Brad Andersohn wrote a fantastic AR blog about a widget he found called BlogBar. Essentially BlogBar is a search tool that can be installed on anyones blog or web site to assist visitors in finding content on that particular blog or web site. Brad states that he loves BlogBar and further states that, "It's like having your own "Google Search" on your site."
Well, guess what? Instead of using BlogBar or another third party widget, You CAN have your own custom Google Search bar on your site by going directly through Google. The free service is called Google Custom Search.
I have been using Google Custom Search on both my primary web sites and blogs for almost a year now. Google Custom Search is similar to BlogBar in that it allows visitors to search content on your web site or blog. You are able to define exactly what pages you want "searchable" and which ones you don't. You are also able to include other people's web sites or blogs in your search results as well.
The only catch is that the FREE Google Cusom Search bars will show Google AdSense Ads in the search results. So it's possible that your visitors will stray away. If you don't like the idea of ads appearing in your search results you can opt for the paid service which costs $100 per year.
I decided to install search bars on my site because I felt that it was getting too big and cumbersome. Afterall, I want visitors to enjoy using the site and find it to be valuable. In my opinion, a site that is too big is as bad, or worse, than a site that is small.
Now, visitors of my site will find two search bars at the very top of the page.
One search bar called "High Rise and Loft Condos" searches all of our community pages, you know, like the name of the high rise building, it's history, basic price range, pictures and other objective, fact based, information.
The other search bar called "News and Blogs" has access to and searches our various blogs and news archives.
Frankly I don't know if we really needed two search bars but it made sense at the time and seems to work well. Hopefully, the two bars allow visitors to narrow their search further thereby making it that much easier to find what they want.
There is one BIG drawback to both Google and BlogBar. Both of them use the Google search index for their results. What this means is that if some of the pages on your site have not been spidered and found by Google OR if Google does not find the content worthy to be indexed, THEN those pages will NOT show up in a Google Custom Search or BlogBar search result.
Now, if you're a big dog and your site gets spidered and indexed often then this is not a problem. BUT if you're a newbie then it's entirely likely that your pages won't get indexed for a while in which case the custom search bars really won't do the job that you may hope they will.
On my list of things to do this 2008 is to find a custom search bar that does NOT rely on the Google search index but instead spiders sites that I direct it to and index all the content on those sites.
This would in essence allow me to create my own private library, which I could publicize on my site, of the content that I think is relavent to my visitors without having to wait for Google to find the pages.
Hopefully such a service exists. Please let me know if any of you have any suggestions.