If you want a free search engine for your website and don’t want too much technical hassle, then a remotely hosted search solution may be just the thing for you. Hosted search has a much easier set-up process than a search engine which requires installation on your server. All you generally need to do is a bit of simple configuration followed by cutting-and-pasting some supplied code into your pages.
However, there are definitely some potential downsides to consider with the free offerings from hosted search providers:
- Free hosted search engines generally come with adverts on results pages. If you want to remove them, you will need to upgrade to the paid-for version of the service.
- Free services may not give you any control over how often or how thoroughly your site is indexed
- Search results pages may have little or no scope for customisation
- Some solutions may have page limits on how many pages the free search will index
- The supplied cut-and-paste code may include formatting you want to amend or code which won’t validate without a bit of work
If you want to explore free hosted search further, below are eight services currently offering a free solution:
Google Custom Search Engine
As you’d expect from Google, CSE is a polished product with an extremely easy set-up procedure. It can also give you extra benefits if you combine its use with Google AdSense and Google Analytics. A major downside to CSE though is that it does not provide you with any control over the indexing of your site. Even with the paid-for version there is no guarantee that all your pages will ever get indexed and no way to schedule indexing. You essentially just get the results which Google serves up for your site on google.com. However, if you have a large site which is already well indexed by Google, the results produced can be better than those from other free search engines, since you benefit from Google’s ability to pull the most relevant results to the front of results sets. Also, a great benefit for not-for-profit organisations is that they don’t need to have ads on their results pages, even with the free version.
Enables direct control over crawling schedule, customisation of results and the ability to divide your website search into “contexts”, groups which you can specify.
Offers almost all the features in its paid-for version in its free edition, including no fixed page limit (although the size of site supported is limited to 64MB of HTML).
Includes reporting features, the ability to configure how relevancy is determined and customisable results screens. You get weekly automated re-indexing with the free siteLevel Basic service. The (paid-for) Pro version has daily automated re-indexing. You can also specify categories within your site for more targeted searching.
Includes customizable search results pages, control over indexing and search statistics. Indexes up to 10,000 pages and supports multiple languages.
As with Google CSE, you can set this up to search across several sites. Unlike with CSE, or most other free solutions listed here, the results have to appear on Rollyo’s site rather than your own and you can’t customise the way they look. Includes neat social networking features which differentiate it from other solutions.
The free version offers some customisation of search results as against complete templating in the paid-for versions. The free version also has some control over indexing and indexes up to 250 pages – but only HTML and text, not PDF or Word.
FusionBot offers 5 different packages at different price points. The free package includes sitemap generation, search context control, the ability to create search regions/partitions and basic customisation of results pages. The free version does not index PDF or Word files or highlight key words.