How to get started with Site Search 360

You want to know how Site Search 360 works but you're hesitant to try it?

This guide will walk you through the 4 steps you need to follow in order to start your custom site search journey on the right foot.

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Jump to:

Step 1: Sign up for our free trial

Wondering why you need to sign up in the first place? They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so maybe an experience is worth a thousand use-case articles. Plus, you don't even have to attach your credit card - a couple clicks and you can enjoy 14 days of an excellent site search service.

Our trial has only one limit: a max. of 5,000 pages will be crawled. All the other features are as cool as those you can expect in our BATMAN plan.

 

What happens after I sign up?

Once you click on "Free test" or "Register," our crawler will follow the domain you've given, e.g. site.com, which usually corresponds to your homepage URL. We'll start indexing (scanning) your content immediately so that it can be used to trigger search results.

As soon as the crawling is complete, you can type a keyword into the search box provided in the control panel - matching results will be pulled from the pages added to your index.

Without a single line of code, you'll be able to see how a custom onsite search would work for your own website!

NOTE: the domain name you enter at the registration becomes your site ID (login) for Site Search 360. It is unique for every account and can't be modified.

What can be changed later on is the domain you want to search: it can be an entirely different website or a list of several domains and sub-domains that can be specified under Crawler Settings:

provide one or several domains to crawl

If you sign up with the same domain name again, we'll add a number to it, e.g. www.website.com_1. Your site ID will also be sent to your registration email address together with useful setup instructions.

Ok, start my free trial now

 

Step 2: Test right away

Dashboard is the first section you see when you log in. You will notice that the Indexed page count is growing - this is our crawler scanning every page available on your website. The green bar indicates the indexing progress. 

Site Search 360 Dashboard


Pro tip: consider submitting a sitemap instead of your root URL. Your sitemap might already exclude some pages that you don't want to index. Besides ensuring a faster and more efficient crawling of your site, it's an integral part of good SEO practices.read more about using sitemaps

A sitemap is an XML document that lists out all your website URLs in an organized way. You don't have to create it manually - there's a number of easy-to-use sitemap generator tools.

To switch to the sitemap crawling, adjust your Indexing Behavior in the drop-down menu:

use sitemap to index website

Then click Save and navigate to Sitemap Settings to finish the setup.

Now, depending on the size of your website, crawling can take from a couple minutes to a couple hours. Once it's done, simply go ahead and type any query into the top search bar, next to Site Search 360 logo to immediately get a grasp of what your search results look like:

Use control panel search box to instantly test search results

The layover window is our default implementation style. It is also the easiest one to set up as you won't need to specify any additional parameters. But if you don't like it, you can embed your search results on your page or open them in a fullscreen mode.

If at this point you're already happy with what you see, you can go straight to the implementation. If not, let's proceed to step 3 to see how a few small tweaks can make a huge difference to your search result quality.

Step 3: Tweak and customize

A number of smart mechanisms are baked into the Site Search 360 crawler - it tries to automatically pull the most relevant content for your search result titles, images, and descriptions. But every website is designed and structured differently so it can be hard to cover everything. Perhaps you'd want to fine-tune some settings to help the crawler bring up better and "cleaner" results.

Indexing control

1. Check your index

Search result quality primarily depends on what pages and documents have been successfully scanned by the crawler and added to your index. If a link hasn't been indexed - just like with Google search - it won't show up in the search results.

To check what URLs are indeed indexed and if there are any errors or skipped content, go to the Index Control section. Here you can spot potential issues.

Example: your search isn't returning relevant results or any results at all? You can check if the relevant link was skipped or ignored due to some error (e.g. 404 or 503):

Check if your site links are successfully indexed

 

Ok, let's be honest, at this stage SO MUCH depends on your server configuration. If you have all the redirects in order, your results will be nice and clean as well. If you're not sure what redirects I'm talking about, I'd suggest you check out our quick guide on removing duplicate links.

Common scenarios include:

  • http/https duplicates:
    http://mysite.com/url
    https://mysite.com/url
  • paginated results not pointing to a canonical link:
    mysite.com/page/1,
    mysite.com/page/2...
  • trailing slashes:
    mysite.com/link
    mysite.com/link/
  • query parameters:
    mysite.com/URL
    http://mysite.com/URL?utm_campaign=google&sessionId=cb5q69wo5

Site Search 360 offers quick configuration options under Crawler Settings to deal with duplicated content and help you clean up your search results effortlessly.

Settings to quickly remove duplicate links

NOTE: make sure to launch a fresh re-index of your website to apply the settings above: empty the existing index first and then click on "Re-Index Entire Site".

Empty index and re-index from scratch

 

2. Whitelisting and blacklisting patterns

This setting is crucial for 2 reasons:

  1. You have a multilingual website and you want to avoid mixing in search results in different languages.
    To set up several accounts under one umbrella, we recommend using Managed Accounts.
    This way can fine-tune search settings separately for every sub-account and whitelist or blacklist different language versions of your website accordingly. For example, here's what I did to index only the pages in German:
  2. Blacklisting allows you to easily exclude any URLs and URL patterns that you don't want to be displayed among your search results such as:
  • admin links (.../admin/ etc.)
  • user authentication links (.../login etc.)
  • pagination (…/page1/, …/page2/ etc.) - if you're not sure how to set up canonical links
  • password-protected content (that can also be crawled if necessary, we support username/password and cookie-based authentication(link).

3. XPath patterns

"XPath" might sound like a scary techy term and in a way it is :) But! It is also a powerful tool to get the crawler to focus on the most useful content on your page and ignore the rest. Whatever is excluded from indexing will not be featured in your search results. Which means you have full control over the process!

Common examples of website sections to exclude would be headers, footers, navigation areas, side banners, etc. Yes, the crawler does automatically try to skip unnecessary content but not all websites are built in the same way. Additionally, who would know better than you what information is the most valuable for your site visitors?

Example: by default we assume that page titles are defined as <h1> but you might be using <h2> instead. In this case you just need to give a hint to the crawler by providing the following Title Xpath under Crawler Settings:


NOTE: you'd need to run a re-index for the new XPath patterns to take effect.

Pro tip: before re-indexing your entire site, you can check if your XPaths are working by testing them on a specific URL or by instantly re-crawling the link under Index Control:

Re-index a single URL

 

Here's a short video tutorial to get you familiar with XPaths. And if you feel that this is way beyond your technical skills, don’t worry - our team is here to help.

Search control

1. Search settings

If all your content is indexed correctly but you'd like to get even more power over your search results, you're welcome to explore the Search Control section. Here you can set where your result snippets (descriptions) should be sourced from, adjust their length, or experiment with 'search fuzziness'.

Example: you've carefully worked on your page meta descriptions and you'd like to feature them in your search results. To do this, select "Use content behind search snippet XPath" as a source for your snippets in the drop-down menu:

NOTE: when you modify Search Control settings, there's no need to re-index your site - your changes are applied on the fly.

2. Query Mappings

Arguably, one of the hardest things when it comes to creating content for your website is to get into your users' heads and come up with the right selection of keywords. Site Search 360 pulls back the curtain as every phrase entered into your site search box is tracked and aggregated in your analytics dashboard. 

Pro tip: when you notice that a certain search query brings 0 results, go to Query Mappings and simply re-write this query to an already existing keyword.

Example: students search for "nso", that stands for "New Student Orientation", but the query doesn't give any results as the abbreviation isn't used anywhere on the university website. Rewriting it to "orientation" fixes the issue:

In case you'd like to transfer your Google Custom Search promotions into your new search engine to keep boosting the same articles and posts as before, Site Search 360 offers a quick import function.

And you can do even more: reorder search results, redirect a query to a specific page, or add custom results - check out our detailed guide on Query Mappings.

Step 4: Copy-paste the script and enjoy your custom site search!

Finally, you are a JavaScript code snippet away from adding all the mighty Site Search 360 functions to your site. You just need to access your website template, copy the code from the Installation instructions and paste it before the closing </body> tag.

Copy the script to install Site Search 360

As you can see from the screenshot, there're only 2 parameters you absolutely need to get right: your siteId (the website name provided at the registration) and your searchBox selector. The selector points Site Search 360 to the actual search box element on your site and depends on how you define your <input>, in other words, your search field. The easiest way to check is to right-click on it, then click "Inspect".

Here're a few common examples:

  • If you use
    <input id="searchBox" type="text" placeholder="search">
    then you'd leave the code as it is:
    searchBox: {selector: '#searchBox'}
  • If you use something like
    <input class="search-input" type="text" />
    the correct selector would be the following:
    searchBox: {selector: '.search-input'}
  • For something like
    <input type="search" name="q" placeholder="Search...">
    you would specify:
    searchBox: {selector: "input[type='search'][name='q']"}

In case you don't have a search field yet, simply add this code <input id ="searchBox" type="text" placeholder="Search">to your header or footer to make it available throughout your website.

Use Search Designer to customize the look and feel of your search box. You can also experiment with different ways to present your search results: in a list or in a grid, using tabs or columns, showing or hiding result URLs, and more.

Ooof, still seems too techy? Just reach out to us and we'll help you out.

Using WordPress? With the Site Search 360 plugin implementation is a no-brainer.

We also provide integrations with Cloudflare, DrupalZapier, and Integromat.

 


This was a detailed guide how to get your custom search up and running in 4 steps with Site Search 360! 

I'm ready to try it!