[feat-text]Google has recently announced that its Google Site Search is on its way out. As of this past April 1, the search engine discontinued sales and new renewals of the service and, come April 1, 2018, it’ll be completely shut down. [/feat-text]
This news has come with mixed reviews, to say the least.
If people are on your site and use the search feature, clearly they’re interested in what you’re selling (or pitching), so you want to cater to their needs. If your search function is weak, those users may leave your site.
That’s where Google Site Search came into play. Site Search was easy to implement and provided Google-level search capabilities within your website. Website owners knew what they were committing to, and users were familiar with the interface.
Now what? Here are a few alternatives worth considering.
Google Custom Search
Are you dead-set on sticking with Google? Then you do have some options, although they may not be perfect for your specific needs. With Google Custom Search, your customers can search from a group of websites that you pre-determine, or search the entire web, at no cost to you.
That free price tag does come with some stipulations, however. For one, ads are required (unless you’re a nonprofit or a school). But you can connect your AdSense account and make money from these ads.
Also, the Google branding is required. Next, there’s a monthly search query limit. If you run a high-traffic website, it’s possible that your Google Custom Search will stop working due to reaching its limit.
After our own analysis and comparison of Custom Search and Site Search, we’ve determined that Custom Search is great for small blogs and maybe local businesses. But if you’re scaling on a large level, or plan on advertising at the state, country, or global level, then Custom Search won’t fit your needs.
It’s time to look at third-party options.
Your third-party Google Site Search alternatives
While your first instinct might be to stick with Google, that’s not your only choice. Solutions such as AddSearch, Algolia, Cludo, and Swiftype are worth looking into as well. Let’s break them down:
AddSearch offers easy installation and mobile support. It also offers search statistics and results control, allowing you to choose and prioritize which results are most important to your users.
Algolia has itself some impressive clients, including Medium, Product Hunt, and Birchbox. It can integrate into almost any website to offer seamless search. It also has some neat features including keystroke forgiveness, find-as-you-type live search, and geolocation options, increasing the chances of your users finding exactly what they need.
As you can tell by the screenshot above, Cludo – another third-party solution – is already trying to win over Google Site Search customers. In fact, the folks at Cludo have made it clear that they’ll make the migration absolutely painless for Google Site Search customers.
“All you have to do is to copy and paste a few scripts and your fully functional search will be up and running,” Cludo recently stated on their blog.
Cludo includes analytic reports so you know what your users are searching for and how they’re searching. The reports include information such as most used keywords, trending search results, and “no results.” The latter (no results) lets you know what type of content you might want to consider including in the future.
And finally, there’s Swiftype (which is also clearly catering to Google Site Search users at the moment). CBS, AOL, and AT&T all rely on Swiftype for their site search needs.
Swiftype is all about customization. They allow you to make your search platform look like your own, and they use advanced search algorithm tools such as bigram matching (dealing with terms like highheels vs high heels) and stemming (removing suffixes from words so that the search root words match each other) to really improve the results experience.
Your users can refine their search on your site based on date, price, location, author, and more. There’s also an option to search by “Last Updated,” meaning your users can always tap into the most up-to-date results.
What’s the best way to move on from Google Site Search?
To be honest, even our online marketing experts are surprised to see Google Site Search shutting down. But if the above examples are any indication, there are plenty of viable options for you to choose from. It’s just a matter of picking the right solution for you.
If you’re committed to Google for the long-term, then Google Custom Search is a free option, but it does not offer the customization that you likely want or need. If more control is what you’re after, then consider one of the premium third-party options we’ve outlined above.