Free Site Search Engine
October 31st, 2005
I’ve been looking around for a site search engine which would allow people to find stuff on my sites. The basic features I was looking for are:
- It should not take up huge resources on my servers, however, it should be relatively fast in delivering results
- I don’t require immediate indexing of new content, a one day delay is acceptable
- It should be possible to style the results so they appear as being part of my site. My sites depend on PHP and SSI for various “add-on” content (menus, etc) and it should be possible to include these on the search result page
- A big plus is if I can host it on my servers. I don’t like depending on other services
- I could live with some ads as long as they are unobtrusive
- Easy to install and configure across my sites
- It should be possible to analyze the statistics of search terms
There are a bunch of services that provide a site search engine (just google for that term). These services spider your site once in a while and store the indexed data on their servers. The result page is displayed on their servers and free accounts are always filled with ads and have limitations in the number of indexed pages allowed. A cool thing about these services is that they usually provide a page where you can view search statistics, ie. you can easily see what terms your users are searching for. The one service that seems to lead this type of services is FreeFind.
A drawback of using these services is the pain of integrating the results into the look and feel of your sites. Even though some of them do provide templates, you have to upload a copy of the non-CSS template to their servers which doesn’t provide enough flexibility. Obviously, these don’t work with my PHP and SSI bits and pieces.
The next type of search engines I considered are the ones that you install on your servers. mnoGoSearch looks like it could do the job very well, but it requires compilation on the servers. This was unacceptable for me as I can’t do this for some of my sites.
So, I started looking for another way to integrate a search engine on my sites and Google came to the rescue. I first bumped into this script which uses the Google Web API. This works nicely, but I didn’t like the fact that they have access to my Google API key and also require a link to be placed close to the search box (I don’t mind linking, but just couldn’t get it to look nice enough).
Finally, I found a great PHP wrapper for Google API. This script comes with detailed installation instructions and is extremely easy to integrate with the look and feel of a site. As long as you have a Google API key (which is free and easy to obtain) and your site is indexed by Google, this script will work like a charm and fulfills all of my requirements.
If you would like to see what the results look like, you can check it out here.