I have written before about how providing visitors with the option of using your internal site search can increase your visitor site conversion rates. Well, if you still need some convincing, Google has recently released some cool improvements to its own Google Site Search product that should finally tempt those still dawdling to put it to the top of their list of website changes.
But first some background details on what Google offers here. The Google Site Search product is a nifty search tool that allows you to own and customise your own version of the Google search engine. You can tell the tool to index only the pages on your domain or those domains you want results to be pulled from and, in a flash, it returns results displayed in the standard Google format. Plus, if you purchase the business edition (starting price USD 100 per annum for up to a 5000 page index) these results can be placed within their own customised page containing your branding and without any Google advertising.
Google Site Search is relatively easy to ‘plug in’ to your web pages. The top right-hand corner of the page seems to be the Internet standard for search box placement for most websites. Others with a mass of content that they want search to tame, for example Amazon, Barns and Noble, and TradeMe, tend to make the search box more obvious, usually by placing it top and centre.
So, once you have decided where the search box needs to go you can decide why you should pay Google for the privilege of using their Site Search tool as opposed to asking your website developers to build you one of your own.
Here are my top six reasons to pick Google Site Search.
It comes with a quick implementation time. Google takes care of the hard part of creating the index and displaying the results, leaving you with the easy work of altering the design of your site to accommodate the new search box and branding the search results page. It should only take your developer a few hours at most for these design changes. Compare this with the task of building a search engine that has the speed and accuracy of Google. Even with our rather weak dollar, I think this would be above USD 100.
You are able to bias the search index. Google Site Search allows you to bias the results returned. For instance, you can tell the search engine to take the age of the documents into account when presenting them in the results – say, with the most recent first. Plus you can ‘manipulate’ the top results to show, perhaps, your most popular product items from certain search terms.
You can cater for synonyms. Google allows you to upload a custom dictionary of synonym terms to help your searchers use their own unique terms when searching. For instance, they may search for ’aerobics’ while you call the product ‘group fitness’, or ‘FD’ for ‘fixed deposits’.
You can customise the navigation shown on the search results page. Refinements can be added to your results page to help users find what they want. Refinements are guide posts for additional search options when users type in broad category search terms. For example, view the page results to follow.
See how these refinements help the user who searched using the term ‘apples’ further refine what they were looking for with the extra terms of ‘Fruits’, ’Juices’, ‘Frozen foods’ and ‘Trees’?
In addition to refinements, you can add links above the search results. Unlike refinements, which keep people searching, links lead people away from the results page to pages you think they may be interested in – say events or promotions.
You can span multiple sites. You may have a collection of e-commerce sites you want your search results to be based on, or perhaps one e-commerce site and a blog. When setting up your index you can direct Google Site Search to include these domains and they will be automatically added to your index.
The tool integrates neatly into the Google Analytics Site Search option. Once you have configured your Google Analytics account to accept Google Site Search data, it will start to populate the handy reports that live in here. For instance, you will start to see on what pages your visitors choose to search, the keywords they use and their behaviour after seeing the results returned. Note: this integration is not unique to Google Site Search – other site search tools will have the same ability – but Google makes it a quick and easy step to get the two working together seamlessly.
So there you go – six reasons to take the easy path to better site search with Google. Why anyone would settle on developing their own application is beyond me. You can buy the product within your normal Google account. From there it is a relatively easy step to use Google’s checkout services to purchase the version applicable to your page count and you are on the way.
Please let us know if you need help setting it up. We can make the easy really easy and manage the changes to your site: the results page design, the set-up of the index customisation and Analytics integration.