Don’t Panic: Google Site Search Replacements

Ian Lurie Feb 22 2017

Google’s discontinuing site search.

OH GOD OH MY GOD WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO HOLY CRAP OH GOD

The Problem

Google’s Site Search product has been around a long time. Pay $100, and you can embed a little Google search engine on your site.

They’re keeping Google Custom Search. Sounds great, but there’s a problem:

Ads? In my site search? I think not.

Ads? In my site search? I think not.

Where are the search results? They stuffed the top of the SERP with ads. Keep scrolling, and you’ll see Portent.com content. Why the hell would I want “SEOCompanies.com” showing up in a search on my site!!???? I don’t.

We’re going to need options. Here’s what I’ve got so far. No one’s paid me or promised me anything. I did all testing without talking to the provider:

Amazon Web Services CloudSearch

Amazon Web Services CloudSearch. Like a lot of AWS services, I find setting it up slightly easier than stuffing myself through a keyhole.

For example, if you’re using it for onsite search, you’ll have to set up a crawler to deliver site content to the search engine. Or, you can upload manually. Eesh. But I’m not a developer. This kind of gadgetry may be trivial if you’re more of a code geek than I.

They charge based on use. A small engine costs about $500 per year, max. It has a lot more options than Google, too.

If you’ve got the nerd-fu, go for it.

AddSearch

AddSearch is a nifty option. A small search engine (up to 1200 pages) costs $269 per year.

AddSearch automatically re-crawls your site. It doesn’t show ads. It has some nifty gadgets like social search integration. It’s an easy setup—no harder than Google, in my experience.

I messed with the free trial a long time ago. I couldn’t make it blow up. It supports SSL (assume that for any available search engine).

Thumbs up.

Swiftype

I haven’t yet used Swiftype. Mostly because the smallest version costs $299/month. Cough.

But it looks like a powerhouse: Spell check, API, field weighting, geographic targeting, sorting, bigrams… (insert more nerdy stuff here).

Note that the basic $299/month version doesn’t include some of the cooler features. Still, it’s pretty kick-ass. If you have a big site and need an enterprise option, consider shelling out the cash.

Remember that Google Custom Search was a ridiculous bargain with some arse-kicking limitations. $299/month seems like a lot. But read the docs and use the trial before you rule out Swiftype.

If you’ve used Swiftype, please leave a comment.

Cludo

Cludo is another one I haven’t tried. They’re mum on pricing, which tells me they’re probably pricey. I talked to a few developers, though, and they seemed happy with it (they didn’t know what their companies paid). Cludo offers a lot of the same features as Swiftype. I’d include them in your research list when you look for options.

I’ll be trying them out shortly.

Update: Cludo published pricing here. Their starting package is similar to Swifttype: $299.

Algolia

Update

I tried Algolia over the weekend. On WordPress, it was a super-easy setup: Install plugin and go. It costs $49/month with a free trial to start. It can also accept a JSON feed of search records. I haven’t delved that deep, but I’d say thumbs up.

Apache Solr

I love Solr. It’s free. It’s faster than money at a casino (I have no idea what that means). For me, it’s slightly easier than setting up AWS CloudSearch. And it includes a crawler.

It runs on your server. That’s part of why it’s so freaking fast. But that also means you have to have access to your server.

Some hosts provide Solr. Do a quick Google search. I don’t want to play favorites, and I haven’t used any.

Did I mention it’s free?…

Platform-Specific Options and Other Geekery

WordPress has a built-in search tool. Forget it.

Django has a built-in tool I haven’t used. Drupal’s search module works a little better than guessing.

Hosting providers often have their own. Use with caution.

Growing the List

I’ll revisit this list in the next week or so, and keep adding more options. We’re gonna need ’em.





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8 Comments

  1. We are also looking at sajari.com. It is search-as-a-service. They have a free demo that is really easy to set up and they’ve been very proactive in helping the demo go well. I’d check them out too.

  2. Patti

    Patti

    I really don’t want any 3rd party ads on our non-profit website. So paid Google search has worked well for us. I ‘m disappointed that it’s going away.

    Thank you for your post. I am hopeful now that I will be able to find a replacement. (Like you, I’m not a code geek. I call myself a “reluctant webmaster”. So I hope to fill a replacement I can deal with.)

    I will check back for your updates.

  3. David

    David

    Thanks for this i didn’t realise that aws has an option were trying to find a dev to build a very complex search functionality for wp site
    Thanks

    • @David, if you are wanting to use AWS Cloudsearch on a WP Site, there is a plugin for that:

      https://wordpress.org/plugins/lift-search/

      While it hasn’t been updated in a while, I can attest that it still works fine even with the current version of WordPress

  4. One of our users asked us to chime in here.

    We are developers of a site search product called Zoom:
    http://www.wrensoft.com/zoom/

    We’ve tried to make it the most straight-forward search solution out of the lot. Not in that “don’t worry, it’s all in the cloud, I don’t know what it’s doing, who knows what it might do tomorrow” way (which is why Google pulling the plug has left so many stranded). But rather — we give you control over everything — yet we make it as simple and easy to use as we can (so long as it doesn’t limit your control).

    It’s an indexer (crawler) application that runs on your computer. It scans your web site, then creates a set of index files. You upload this to your server, and that’s it. It works.

    You can fine tune, and configure and adjust every aspect of the search engine. Look and feel, how search results are ranked, spelling suggestions, autocomplete, etc.

    No ads.

    It’s free to create search engines for sites with 50 pages. You can create as many search engines for as many sites as you like. But when you want to support sites over 50 pages, you can purchase a Professional Edition for $99. Once off. You can continue to create search engines for as many sites as you like until the end of time.

    There’s also an Enterprise Edition which handles sites with millions of pages.

    We’ve been at this for 13 years, and have continually improved our product. So it’s well tested and we have a lot of happy users that stand by it. We don’t spend much time on marketing because we simply are too busy working on the software! (I’m the head developer)

    OK, back to working on the next release! Hope this helps somebody.

  5. Lisa

    Lisa

    I’ve had Swiftype on a site for a few years now and like it. I’m lucky that I was an early adopter so pay annually less than the current monthly option. At that time, I qualified for their free branded version but chose to purchase because I appreciated their excellent support.
    I’d recommend setting up NOT using the WP plugin though, as I have to manually exclude posts/pages/CPTs, rather than having it index what it is allowed to crawl.
    I like that it offloads search to their server not mine, for performance reasons. The autocomplete works great and it’s fast.
    Another one to check out that I’ve heard good things about is Algolia.

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