You've invested time and effort to create or acquire content for your Web site, so you'll want to make it easy for your customers to find what they need on your site.
Determine Your Need for On-Site Search
If your site is very small, you may not need a powerful search engine and may be able to help your customers find what they need through a comprehensive table of contents. But if you have a large volume of content on a variety of topics, you may need a search engine on your site to help them navigate. Also, some people who visit your site may not want to use or don't understand the other navigational tools you have provided.
There are many site search tools available to meet a variety of needs. First you'll want to learn how on-site searching works and determine whether you need it. You need to identify your on-site search requirements and find out where to obtain the right search engine for your site and what the associated costs may be. You'll need to test potential search engines to make sure they can meet your needs. You'll need to plan for search engine maintenance so that all your content is searchable as your site grows and changes. Finally, you'll need to place site search tools in easy-to-find places on your Web site, provide clear instructions for their use, and prepare your content for a productive search.
Understand How On-Site Search Works
Learn how on-site search is similar to (and different from) Web searches and find out about the mechanics of on-site searching. Then you'll need to decide what search options you'll want to offer.
Identify Your On-Site Search Requirements
Once you understand the type of search options that are available, you'll need to identify your on-site search requirements.
Evaluate Your On-Site Search Engine Options
There are paid search engines, freeware/shareware search engines, and specialized search engines for specific site content, such as multimedia or images. The old saying "You get what you pay for" definitely applies here.
Find the Right On-Site Search Engine
Do your homework to find a search engine that's right for your needs. You'll have to evaluate the different search options, from downloading freeware to having your Web host provide your search capability.
Test Potential On-Site Search Engines
After you've identified several search engines that may meet your needs, you'll need to put them to the test. Take the time to download, install, and test several. Find out how well they index your site and whether you run into any incompatibilities or problems. This will allow you to make sure the search engine you choose is easy to use from a user's perspective.
Decide How You Will Maintain and Update Your On-Site Search Engine
A search engine will be of little use if it does not access all your content. Develop a procedure that you can follow to make sure your search engine will be updated, and determine who will be responsible for updating it.
Plan for Smooth On-Site Search Engine Operations
As you add a search engine to your site, you'll need to plan for its success by placing it in the right location, providing clear instructions for its use, and preparing your content for successful search.
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