Saying a Fond Farewell to Google Site Search

This month, Google is permanently discontinuing Google Site Search (GSS), a paid service that allowed organizations to utilize Google search tools on their own website(s).

Users of GSS could customize the look of the search results to match their site, and benefitted from Google’s search index, and features like spell check, synonyms and multiple languages.

We’re sad to see such an excellent resource go, particularly on behalf of our clients that publish larger news and content sites. There’s a reason Google’s search is so dominant — it’s excellent! — and being able to use it on content-rich sites was a serious benefit.

Paper in a typewriter with 'We'll Miss You' typed out

Former GSS clients aren’t left totally out in the cold: as GSS licenses expired, they are being converted to Google Custom Search Engine accounts. GCSE [Aren’t Google’s naming conventions about as clear as mud?-Ed.] has a single advantage over GSS: it’s free. However, any customization of how the search results will look is quite limited—search results will look pretty much exactly like search results on Google.

But for most GSS users, the dealbreaker to switching to GCSE is that search results are returned with Google ads. Yes, this does mean that a search on your own site on your own content will give you results for your site nestled under Google ads. Ads that, potentially, could be from your direct competitors (though there are steps to limit this).

Naturally, this means it’s time to contemplate alternatives. Sadly, very few of them are quite as easy to set up on a site as GSS was, but then, that’s why we’re here! We’ve identified several good alternatives:

  • Amazon Cloudsearch
    One of the AWS Cloud services, ACS is quite powerful, supporting 34 languages, autocomplete suggestions, free text/Boolean/faceted search, and more. Pricing is difficult to determine, as it is based on a combination of queries, data transfer, and other factors. Basically, it’ll be different for every site, but definitely more for larger sites with more traffic. Amazon claims that ACS is simple to install and configure, but our experience with AWS tools is that their complexity and power translates into a non-trivial setup process.
  • Algolia
    Algolia has many of the features of ACS, and actually exceeds it by supporting more than 100 languages. Synonym, geosearch, and advanced language processing produce excellent results. Like ACS, Algolia is scalable and offers 99% uptime. Pricing varies depending on what services you want, but starts at $35/month, with a steep step up to $2500 for Business users.
  • Cludo
    Cludo is offering migration help to folks switching away from GSS, and promises to “do most of the work on our side” so that setup is as simple as possible. Results can be customized to match your site, and Cludo also allows you to manually re-index your site instantly. Extra bonuses: full ADA, Section 508, and WCAG 2.0 accessibility support; free phone and email support. Pricing begins at $199/month.
  • Swiftype
    Swiftype promises full control over the appearance of search results, including displaying search results in an overlays so that searches can be completed on any page of your site. As well, Swiftype search includes synonyms, stemming, phrase matching and spelling correction. GSS users may be eligible for a special pricing and migration offer. Basic pricing begins at $79/month, with $199 and $1999 packages that accommodate larger sites and offer better customer support response.

If you’re a GSC or GSS refugee looking for a new solution, let us know. We can help you identify the best replacement for your site, and help you get your search set up and running smoothly.


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