google site search

Google Site Search is shutting down – what are the alternatives?

Google Site Search sales and renewals are being discontinued on 1 April 2017 and the service will be completely shut down in less than one year. The news means businesses will now have to take control of their own site search in order to provide continuity for their customers.

The countdown has begun for companies who are now forced to decide how they are going to replace what was essentially Google for their website. There are a host of options out there for businesses. They would do well to consider some factors before committing to their next search option.

What is Google Site Search and what has happened?

Google Site Search (GSS) was designed for businesses who wanted to offer the same power of search available on Google, but for their website.

Businesses installed Google Site Search using a couple of lines of code. They were charged based on the number of searches each year.

Google is now offering the company’s free Custom Search Engine as an alternative. The difference is that while the CSE allows users to search the entire web, it does not allow you to remove ads or the Google branding.

What other options are there?

The likes of Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are available as cloud-based solutions. Both offer similar features to Google, including multi-lingual support and autocomplete. The problem is both are difficult to install and may require additional support which could be costly.

There are server-side solutions such as Search WP which are easily implemented for simple site searches. However, they are not as scalable as the cloud based options and will be overwhelmed with the search volume of larger companies.

Software as a Service Solutions (SaaS) are the best option as they combine the merits of cloud-based and server site systems. SaaS allows a company to purchase access to remote web applications hosted by the provider, rather than installing software on-site. This means clients do not have to worry about complex implementations. Therefore, they can scale their search site based on their requirements.

Even within the SaaS services there are features which companies should look for before committing to a purchase.

Natural language processing – understanding exactly what your customer wants

Many third party solutions offer a keyword search. This works when you know exactly what words customers will use within their searches. The problem is that humans are rarely so predictable and will often ask complex questions, often with spelling errors. For example, someone wanting to know when they should arrive at the airport could ask:

  • When should I get to the airport?
  • When do gatews open?
  • What time can I board?

A keyword solution struggles to recognize all these questions unless it has been specifically programmed to do so. This is a very time-consuming process.

The answer is a semantic search solution which offers natural language processing. Natural language search understands the meaning behind each question regardless of the words/slang used.

With 95.5% of people using a search engine at some point in their purchase, NLP is crucial to building a company’s revenue. Better search results mean happier customers who are more likely to return for future purchases. Perhaps as importantly, businesses will experience fewer support tickets for their call centers to allow them to concentrate on more complex inquiries.

Owning your own site search

Companies should seek solutions which allow them to control the content they provide. This allows businesses to promote their best and most relevant content. Furthermore, it rectifies any searches that are not giving satisfactory answers.

For example, if a user is asking “how does your technology work”, the business can make sure that their web page describing what their solution does and why it can help customers is the top answer. In addition, if the search engine is offering either incorrect or no content that can be quickly changed to reduce gap’s in the solution’s knowledge base.

A costly decision

Companies are at a crossroads with the imminent closure of GSS. They will have to decide whether to stick with Google and their CSE solution or choose a more tailor-made option.

When 78% of purchasers start the buying process with a web or vendor search, a solution which fails to provide the information the buyer wants instantly will be very costly.

Inbenta is a pioneer in innovative search technology for enterprises. We apply the latest advancements in natural language processing to improve online customer service for businesses and their customers.

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by Joe Lobo