Digital marketer + digital nomad, Joanna bores non-marketing nerds around the world with her enthusiasm for inbound marketing, website optimization, SEO, and eCommerce hacks.
Google will begin end-of-life procedures for its site search functionality starting April 1, 2017, when your ability to buy credits will officially disappear. The Google Site Search service will completely disappear by April 2018, or when current paid accounts reach their quota.
Site search powers custom, white-label on-site search results for an estimated half million websites worldwide. The vast majority of current users were informed via email in mid-February, which is excerpted below:
We are winding down the Google Site Search product over the next year, but will provide customer and technical support through the duration of license agreements... GSS customers may also take advantage of our Custom Search Engine solution, an ads-supported model that offers similar functionality.
For users of the service, this is not great news. Your ability to buy new credits will officially be gone in days. Switching to Google Custom Search Engine is free, but it's not the same option. If your prospects are using Custom Search on your site, the top results for their query could be a direct link to your competitor's content.
What's the Difference Between Google Site Search and Google Custom Search?
Google Site Search was a paid service via Google, which allowed organizations to provide ad-free search on their own site. For businesses with 20,000 to 50,000 queries each year, annual credits typically cost around $100-250. While Google is suggesting a switch to Google Custom Search, there are a few paid features that will disappear. We've outlined key differences between Google Site Search and Google Custom Search below:
1. Ad-Based Search Results
Your competitor's paid search results placement will now show up in site searches, unless you're a non-profit organization.
2. Google-Branded Search
With Google Site Search, you were able to disable Google's branding and enable the search results to appear like a function of your own website experience. With Google Custom Search, it's clear the search is powered by Google and, well, looks like a Google search complete with ads.
3. Query Limits
Google Custom Search is capped at 100 free queries per day. If you've got a high volume of website visitors or really high-quality content archives, it may be relatively easy for you to hit your daily limit. Visitors trying to search past the cap will be met with a "service not available" message.
4. No Support
Unlike Google Site Search, you'll no longer have access to customer service and support reps via email when you need help.
If You Want to Take Advantage of Google Ad-Free Search, Jump Now
If you're already using Google Site Search, and like many other users, are not quite sure how to proceed you've got exactly one option to buy yourself some time. If you can get in before April 1, 2017, you've got a small window of time to buy more site search credits. While these will only be valid for another calendar year, it can ensure you're able to keep providing search service while you figure out your next best move.
Are There Any Good Alternatives to Google Site Search?
Options for a custom branded site search for your website range from relatively cheap to costly, and from plug-and-play to robust solutions that practically take a Google engineer to implement. The right solution for you depends on your development budget and needs.
Below, we've outlined four alternatives to Google Site Search with a focus on ease of implementation, pricing, and user experience.
Sajari also allows users to fine-tune their ranking and results rules through smart recommendations on site searches that are not performing well. With pricing starting at $97 a month, this alternative is definitely costlier than Google's former offering.
Sajari Website Search May Be Right for You If: Sajari is effectively designed to act as a robust, super-fast option for enterprise and mid-sized organizations with a lot of content. Their current clientele include several mega-job posting sites like Monster and CareerOne. If you're new to inbound, this may be overkill. If you've got tons of content, you may love Sajari.
The following sneak peek at the Sajari back-end, or what you'd see for analytics as a HubSpot marketer, was provided by co-founder Hamish Ogilvy on Quora:
Swiftype is powered by a highly-sophisticated search algorithm with some super-sharp natural language processing intelligence. What does this mean? Swiftype is designed to handle the way your users' type, and can cope with spelling errors and misplaced word spacing, to bring up the right results anyway.
Swiftype also has some advanced search features, allowing you to tweak search results. Users can refine their searches by price, location, or author, making this an ideal option for many eCommerce websites or B2C brands.
While Swiftype may require the help of a developer for implementation, administration does not require extreme technical expertise. In fact, adjusting your search results to always bring up the highest-rated products or most recently-published content is as simple as dragging-and-dropping. No pricing information is publicly available, and prospective users are encouraged to contact sales directly for a personalized quote.
Swiftype may be right for you if: You're an enterprise or eCommerce organization with a high volume of queries. Companies that currently use Swiftype include AOL and Shopify.
One of the most configurable site search options available, Amazon CloudSearch "supports 34 languages and popular search features such as highlighting, autocomplete, and geospatial search." You can fully define your own search parameters and tweak options at any time with the convenience of hosting in the Amazon Cloud.
While ACS may be even cheaper than Google Site Search, with pricing starting at $50 a year, getting started is a bit of a commitment. You'll need to set up a crawler, which requires a developer's skill set.
ACS may be right for you if: You've got access to a sharp developer who can configure your search options.
Cludo started out as an experiment, to see if one of CEO Philip Andersen's technology clients could unlock a better alternative to Google Site Search. While Google Site Search is highly customizable in terms of visual UX, Cludo is one of many Google alternatives that allows administrators without technical development skills to adjust search results.
Cludo's natural language processing abilities include the potency to recognize synonyms, correct misspellings, and back-end analytics for continual improvements. Additionally, Cludo's team ensures a smooth integration process stating that, "While our technology comes ready-made for your use, we help you create a search display that seamlessly fits into the overall design of your site. Our team of developers and designers work alongside you and your visions, to create a display based on the very specific needs of your site. We also promise the continuity of this service, regardless of whether your site needs just a minor layout adjustment, or if you have undergone a major site redesign."
Pricing starts at $199 per month.
Cludo May Be Right For You If: You want a highly customized search option that blends seamlessly into your site.
Navigating the Change Away from Google Site Search
Lean Labs is still in the process of evaluating alternatives to Google Site Search for clients, but will not be making a blanket recommendation about which option is best for everyone. Why? There's really not a one-size-fits-all solution. That being said, HubSpot has suggested that they are building out a native search module. However, it is still in it's early stages; so for now, we will have to find another solution.
Options like Cludo, which are lighter-weight and less expensive, may be the smartest move for companies with less content and a smaller budget. Companies doing Growth Driven Design, who have some development resources available, could be best served by ACS. While some organizations will choose to default to Google Custom Search, it's important to consider what you're losing in exchange for the price tag of free. Do you really want direct links to your competitors content?
While Google Site Search will be sorely missed by many dedicated users of this service, there are alternatives that fit almost any need for power, pricing, and customization potential.
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