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Google Site Search Is Going Away: Three Questions to Ask Before You Replace It

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Google launched Google Site Search (GSS) in 2008 to offer its technology to online publishers and their websites for searchers to use while on those sites, but the company recently announced that it will sunset GSS, forcing companies to replace its search technology by April 1, 2018.

If you are facing that decision, ask yourself three questions we've compiled to help you find a GSS replacement.

1. Do I need a more robust solution?

Website visitors who perform a site search are 216% more likely to convert than visitors who don't, so it is important to ensure that those users have good experiences throughout their visit.

Furthermore, a search on your website is a strong sign of user intent, and you should be paying close attention to what the searcher is trying to find. What GSS lacks—and many alternatives offer—are customization abilities and powerful site search data and analytics, both of which provide useful ways to give marketing programs a shot of adrenaline.

Why does it matter?

Most companies that use content for more than informational purposes tend to look for some level of customization in what they present to visitors, prioritizing content based on relevancy, time, and other factors. For those brands, user behavioral data, especially related to search, is of huge importance because it sheds light on what consumers want to know, highlights what they are and aren't finding useful, and even helps identify problems in customer service.

For example, SurveyMonkey has used search data to build better help-center content. Deanna Horton, senior content strategist for SurveyMonkey, recently told Forbes, "Listening to customers is core to who we are as a company. To make impactful data-driven improvements to self-service content, we listen to our customers by determining what they're writing to support about and using our findings to inform new content that answers those questions. At the end of the day, you can't answer someone's question if you don't know what their question is."

SurveyMonkey's "product teams also leverage the data to continually improve the product experience," Horton is quoted as having said.

2. Will we actually use it?

Often, new solutions are implemented with the best of intentions but ultimately don't get a lot of use. We've all done it. We'd all like to never do it again. Considering that website activity and content are usually highly important, brands can't afford to let that happen with their site search technology.

Be especially aware of what technical requirements a tool entails and how those requirements match with your team's capabilities to ensure ongoing use and effective management. The pressure is on to find the right solution, use it to its full capabilities, and set up the brand to benefit from all its bells and whistles.

GSS was admittedly easy to use—and that may be enough now for some businesses—but I'm willing to bet most brands are in need of something not only more robust but also easy to use. Alternative solutions offer easy customization and powerful analytics, and some vendors send weekly data analytics reports that highlight problem areas or notable search trends.

When deployed correctly, content management and site search can become powerful tools for a brand to improve customer experience, content marketing, and brand loyalty.

Why does it matter?

Looking at site content with a critical operational eye ensures improved integration by giving you a sense of exactly where the solution fits, who will manage it, and what the expectations are for it.

A bonus: smart marketing teams will also take the opportunity to figure out how the new solution helps them work smarter and faster. With the right solution—specifically for content management and search tools—brands can build in an effective data program from the start, positioning themselves both for better use of the tool and an improved understanding of the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of their website experience, and for assessing content value as it relates to other critical Web metrics (click through and bounce rates, duration times, page views, among others).

3. How will I know it's working?

New solutions should be judged against their effectiveness and impact on marketing goals. By finding out which metrics can be tied back directly to the new technology, marketing campaigns will be better designed to succeed.

During onboarding, actively work with your solution provider to customize a strategy for success. Be clear on what metrics matter to the organization, and ask what additional metrics can be tracked.

For instance, will your conversion rates be higher? Will the solution help accelerate pipeline? Will it save your team time spent on manual work? Will it help your teams organize their day and be more productive? Will it create more engagement with customers and prospects?

Why does it matter?

If you're going to spend the money and time building or buying and implementing a new solution, you need to know what constitutes success.

Let's look at an example of a successful implementation. MapBox, a location-data platform used by mobile and app developers, and in use by the likes of Doordash, Mapquest, Airbnb, and Snapchat, relied on site search technology and data to improve online experiences.

Rafa Gutierrez, lead support engineer at MapBox, said, "We want to ensure a streamlined and tailored experience that gives users fast access to relevant documentation so they can make the most of their use of MapBox technology.... We dive into our metrics dashboard regularly to look for oddities or patterns that give us insight to how customers are finding the info they need."

As investment into content creation and digital marketing continues to rise, make sure your content is accessible and that it also reconciles with Marketing's evolving focus areas. Doing so can generate huge gains toward big-picture marketing and brand goals.

* * *

As your brand transitions from Google Site Search, ask yourself those three questions to guide the decision-making process. You may well confirm that you have the right solution, or you might be compelled to explore other options. Just keep in mind that your goal should be to deploy a solution that allows you to inform your audiences, improve the online experience, and engage visitors in meaningful ways.

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Matthew Riley is CEO and co-founder of Swiftype, an Elastic company. Elastic builds software to make data usable in real time and at scale for search, logging, security, and analytics use cases.

LinkedIn: Matthew Riley

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