documents, provides a great demonstration of how Apache Solr allows users to find information in a variety of ways, including the conventional search box, in addition to the “search by” browsing filters.
Round up the costs.
When evaluating a solution, be sure to include:
- costs associated with integrating it into your website
- ongoing subscriptions or other fees
- maintenance needs like updates
- internal or external resources needed to add and update information
Still not sure what search tool is right for your website?
If you have an enterprise level website that needs to improve on-site search, get in touch with us. We can help pair you with a search tool that’s right for your website’s platform and content – ensuring that your on-site search works for your website, and not against it.