I’ve been having trouble finding a good location to fit the Google search box on Carsurvey.org. The recent changes to the site layout that I’ve made seem to be working well, but search volumes were down, which I have taken to be a bad sign.
In order to get more flexibility in terms of the placement of the search box, I’ve replaced the Google search box with a new search box, backended with some new search functionality I’ve written, based on MySQL Fulltext Search. This has advantages and disadvantages compared to using Google:
Disadvantages of the new solution:
- It doesn’t current show snippets of the matching text in the results
- There are no Google adverts, which were a small revenue stream for the site
- Parts of the site other than the reviews and comments are not searchable
- It can’t spot spelling errors
- There is no rich syntax like Google offers
- In order to increase performance, the search is limited to a max of 200 results. The search doesn’t compute the maximum number of results if there are more than 200. Interestingly, Google themselves only show about 1000 results, even when they find a lot more. For queries with thousands of results, Google state “about” how many they have found. So I doubt they are calculating that part of the result in real time
Advantages of the new solution:
- It’s fast. As long a query limit is in place stop it trying to return 20,000 results, MySQL Fulltext Search seems to fly. And there’s no need to do a DNS lookup for Google
- It’s complete and up-to-date – no need to wait for any spider to visit the site
- Comments that are found are linked to directly using an HTML anchor
- The new search looks specifically for model and manufacturer searches, and displays special results at the top of the page for these common cases
- More control over the look and feel of the search box and results
- No adverts
Just in case anyone misses the Google Search, I’ve placed a Google box at the bottom of the search results page. So you still have the choice to use Google if my new search is not delivering good results.
This change has allowed me to move the search box across to the left of the page. Hopefully it will be more obvious to visitors there.
While making this change, a few other minor issues were addressed. In particular, some margins have been changed from being in pixels to em units. This makes the site look nicer with large fonts.
As usual, any feedback is welcome.