Search Boxes

One of my pet peeves is webmasters which make it difficult for me to use
their site. I mean, I’m there, looking at a page and I just cannot find what
I want. I look everywhere for navigation, and what I want to find just
doesn’t seem to be covered. That’s not necessarily a problem, as everything
cannot be always be handled by the navigation menus.

Okay, what’s the next thing I’m going to look for? A search box, a site map
or some other, more general way to find the information that
I need. Site maps can be difficult to maintain unless they are very general
(which, in turn, makes them less useful). Search boxes, on
the other hand, require no care and feeding at all once you’ve got them
installed (although you should spend some time tuning them to make them even
more useful).

If you have a site with a large amount of information or a site which is
very diverse, a search box is your best bet.

– First of all, it allows your visitors to find things that they might not
otherwise find.

– It causes visitors to go deeper into your site, to stay longer and to look
around more.

– Just as important, very little maintenance is required.

– In addition, most of the search utilities are free for small sites.

– The pay versions are extremely inexpensive for the benefits they provide.

– It just makes your site (no matter how large or how small) look more

Some of the unexpected side effects include:

– You make it even more likely that your visitors can wind up on any page.
This means your site navigation must be very good or your visitors will get

– Visitors will find themselves dumped onto pages on your site which you did
not intend for them to find. Under construction pages, “spam traps” and
anything else you’ve got. Be sure to use metatags and the Robots.Txt file to
control indexing well.

You have several options when choosing a search box for your site.

– If you edit your site using Microsoft FrontPage, you could use the
built-in search functions. Note that the searching facilities in FrontPage
are so lame that personally I would not recommend them to anyone.

– You could use a self-hosted script if your host allows CGI routines. I
would not recommend this method, as these routines tend to be very server
intensive. In fact, most web hosts that I have found will not allow them to

– The best option is to use one of the remotely-hosted search functions for
your site.

I have found three excellent remotely-hosted search companies.

Atomz – Probably the overall best of the bunch, but also the most expensive
by far. I liked Atomz, but we switched because it just became too costly.
Atomz allows up to 500 pages to be spidered for free, with advertisements in
your results pages.

Freefind – Excellent service, and the one that we settled on because it was
very full functioned and inexpensive. The version for personal or nonprofit
sites is only $19 per month, a year paid in advance. Up to 32mb of pages can
be spidered for free.

Whatuseek – Another excellent service, allowing up to 1,000 pages to be
spidered for free.