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Review of Remote Search Services

Intro

Checking Links

Test Index

Test Search

Search Forms

Result Pages

Search Result Items

Maintenance & Logs

Choose the Service For You

Once you've decided to add search to your site, you may be having some technical difficulties. Perhaps your site is hosted on a large server somewhere, or you have an uncooperative web administrator, or the challenges of adding a CGI are too daunting. Never fear! You can outsource your search to a remote site search service and let someone else worry about the gory details.

The indexer and search engine run on the remote server: they will use a web indexing robot, or spider, to follow links on your site and read the pages, then store every word in the index file on that server. When it comes time to search, the form on your local Web page send a message to the remote search engine. Although it's going through the Web, process doesn't change -- it just has to move a little farther. The remote search engine takes the search terms, matches the words in the index, sorts them according to relevance, and creates an HTML page with the results. When a searcher clicks on the result link, they will see the page from your site, just as though the search came from there. It's easy and painless for practically everyone.

This review covers the range of remote search services, their features and their drawbacks. It will teach you to prepare your site, try indexing it, test the search, customize the results, keep the search up to date, and choose the right program for your long-term needs.

What You Get With Remote Search Services

No need for server access
Even if your site is hosted and you have FTP access only, you can run a search engine.
No need to learn CGIs or server systems.
You never need to install any software, worry about version compatibility, or learn about permissions and paths (or paying someone else to do so).
Easy administration
The remote search service will provide a set of Web pages for administration, rather than making you learn about command lines or config files.
No load on your server.
Search engines require significant resources, such as CPU time during researching and retrieval, as well as disk space. Outsourcing to a remote server moves the load away from you. In addition, these servers are usually in data centers with excellent connectivity and 24/7 administration
Minimal initial investment
Instead of paying for a search engine up front, you can pay a small monthly fee. Some services are free, showing advertising with the search results.
Easy to switch
If you aren't happy with your search service, it's easy to switch to another.

The Tradeoffs

Advertising or continuing costs
You must pay every month or allow your searchers to see other people's advertising
Less control over the indexing
If your data changes frequently (hourly or daily), most of these services will not index that often.
Dependent on outside service
If the service's search engine gets busy, it may delay responses for your site, and there's not much you can do.
Less capacity
The remote search services have a page limit, although some will index hundreds of thousands of pages.
Fewer special features
Each search engine has its own special features, but you have more choices if you plan to run your own engine. For example, some have problems indexing password-protected areas, or word processing file formats, adding a thesaurus or a spellchecker, etc.
Intranet privacy
Intranets (internal networks using standard software) want to keep control of all their data, rather than allowing access external systems.
Multi-site indexing
Most remote services allow you to index just the sites you control. With a local search engine, you can index other sites and create a public search portal.

Remote Site Search Services Covered

Disclaimer: Search Tools Consulting has worked with Atomz, MondoSearch and SearchButton, however we do not allow this to influence our reviews.

The following services are covered in this review, and also have pages and examples on this site.

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