Replacing Google Site Search: 5 Characteristics to Consider

With Google announcing the discontinuation of Site Search earlier this year, the team at One North has been working tirelessly to find the best alternative search application options. This process has been about more than just replacing Google Site Search; it’s become an opportunity for our technology and strategy teams to rethink how we choose and apply website search engines.

With that in mind, the team has defined five characteristics to look for as they evaluate new site search technology.

Google Site Search was offered at an industry redefining price point , which distorted the market and set cost expectations. As is almost always the case, many of the lower-cost options have fewer features, so, we’re making sure to select alternatives at various price points to align with the value search has for each client.

Quick Tip: Decide on your search application must-haves first to quickly align your search engine requirements.

When considering options, especially in the search engine space, diving into the companies behind the tech is essential. The last decade is littered with search startups that are no longer around or have been acquired by large companies making their offering less relevant. And of course, even picking Google for your search is not a sure thing. So considering how long the company has been around, its size and its overall success are essential data points. Investing in tech from a start-up that sputters out in a few years or is acquired and going in a different direction will leave you back at square one.

As part of our analysis, we are making sure the resources these companies are putting into their site search application is their top priority and their strategic focus. Technology like this needs to be consistently audited and updated, so if you choose a program with low internal resources, it may become outdated quickly.

When choosing search providers, we are looking for technology that is flexible to current and anticipated future needs. This provides the ability to adjust prioritization and hierarchical order of content.

The more advanced options provide faceted search, which allows a user to apply multiple layers of filters to define a search. This allows data to be parsed not only by a keyword, but also further filters through time periods, categories, etc. This capability allows you to share your content in more compelling ways and improves your search strategy, leading to a better overall user experience.

Quick Tip: Consider the types of content and information users will be searching on your site to define your search flexibility needs.

As with any application, there will be variations in a search’s capabilities. One vital component we are comparing is the crawler for each search engine. Web crawlers are essential, because they basically keep the search up-to-date. Crawlers scan your website looking for keywords and content to include in search queries, and since B2B data models are often extremely complex, you’ll want an advanced crawler that can consistently update search.

In order to create a holistic digital strategy, you ’ll want your search tech to provide insightful and actionable analytics. This way, if certain keywords or specific content is consistently being searched (or your search is not hitting the mark), you can adjust your content strategy and improve upon your user experience.

Another requirement is pre-launch indexing. This allows your team to fully index content before a website launch. This is helpful for a number of reasons, but it can also allow you to prep content for your site before launching.
One capability you may consider a “bonus” to search is the ability to make changes to the index within your platform. This will save your developers time (and therefore money) through an integration that makes updates all the easier.

Of course, when looking for a new search program, you’ll need something that returns the most relevant content items for a given phrase. For instance, any proper search engine can apply synonyms, relevancy and spellcheck to content results. Most programs have their own dictionary, so consider their out-of-the-box quality and how much work your team will have to put into building it out.

Your search should also know what not to search. The program should be able to “ignore” certain aspects of your site, like the navigation bar, headers, footers and specific images.

IT must also be able read different types of files. Otherwise, important PDF’s, whitepapers and video may be ignored, weakening the accessibility of your most important content.

Quick tip: Consider the platform your website lives on when choosing a site search technology, as some may integrate more smoothly than others.

While the announcement that Google was shutting down its Site Search by April 2018 did come as a surprise, it was important for our team to consider this not as a challenge, but as an opportunity to audit our technology options and build out a strategy to define what we believe a search engine must include to be successful.

Part of creating a long-term digital strategy is considering all the technology needed to create a complete digital experience, so your new search application should align with your project plans and overall vision.

While we continue researching site search options, we are balancing the cost of the technology with its inherent value. It’s also important for us to dive deep into the application’s features by considering how it will flex to your site’s needs. Considering what level of integration or add-ons will be necessary and making sure the platform is intelligent enough for your complex content needs is especially important as we continue to narrow our options to define the most successful search platforms for PSO needs.


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Pete Amundson Technical Strategist

As a Technical Strategist with One North's Digital Strategy team, Pete serves as a key technology consultant for clients. He partners with clients in both Marketing and IT to assess, advise and plan technology selection, integrations and ecosystems. His close attention to the ever-changing technology landscape helps him stay on top of the latest trends and approaches that affect professional services organizations.

  • Favorite color:  #cd1922 
  • What you wanted to be when you were little: An astronaut
Ethel Crosby Director of Technology Operations & Offerings

As Director of Technology Operations and Offerings at One North, Ethel is responsible for the management and execution of leading digital technology solutions and product management, continuously identifying new strategic technology opportunities for One North and its clients. Never one to shy away from a challenge, Ethel once zip-lined, upside down, in a rain forest in Costa Rica.

  • Favorite movie quote: "With great power comes great responsibility." - Spiderman
  • Favorite vending machine snack: Reese's Pieces
Ryan Horner Managing Director, Technology

As Managing Director of Technology, Ryan is responsible for overseeing One North’s strategy related to technical applications, systems and client implementations. He got his start at age seven, programming an Apple IIe.

  • Last thing you geeked-out about: This happens on a daily basis, oftentimes to the internet of things coming to life and novel uses of the technology-enabled sharing economy – or some combination of the two.
  • Most unusual job: I grew up on a working farm, so I've had lots of unusual jobs: baling straw, sweeping bins, cleaning a cattle barn, etc. 

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