If your site is very small, a powerful search engine may not be necessary, and you 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. Site search tools will require additional disk space and processing power, so you'll need to make sure you have room to house this capability as well as room to grow. For a good overview of why you may want to add search capability to your site and the kinds of issues to consider before making a decision, review Computerworld's article " Putting Search on Your Site."
Identify Whether Finding Information on Your Site Currently Presents a Challenge
You may be aware of customers having problems finding information on your site. Perhaps you have received customer comments indicating that you included information under a certain topic heading that was not clear to them. If your company has numerous product lines, you post new content daily, and/or as you add new content you move old content to new URLs for archiving, your site may require a dynamic way to ensure that customers can find what they need. If customers become frustrated trying to locate information, they will lose interest in your site.
Identify Your Web Site's Target Audience and How They May Benefit from On-Site Search
Take stock of the demographics of your existing customer base and the function you ideally want your Web site to serve for them. Consider what your visitors will expect to find on your site. If you offer a large volume of technical papers that they may want to review or an inventory that includes many replacement parts or components, a search engine will be an important way to make information easier for your customers to find. Customers may approach your site with a fragment of information about your company or your products, and they may not fully understand what they are looking for. Your customers are better able to make decisions about what they need when they have easy access to information about your products. Finding information quickly can make your site more useful to your customers and more attractive than your competition's site. Many Web surfers prefer to use search engines over the other navigational tools you have provided. You could lose that segment of your audience if you don't have a site search engine. Search engines that perform indexing on a frequent basis stay ahead of the curve, helping people find terms they might request, and even locating pages that may have moved.
Use Search Engines to Identify Content Your Users Want
Learn how search engines can keep track of the most commonly requested search terms, giving you an ability to judge what information your site visitors are looking for. Some site search engines will list these results, which you can then retrieve from your Web server via log analysis tools. These lists can help you in several ways:
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