Searching for an Engine

Which search engine should I use on my website?

The answer depends on many factors, but there are some clear winners. The first consideration is the type of website. Is the search engine for a business site? A not-for-profit organization? Or will the engine be searching a family web page, student or personal site?

First, some points to help clarify the possibilities. There are free search engines, and there are search engines that cost money.

If you are running a business site, you certainly do not want a search engine that is supported by ads. Small businesses just starting out may be tempted to save a few dollars and use one of the free search engines to get started, but that is certainly not an option for the long term, and should be avoided. Why risk someone doing a search on your site, only to see an ad in the search results for a competitor? Ads for business sites are not an option.

However, personal sites, not-for-profit organizations, online newspapers, e-zines, and family sites all may benefit from a no-cost search engine. Some of the free search engines even allow the client to customize the appearance of the results pages to some extent. This means that even though you might be using a free search engine, your clients will still see a results page that resembles your website.

Who are the major contenders then? Let’s welcome them onto the playing field, and then talk stats:

Let’s start with Google. Google is everywhere, and getting into everything. Google Analytics is an excellent tool. Google is free, and Google also offers an Adsense for Search option, where an organization or business can earn extra money from the search engine. However, Google’s code “out of the box” does not validate. This is strange, since the W3C uses Google search exclusively on its site. Their code validates. Of course. If you want to go the Google route, I would suggest examining the source code the W3C uses. Personally, I wrestled with Google Search on another page and simply could not get it to validate.

Of course, Google.com does not validate either. No Doctype found. And yet, Google somehow survives, even thrives.

Google would be a good option for a not-for-profit organization. I would not recommend it for a business. Besides the support for ads, it simply does not update fast enough. At least that was my experience. One can style the results page somewhat with Google, but the search results still go to Google.
On to Free Find. The word “free” means that there is a price. Free Find is ad supported. As such, businesses would probably want to stay away from the free version. Free Find is more reliable than Google in canvassing sites. I have one instance of Free Find operating at the South Chicagoland Young Democrats, and Free Find faithfully spiders the site daily.

Free Find does offer subscription services. These are annual subscriptions, ranging from $5 per month for a Personal site of 250 pages or less, up to the Enterprise plus solution at $79 per month, 5,000 page limit. Free Find is reliable, but it costs to get rid of the ads. One can also style the results page at Free Find. The results page, however, is with Free Find.
That takes us to WebSideStory/Atomz. Atomz, now part of WebSideStory, is also reliable. However, it is ad supported. Again, this would be an option for non-business sites.

That takes us to Zoom Search Engine from Wrensoft. Zoom has a free version, which, of course, is supported by ads. However, the business owner or the web designer may purchase Zoom for $99. Done. No annual subscription. And the web designer may use Zoom on any number of sites. And Wrensoft’s support is phenomenal. Located “Down Under,” David Wren responded to inquiries, and offered some useful tips when I set up my first instance of Zoom for the Park Forest Running and Pancake Club. When asked for more information about Zoom, Mr. Wren offered that Wrensoft has over 6,000 paid for users, and an estimated 10,000+ using the free version. He says they are the only company in their market space to publish verifiable benchmarks. Always looking to provide better support, Wrensoft operates a forum that has over 1,000 posts in it. Mr. Wren claims that no post has gone unanswered, and they have deleted no unfavorable posts.

Zoom provides PHP, ASP, Javascript, and CGI options. As for reliability, the web master runs the search engine, indexing the site when he or she does updates. There is no waiting for a third party to send out the spiders. One has an immediately updated search engine.

Finally, the best feature of Zoom is a completely customized results page. Take a look at PFRPC and do a simple search. The results page looks clean, professional, and identical to the rest of the site.

So, I give the nod to Zoom for the web designer.