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How to Add a Search Engine to Your Site

When visitors arrive at your web site you want them to find the information quickly otherwise they will lose patience and move on. A great way achieve this is to add a searchengine or search box to your web site. Since most visitors are already familiar with using search engines such as Google, they can easily use the search feature on your site.

In this article I will discuss:

A. The benefits of adding a search engine
B. Types of search service providers
C. Where to place a search box on your site
D. How does the search engine work

A. Benefits of adding a search engine and types of sites where it can be used.

1. Ecommerce sites - your ecommerce site usually has many different types of products so the navigation menu is not focused enough to rapidly find the specific product your visitor is looking for. Adding a search engine to your ecommerce site will help the visitor to easily and quickly zoom in on the product by entering their keyword in the search box.

2. Dynamic sites - search engines have difficulty spidering dynamically generated web pages. These are pages often generated from a database, so the information on your pages will not appear in the search engine's index. Add a search engine to each page of your site. If a visitor arrives on that page from one of the large search engines, they can then do a quick search from that page instead of searching elsewhere.

3. Small sites - web sites that contain 5-10 pages don't need a search engine because visitors don't have to search through many pages to find the information. Instead, make sure you create a simple navigation menu at the top or side and bottom of your web pages.

B. Types of search service providers

1. Freefind - features include the ability to customize search and results pages. The free accounts are limited to 3,000 pages or 32MB of storage. Site search is hosted on FreeFind's server. It generates a site map for you, tracks visitors searches and indexes password protected pages.

2. Google - Free site search service searches only the specific domain(s) that you list when you create your search box. You can customize your results display to include background, text and link colors you select. The search box itself will reside on your web site. The search results page will be served by Google with the customized look and feel you specify. Google may serve ads on the results page. You can do an unlimited amount of searches. You must display the Google logo on the web pages that contain the search box.

C. Where to place the search engine on your site?

1. Place the search box in a prominent location on your web page... preferably top center or top right.
2. Place the search box on all pages of your web site. Visitors may enter your site from any page.
3. Make the search box large enough to accommodate all search terms the visitor would use to find the information.
4. The search box should be a type-in box, not a link so visitors don't have to wait for another page to load.
5. Limit the search results to 50 per page. Visitors lose their patience if they have to scroll through long lists of results.

D. How does the search engine work?

It works similar to the major search engines that search the web, however instead of crawling the web they search engine spider will search your site. The results of the crawl are stored in a database that resides on the search company's server.

The company provides the necessary code to add a simple form to your web page. This usually consists of a search box for inserting your keywords and a send button. When you click the button it sends the query to the search company. They process the query to create a search results page. This shows those pages in your site that match the visitor's query.

The quality of the search results the search engine spider collects depends on how much information is contained in your site. Therefore take time to correctly optimize your site i.e. provide lots of good content that includes your keywords. Optimize your meta tags, images and create an accessible navigation structure.

Optimizing your site will not only provide focused results from your internal search engine but also boost your rankings in the major search engines.

Herman Drost is a Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW) and owner of iSiteBuild.com

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