First there’s searching the Web; then there’s searching a Web site.
Every Web site doesn’t need a search engine, but every Web site deserves a search engine. A commercial Web site almost has to have one; you just can’t get along without it. The frustration of finding something you want and not
getting it is so bad that most Web site visitors just click off at that point. We’ve had that experience, and we’re sure some visitors have had the experience at our own site.
THE VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE
You can search within any Web site by going to google.com and clicking on “”Advanced Search.”” Put your search terms in the blank boxes, then put the site’s Web address in the box labeled “”Domain.”” Boom, it will search the site.
While this works, it’s doubtful many visitors to a site will either be aware of this technique or willing to bother. If there’s no search button on the site, they’ll move on. So will we.
There are several companies that provide search engine software for personal and business Web sites, but we’re not going to bore you and eat up our limited space by going into all of them. You can find a pretty good article on the subject, though a little out of date, by going to www.vivisimo.com and typing in “”adding search to site.”” The article is the first result that pops up.
The program we selected to try, however, isn’t in that article. It’s Zoom Search, from Wrensoft in Australia; Web site: www.wrensoft.com. While we had some initial difficulty getting it installed on our site (www.oncomp.com), we did get it done, and a recent revision of the software solved our earlier problems. Once in place, it worked beautifully.
There is a free edition of Zoom Search that is intended for personal Web sites with fewer than 50 pages. It has no ads and doesn’t bug you with messages to upgrade. (All other free search engine downloads we’ve found place ads on your site.)
The Zoom Search standard edition is $49 (all prices US) and can search sites of up to 100 pages; the pro edition is $99 and provides searching for an unlimited number of pages. There are no ads and no ongoing costs or fees. Company support is through e-mail, and we found no problems with that.
This search software, like many but not all of its competitors, can search many types of files on a Web site, including PDF files, Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The advanced features allow you to analyze how your visitor searched your Web site and generates statistical reports. A lot of bang for the buck.
You can form your own opinion of Zoom Search by going to our Web site and seeing how it works. Our site has more than 400 pages and continues to grow, so we liked the one flat fee and no monthly charges, plus free support by e-mail.
Our site, like many others, was created using Microsoft FrontPage, by far the leading Web site creation software. But the search engine that comes with FrontPage is primitive. What we got by switching to Zoom Search was not only far better searches, but also results that include the all-important context around the words being searched. That way you can tell if the search result is what you were actually looking for.
Zoom, like most search engine software, can be installed on CDs and other media as well as Web sites. This makes large amounts of material searchable offline.
We really liked www.metacritic.com. Ever wonder what other critics are saying about that movie, video, music or game? We mean other than the critics in your local paper. Metacritic lists current reviews from dozens of newspapers and magazines, and color-codes them for favorable or unfavorable.
Does money matter? If so check out www.younginvestor.com. How Wall Street works, how to save for college, what kind of investments can build up your savings, etc. Also has information on unusual stock market and general economy indicators. For instance, aspirin sales go up when the market is bad; lipstick sales go up when the economy is bad.
Children’s writing 101 at www.write4kids.com. This site has a lot of nagging comments prompting you to buy its newsletter, but if you can ignore those there is lots of good advice here about writing books and stories for children. It has a message board with questions from aspiring writers. The site provides word lists for different children’s grade levels, and lists upcoming writer conferences.
We found two new books for owners of handheld PCs, $25 each from Osborne/McGraw-Hill (www.osborne.com): “”101 Killer Apps for Your Pocket PC”” and “”101 Killer Apps for Your Palm Handheld,”” both by Rick Broida and Dave Johnson.
“”Killer aps”” is an overused term these days, since there are practically no more new killer applications. But the kicker here is that the CDs that come with each book contain a few of the 101 programs for free and a link to the others. Many of the links are to shareware program producers, so there is often a small fee involved, usually less than $10, and nearly always a free trial. Some free apps: a converter from metric to English and other measures, a pocket blackjack game and video poker.