Last Updated: November 21, 2017
Google directing customers to the ad-supported Custom Search Engine
By now you’ve probably heard that Google plans to sunset Google Site Search (GSS) and direct existing customers to use their free replacement, the Google Custom Search Engine (CSE). Unfortunately for these customers, the CSE forces websites to show ads alongside their search results, so the transition isn’t as simple as it may seem. As the dominant alternative to GSS for the past 4 years, we at Swiftype are very familiar with the migration process, and we’re happy to share some of our advice to those weighing their options.
How does this impact your site search performance and site visitor experience?
Companies who choose to stay with Google and its CSE will be sacrificing the end user experience. A few sources have already noted that the changes are “unlikely to be well-received by web users who are already sick of being inundated with ads.” But perhaps even worse than the degraded user experience is the fact that users who click those ads will leave your website, which is the opposite of the goal of the Site Search feature. It’s hard to imagine how any business could justify using a Site Search product that invites their users to leave their website entirely.
A good Site Search implementation helps users find the content they’re looking for and keeps them engaged and active on your website. Not only is this a better user experience, but it is also a rich source of valuable user analytics for website owners. Swiftype was designed specifically to help our customers capitalize on this opportunity. We offer a completely ad-free experience as well as detailed analytics that can illuminate important customer behavior.
What you can expect from alternatives
As a website owner, alternative solutions for Site Search can generally be grouped into two buckets: free plugins and paid SaaS solutions.
The obvious advantage of free alternatives is the price tag, but the disadvantages cannot be dismissed. The main issues to consider are:
- These options are highly unlikely to be cloud-based solutions, which has far reaching consequences when it comes to both the cost of maintenance and the quality of search results. Cloud-based solutions eliminate the maintenance burden for the website owner and also offer much better search relevance algorithms.
- Free solutions are also unlikely to provide general customer service, so if you desire a level of customization, you will likely need to learn to do that on your own. Your search provider will not be involved in helping you create a good end user experience.
- Poor scalability — because free plugins are often just built on top of complex database queries, they don’t typically scale for sites with a significant amount of traffic.
Swiftype and its modern cloud-based search technology offers a more robust alternative:
- You’ll get all the bells and whistles — best-in-class search relevance algorithms, powerful analytics, and all the modern user-facing features your users have come to expect: autocomplete, faceted search, spelling correction, typo tolerance, etc.
- Built for scale — hosted solutions can scale to millions of search requests per day without impacting the speed of the rest of your website.
- Extensive customization options built to integrate with modern web technology and a direct contact for customer support requests.
- When you’re purchasing from established companies that have helped thousands of organizations implement search, you can be confident in the product you’re buying
Why is Google sunsetting their hosted search product?
GSS has been a fixture of the Internet for over a decade now, and part of its initial appeal was the simple, self-service nature of the product. Unfortunately, consumer expectations of search have far outpaced the feature set that GSS and CSE offered — ironically, due in large part to advances that Google made exclusively in their consumer-facing internet search engine. Add to this the fact that great customer support is an absolute requirement for effectively integrating site search into the widely varying user experiences of each different website, and it’s not hard to see why Google is moving on from their product.
Getting started with Swiftype Site Search – The leading GSS Alternative
Today, Swiftype is the trusted search provider for companies like Lyft, Cloudflare, Twilio, AT&T, Qualcomm, and Shopify. To get started with Swiftype, you just enter your website’s address and Swiftype will index your site and create your search engine in real-time. No coding is required, but developers can use the API for extra control. Swiftype can index any amount of content and new content is indexed automatically, so your search is always up-to-date.
A free trial makes trying Swiftype risk free
Want to try out Swiftype Site Search for your website? You can sign up for a free trial here.