The Swiftype Blog / Secret Search Confessions:
From an Ex-GSS User

Secret Search Confessions:
From an Ex-GSS User

NOTE: This has been published anonymously to protect the author’s identity.

First and foremost, I’m an engineer. I want to spend my time developing products and working on relevant projects. I might also be tasked with developing our website, which is fine, but literally the last thing I want to do is spin my wheels building or configuring custom website search. That seems pretty obvious. Totally agree that site search needs to work and work well, but it shouldn’t be a painful time-suck. I have better things to do.

Let’s say I did build it from scratch—the worst part by far would be the constant misconception that custom search is something that can be modified and optimized in a few minutes, (ahem, looking at you, Marketing.) This is a huge reason why I’ve personally avoided going custom. With the number of requests and the drain on back-end resources, it just doesn’t make sense for our team.

Historically, I’ve leaned on Google Site Search to fill that search gap. It’s been a long 11 years, and for much of that time I figured there wasn’t anything better out there. Honestly, I never even looked around that much. I was content. It met my needs. But lately, Google’s made some changes. Little changes. A lot of self-serving, little changes. And over time, those little changes have added up to a whole lot of frustration… and annoyance… and irritation. So, I’m pretty sure I’m done.

Honestly, one of the final nails in the coffin is that now that Google has made plans to actually kill off Site Search, their replacement, Google Custom Search Engine (CSE),  is being dangled out there as a “safety net” of sorts. A fall-back plan that just doesn’t seem to offer much more that what it’s replacing. In fact, it offers less. Yes, that’s right. Less. (Are you kidding me? What a joke.)

I want relevant results

Is it so much to ask that a site search tool be modern? One that’s built on a premise of helping my visitors search my site, not on serving ads or generating revenue for another company?

Google, like any company, is in the business of making (a lot of) money. And that’s great—When I want to find the highest-rated down pillow for my bed, the best day hike in Yosemite, or a lip-synced cat video, sure, I search Google. For every search, they give me uber-relevant advertisements from companies who pay them, (Companies who pay THEM.) They also happen to suck me in with convenient, free services (email, photo storage, access to a billion videos, etc.).

That’s all well and good for my personal interests and time, but at work, where my decisions impact the growth of my company and inevitably the future of my career (and my salary), I’m less interested in “free” and more interested in flexibility, control, and results.

I want my own branding

It’s completely insane that Google Custom Search Engine is going to allow ads from other companies to appear in search results on my website. Seriously, WTF? When visitors search on my website, I don’t want them to be bombarded by results from ANOTHER website, especially from any of our competitors. Yes, I know, that’s how Google makes money, and that’s what pays the bills for the cat videos I might be watching at my desk, but there’s no way that’s going to fly for our website.

On top of all that, it hilariously seems like Google completely forgot about the fact that search is, in fact, a tool. The ultimate goal is to control how to display/rank/promote the best content for visitors, right? This often puts Marketing and I at odds because that content changes rapidly and updates are requested frequently. Whether it’s ordering certain results by one attribute or promoting a specific piece of content for a particular search term, I need the flexibility to make these changes on the fly. I should be able to run our website the way I see fit, not the way Google does.

Without question, search should also fit in with the rest of our company’s brand and website design. A lot is invested in the overall branding, colors, logos, and web templates we use, so why would I want to slap a big Google logo on my search? Because I want more flack from Marketing? No. No one wants different formatting treatments on their search results. It just looks dumb.

I want the best visitor experience possible

In the end, we’re responsible for keeping our website visitors happy and engaged. Making sure they quickly and easily find what they’re looking for is obviously part of that. We want the best flexibility and control to make it our search. We want search to be an extension of our brand, another tool for us to guide visitors to what they want and how we want to provide it to them. But most of all, I want it to be simple, functional, and just work.

So, later, Google. Your site search options just aren’t enough anymore.


Looking for a better alternative that will allow you to customize your site search to be exactly what you’re looking for? Get a demo from the Swiftype team today and see what’s possible.

Subscribe to our blog