How to set up a website search engine

If your website contains a catalogue of articles and multimedia content, you should make sure that your users are able to find exactly what they’re looking for, quickly and easily, with no hassle. This means your site’s central features should include an intuitive navigation menu and an intelligent custom search engine function, as this significantly increases a website’s usability. There is a multitude of possibilities when it comes to integrating a search bar into your web project. While many website operators use native search functions, which are provided by all major content management systems (CMSs), another popular option is implementing search boxes from leading search engine providers. It’s also possible to create a custom search engine with PHP script, although this is a less popular option.

CMS search bars

Website operators using CMSs such as WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, and TYPO3 can take advantage of the websites’ own full-text search functions. These can usually be activated with just a few clicks, without having to manually insert code or script into the source code. If the CMS doesn’t offer a search bar among its basic features, there are a number of plugins developed by the community that you can use to extend your range of functions instead.

Embedding a custom search engine

If your web presence is not based on a content management system, or if you’re simply looking for an alternative to a CMS search bar, you can turn to search engine providers such as Google, DuckDuckGo, Startpage by ixquick among others. These services provide local search engine for websites in the form of a free search box implementation code. The integration process for all search boxes is as follows:

  • Register with a search engine provider (not necessary for all providers)
  • Search box is configured on the provider’s website
  • The HTML code snippet can be integrated into your website’s source code

Your chosen search engine will become available as soon as the web crawler has indexed your online project, including subpages.

Google’s custom search

Google provides a free user-defined search bar that has a limited range of functions. To get the embed code, you first need to register for the service. The search box can be adjusted to fit in with the basic design of your website, however it will still be presented as a Google service. Website operators can also invest in an upgrade, which enables the addition of extra functions such as deactivating adverts in the search engine results pages. This also allows users to completely customize the design of the search bar and delete the Google branding, as well as use additional features such as image search, multiple languages, XML feeds, label categories, and on-demand indexing. Another plus: you can test the Google Site Search before embedding the code by viewing your own search results here.

StartPage search box

Don’t want to use Google? The Dutch company, Ixquick, provides an alternative to the market leader with its own search bar, StartPage. The greatest advantage of this search engine is that it provides anonymized Google results. As with Google, it’s possible to integrate a StartPage search box into your own website, although it does allow users significantly less customization possibilities. Another advantage is that you can generate an embed code for StartPage without having to register with Ixquick. There are also 13 prebuilt templates, which can be adjusted to fit. You can also define whether the results should be opened in the same window, and the page that users should be directed to.

DuckDuckGo search box

DuckDuckGo is another search engine provider that avoids collecting personal user data, and is therefore enjoying increasing popularity within the internet community. As with Google and StartPage, you can easily implement a search bar with an html code. This can be configured and taken to use in your own source code without the need to register with DuckDuckGo. DuckDuckGo also offers users the possibility to customize the size, the background color, and the prefill text of the search box.

Create a search bar with your own search script

PHP script is yet another option when it comes to generating a search engine for your website. Although this solution may indeed grant website operators a large amount of freedom, there is also a far greater margin for error. For example, problems may arise if a script is overwhelmed with an ever-increasing volume of data, if the web host’s script runtimes are limited, or if the search bar developers stop making new versions. Outdated or poorly programmed PHP scripts can also present a considerable security threat. Website operators should therefore use external service providers in order to avoid overloading their websites with a search function and so that it continues running smoothly.