A Search Engine for your Website ? - Part I

We discussed a lot on how to search information from Internet, specially search engines - various tips, tricks and traps. But what about information at your backyard - your website ?

Surely, you know its content like the back of your hand - but what is the comfort level of a visitor ? Can he/she find information from your website with equal ease ?

Visitors of your website are the most important people for your business - for they are not just surfers but also existing or future customers. A website search engine is one of the most important constituents of a good navigational aids - and research has shown that a website with good navigational aid has more chances of winning customers than others.

  • But hang on ! Do I need a search engine ?? I am doing all right without one at present !
  • My site is too small - why should I spend on search engine ?
  • Isn't it too costly and technically difficult to have my own search engine ?

These and many others questions, issues and apprehensions - many being quite valid, requires discussion. In a short series we shall discuss essential elements and as usual a resources list to help you.

I have elaborate menus and links at my home page - then why would I need a search engine ?

You have worked hard to create, collect, edit and display contents for your website, not to talk of significant investment in time and money. You feel your effort is successful if the website is able to communicate a positive image about your company and products to potential customers. But the quality and quantity of content is not the only issue: to have value, your site must be accessible.

You might have a carefully developed menu system to logically move from page to page - but many people simply want to locate a specific product right away, and don't want to follow links. In other cases, visitors will come to your site for a reason you could never anticipate, and obviously will not find a pre-arranged menu system very helpful.

A Website search engine gives your visitors a chance to find something on your site by searching, like universal search engines such as AltaVista, or Google. Because your site is focussed on a particular area or topic, a site search engine will allow visitors to find required information quickly and without wading through hundreds of irrelevant results. It will keep them on your site, and will allow you to learn more about what your visitors are looking for.

Who Needs a Web Site Search Engine ?

  • Websites having valuable data and/or large number of pages. Its difficult to define exact number of pages or quantify value, but if it takes quite a few mouse clicks or considerable time to reach a particular page or locate a piece of information - you probably need a search engine for your website. Remember, site search engine increases comfort level of visitors - try to put yourself in visitor's boot and figure out the comfort level without search engine. Ask your friends and customers for an unbiased view.
  • Sites where many visitors come from search engines at pages deep within the site hierarchy
  • Growing sites that are adding new and valuable information regularly

Who Doesn't Need a Web Site Search Engine

  • Very small sites where required information is easy to locate.
  • As rule of thumb, if you can reach all pages in your website from home page through just one mouse click - you possibly do not need a website search engine. Obviously, this is for a standard home page - not a gigantic list of links.
  • Sites which are lists of links focussed on one topic - with excellent navigation structure
  • Database-driven sites, where the content is mostly stored in database rather than static HTML pages What you need in such cases is a database search tool, rather than a site search engine.

Suppose, I need a search engine for my website. What do I do next ?

Related Links:

Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol: 3, Issue 21 September 12' 2002

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at amit@infobanc.com )

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