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Search Tools Survey Results


This survey has been on the SearchTools site since December 1998: the following report summarizes the 261 completed entries tabulated as of September 9, 1999. It is a self-selected group of respondents, and the results are interesting, if not yet statistically significant. We will continue accepting survey entries and will tabulate results periodically. For information about customer product ratings, see the Survey Ratings page.

This survey is copyright © 1999 by Search Tools Consulting, and all rights are reserved. The survey was designed, analyzed and reported by Avi Rappoport. Personal information in the survey will be kept private at all times. For reprint permissions or survey data purchase, please contact Search Tools Consulting.
Disclosure: The SearchTools.com site is provided as a free service to the web development community and is not sponsored by any advertisers. However, Search Tools Consulting has provided analysis and information to search engine devlopers including Atomz, AltaVista, Siderean, Google, Inktomi, Maxum (Phantom) and Mondosoft (MondoSearch). We do not give them site visitor or survey personal information or allow our relationships with any vendors to change any product review or analysis.

Summary

We wanted to learn why Web site administrators may or may not install search on their sites. We found that most sites install search to provide better navigation and a professional look for the site. Of those who haven't, a majority says that they haven't had time, or that the search engines software is too complex. Only a few say that there is no need on their site, or that their site doesn't serve enough content.

Site size, audience and content affects how web site administrators approach search and what makes them more likely to implement it. As we expected, larger site tend to have search, to provide an alternate navigation path for locating desired information. Sites with certain audiences, such as those designed for medical professionals, tend to have search available -- perhaps this is due to technical training.

We discovered a trend towards more sites in languages other than English, and towards multi-lingual sites (which were also generally larger sites). These multilingual sites almost all include a search engine. We also noticed an increase in the number of sites reporting use of the standard Unicode character-encoding format, which should improve access to multiple scripts for search engines.

A large number of sites are now serving PDF, word processor files and spreadsheets, all of which can be indexed by some search engines. We noticed a small increase in the number of sites reporting that they serve XML pages.

The other important factor in search installation is the location of the server. It's much easier to install a new server script or application on a local machine, so sites with in-house servers were much more likely to have search. Those which are co-located at an ISP and those hosted by a web presence provider tend not to have search installed.

The survey also asked site administrators to rate their search tools and comment on their strengths and weaknesses. The Survey Products Ratings Page contains the ratings and comments about what they did and didn't like about the products.


Table of Contents


Reasons To Install Search

103 (40%) of the survey responses were from those who have installed site search. They said that they have done so because they knew, in the words of one respondent "it was the right thing to do". This is mainly expressed in terms of improving navigation and providing a professional look to the site, although customer service is becoming a more important reason.

Reasons to Implement Search
(Multiple responses allowed)

improved navigation

98

professional look 36
marketing made us do it 6
customer service made us do it 11
customer demand (especially for support information) 1
necessary for the UI 1
too many pages to navigate without search 1
it was the right thing to do 1
necessary after reorganizing thousands of files 1
no formal reason 1
library made me do it

1

solutions for support staff 1

 


Reasons Why Search is Not Installed

When explaining why they didn't install a site search tool, most web site administrators said that they didn't do so because they didn't have time, because of the complexity of the task and the lack of instruction, rather than price. A few said that they didn't have enough content or any need for site searching, while others serve dynamically from a searchable database, so they don't need an additional search engine.

 


Site Information

We were looking for information about how web site administrators approach search and what makes them more likely to implement it. As we expected, larger site tend to have search, to provide an alternate navigation path. Sites with certain audiences, such as medical professionals, tend to have search (perhaps to conform to the audience expectations). The sites in our survey with three or more languages, which also tended to be large sites, all have search. And many sites are now serving PDF, word processor files and spreadsheets, all of which can be indexed by some search engines.

Size of Site

We asked about site size because more complex sites need more complex navigation and search support. As we expected, larger sites have a strong tendency to have search, where sites with fewer than 1000 pages are much less likely to include search. This proportion drops off as the site becomes extremely large, probably because high-end search tools tend to be harder to install and more expensive.

Number of pages without search with search
1 - 100 122 51
100 - 500 64 26
500 - 1,000 19 16
1,000 - 2,500 13 17
2,500 - 5,000 8 13
more than 5,000 16 39

 


Update Frequency

Sites which are constantly updating their content may wish to give their visitors the most navigation options. However, many site searchtools tend to put an additional load on the server and have a hard time keeping up with the site updates.

Update frequency without search with search
hourly 6 8
daily 50 57
weekly 52 27
monthly 28 6
rarely 10 4
as needed 0 1


Site Target Audience

In all categories, we found that the audience -- the expected users of the site -- did not correlate well with the installation of site searching. I had expected that sites designed for information experts and technical people would be much more likely to have search, but there are a surprising number of sites with this target audience which do not have site searchtools installed.

Standard Audience Types

audience without search with search
children 9 8
teens 22 15
general adults 98 62
technical people 57 59
info. experts 43 48

 

Other Audience Types

We allowed survey respondents to specify their audience individually, and they took advantage of the opportunity, indicating that wide categories may be uncomfortably general. Note that intranets and medical sites tend to have search engines, while education do not.

Other...
without search
with search
academics & researchers
7
4
adult
1
0
advocacy groups
0
1
artists
1
1
bankers
0
1
business people
1
0
call center workers
0
2
customers & members
1
4
employees (intranet)
2
6
foreign currency traders
1
0
government employees
0
2
industry & manufacturing
2
2
international
1
0
media people
2
1
medical & health professionals
1
4
military
1
1
musicians
0
1
parents
0
1
professionals
2
2
religious
1
0
retailers
2
0
sales & marketing
0
1
scientists
1
2
shoppers
0
1
sports fans
0
1
students
6
4
tax prepares & accountants
1
2
teachers, school administrators
1
0
travel agents
1
0
writers & journalists
0
2

 


Languages on the Sites

We found that many sites are publishing with languages other than English, and those sites were somewhat more likely to install a search engine. We also saw a small but probably significant increase in the number of sites using Unicode for character-storage, which will make it much easier for search engines to handle multiple languages and scripts.

Languages without search with search
English 141 99
French 11 17
Spanish 5 8
German 2 9
Danish * 2 8
Unicode 2 4
Kanji / Katakana 1 5
Dutch 1 2
Italian 1 0
Pilipino / Philipino 1 0
Welsh 1 0
Hungarian 1 0
Finnish 0 2
Yiddish 0 1
Hebrew / Visual Hebrew 0 1
Swedish 0 1
Norwegian 0 1
Chinese 0 1
Estonian 0 1
Russian 0 1

 

* A number of Danish MondoSearch customers were encouraged to take the survey.

Interestingly, sites with more languages were significantly more likely to have search than not to have search. They also tended to be the largest sites, needing the most sophisticated navigation features.

Number of Languages without search with search
1 127 72
2 17 19
3 1 4
4 0 4
5 1 2
6 0 1
7 0 1

 


File Formats

Many sites now serve PDF, XML and other files along with HTML. Some search engines will index these files: they may serve them by sending them to the client and allowing the browser to launch the creating application or they may attempt to convert them to HTML and serve them in that way. PDF is the most popular non-textual format, with MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and WordPerfect also often served.

Formats without search with search
HTML 144 102
text 53 53
PDF 54 63
Word 36 38
PowerPoint 13 29
Excel 18 23
XML 9 9
WordPerfect 5 7
PostScript 5 6
ASP 2 2
cgi 2 0
CFML 1 2
Lotus 1-2-3 1 2
java 1 1
RTF 1 1
AVI 1 1

there were very many other formats, as well.

 


Server Location

Installing a site search tool is easiest on a local server. Administrators working on co-located and especially hosted servers have a much harder time installing site searching, and are significantly less likely to do so. We see a change from our March results, with many more colocated servers, generally without search installed.

Language without search with search
On Site 65 65
Co-located at an ISP 79 38
Hosted at an ISP 67 22

 


See Also: Survey - Products Ratings Page


This survey is copyright © 1999 by Search Tools Consulting, and all rights are reserved. The survey was designed, analyzed and reported by Avi Rappoport. Personal information in the survey will be kept private at all times. For reprint permissions or survey data purchase, please contact Search Tools Consulting.