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3 site search options for Webflow sites

If site search is a must-have for your website, here are three of your best options, compared.

Barrett Johnson
October 25, 2016
Resources

Site search can be a make-or-break feature when you’re picking a platform to build your next website. And while it’s not available in Webflow (yet!), it’s not hard to integrate a third-party option.

Based on our research, we recommend these three options for adding search to your Webflow site:

  1. Google Site Search
  2. Swiftype
  3. Findberry

As we evaluated these search tools, we compared them based on four characteristics:

  1. Price
  2. Design control: how much you can customize how the search functionality looks on your website
  3. Indexing controls: how much control you have over how your context is indexed
  4. Search result control: how much control you have over what results display for a given search

But first, let’s take a brief look at how these tools work.

Web crawlers: how search works

Google, Swiftype, and Findberry all use a web crawler to index your website’s content. What’s a web crawler? It’s a bot that scans (or “crawls”) your website and extracts content for an external database (in this case, a search engine).

Though all three site search options work the same way, they offer different levels of control over how your site’s content is indexed:

  • What section(s) of my website will be indexed?
  • How will the data they index be structured (fields)
  • How regularly will that data be reindexed?

We’ll answer these questions for each site search option below. Ok, let’s dive into it!

Option 1: Google Site Search

Pricing for Google Site Search

Surprise! Google Site Search that lets you add search to your website. If you’re okay with displaying search ads on your site, you can use it for free, but the ads can be quite obnoxious. To remove ads, you can pay an annual fee starting at $100 and scaling alongside your search traffic.

Google Site Search pricing scales based on your search traffic.

Indexing control for Google Site Search

Google Site Search indexes your site the same way they index the rest of the web, which has its pros and cons.

On the plus side, the first indexing of your site takes just minutes, so you can test the search out quickly. Google’s indexing technology also means that your content will be reliably indexed.

Unfortunately, because Google indexes the entire public web on an ongoing basis, your site won’t get reindexed very frequently. In fact, you might have to wait a week or more to see your new content in search results.

One advantage of using Google Site Search is that you can index multiple domains (say, your marketing site, help center, and forum) in one search engine at no additional cost. As we’ll see, indexing multiple domains is a paid feature for both Swiftype and Findberry.

Design control for Google Site Search

Google offers multiple layout options, and a basic visual interface for editing the colors of your search results and search bar.

‍Google lets you test layouts in their app before you grab the embed code.
‍Changing the colors and theme of your search is pretty easy.

If you need more control, you can also add custom CSS to a specific page or across your site.

Search result control for Google Site Search

Google’s default relevance algorithm does a good job of sorting search results, but if you want more control, your options are pretty limited.

You can use what Google calls “Promotions” to display a specific result at the top for a given search query. These seem to be designed for ads, and it’s possible that visitors to your site might dismiss them as such, but they could work.

‍“Promotions” let you push specific results for a given query to the top.

Google Site Search in use

Fuseboard has done a nice job of integrating Google Site Search on their help center by adding custom code and displaying search results in a custom overlay.

Fuseboard uses Google Site Search on their made-in-Webflow help center.

The TL;DR on Google Site Search

  • Price: Free with ads, paid starting at $100 annually
  • Indexing control: limited
  • Design control: limited, based on custom CSS
  • Search result control: some

How to set up Google Site Search on your Webflow site

Webflow forum member tubes shared his steps for setting up Google Site Search on our forum, so hat tip to him!

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Option 2: Swiftype

Pricing for Swiftype

In a pure feature-to-feature comparison, Swiftype offers the most control and customization, along with a slick dashboard and some handy customization options — and their prices reflect that.

You can start with a free trial, but after that, plans start at $299 a month. (Full disclosure: we use Swiftype for our help center, and I used to work there).

Swiftype’s pricing scales with site size and traffic, along with support and other features.

Indexing control for Swiftype

With Swiftype, you can index your whole domain, or just specific areas, using blacklist and whitelist rules.

You can also get super precise with their meta tag system, which we use on our CMS-driven help center to dynamically insert content from our help articles. This lets us control exactly what’s indexed and what we display on the front end. (And gives content editors control via the Editor.)

‍By dynamically filling Swiftype’s meta tags, we can use CMS fields to control what content displays in search results.

Jumping over to Swiftype, you can see that they’re pulling these custom fields directly into our search engine.

Swiftype pulls content for the fields outlined in green straight from our help center.

Lastly, Swiftype crawls your site for new content far more frequently than the others on this list, though frequency is partially a function of how much you’re paying.

Design control for Swiftype

If you’re a developer, you can do pretty much whatever you want with Swiftype’s public API. If you’re not a developer, you can still get pretty creative with custom CSS and their in-app search result configuration tools. Using the fields in your search engine, you can choose what information to display in autocomplete and search results.

‍You can customize the look and feel of your search results and autocomplete right from Swiftype, and display any fields you want.

You can also write custom CSS to style the search bar however you’d like, as we’ve done on our own help center.

Search result control for Swiftype

Swiftype offers you a lot of control over your search results, and this is how they really make a name for themselves in this space. For starters, you can use their Result Rankings to drag and drop search results for a given query, delete results you want to hide, and add results that don’t appear by default.

‍Swiftype lets you drag and drop search results for specific queries.

If you want to get even more precise, you can use the Weights feature to adjust the impact that different fields have on search results.

You can adjust how much your various content fields influence search results in Swiftype.

Swiftype in use

We use Swiftype on our help center, and styled everything how we wanted using their in app customization and some custom CSS for the search bar.

The TL;DR on Swiftype

  • Price: After the free trial, plans start at $299 a month
  • Indexing control: extensive
  • Design control: extensive
  • Search result control: extensive

How to set up Swiftype on your Webflow site

Webflow forum member domin8tor shared his steps for setting up Swiftype.

Option 3: Findberry

Pricing for Findberry

Findberry offers site search that feels a lot like Google Site Search, although you can use their free product without displaying ads. If your website features under 100 pages, then you can use Findberry for free. From there, pricing scales as your website grows.

Findberry’s pricing scales as your site’s page count increases.

Indexing control for Findberry

Unlike Google Site Search, Findberry’s indexing options are limited by number of pages and by number of domains. As with Swiftype, indexing multiple domains is only available on higher-tier plans.

Another way Findberry mirrors Google Site Search is that you have no control over how they index your website. The catch here, of course, is that while Google has robust indexing and search relevance technology that you can “trust” more, Findberry is a relatively small app and is unlikely to match Google in this domain.

Lastly, Findberry only crawls your site for new content once a week, which could be a problem if you publish frequently.

Design control for Findberry

If you’re comfortable writing CSS, you won’t have a hard time customizing Findberry’s search embed to fit your needs. They even let you customize the code right from their product. But unlike Google and Swiftype, Findberry doesn’t let you style your search results visually.

‍Findberry’s search results can only be styled with handwritten CSS.

Like Google and Swiftype, Findberry’s search results display in a pop-up modal by default, though you can alternatively display results on the same page as the search bar.

Search result control for Findberry

On the Pro plan ($9.99/month) and above, you can unlock “Customizable Keyword Weights,” which let you adjust the impact of various fields on search results, much like Swiftype’s Weights feature. Beyond this, you have no control over the order of search results.

Findberry in use

‍On their free plan, Findberry’s results modal includes branding.

Our QA engineer Anna Sabatini used Findberry on a blog she worked on for a client (to the right of the first post).

The TL;DR on Findberry

  • Price: Free up to 100 pages, plans start at $5.99/month
  • Indexing control: limited
  • Design control: extensive if you can write custom CSS
  • Search result control: almost none

How to set up Findberry on your Webflow site

Former Webflow community expert and now-QA engineer Anna Sabatini shared how to set up Findberry search on our forum.

Which site search tool should you use?

Which search tool you use depends on your budget and how flexible you need your search to be. While Swiftype offers a ton of customizability, you’ll have to have a serious business need to justify the price tag.

On the other hand, Findberry works well on smaller websites, but lacks the feature set and ease of use that Google and Swiftype offer.

Google seems to walk a middle line, introducing complexity and power where needed, while still offering a visual way for you to style and configure your search experience. And at $100 a year, the entry level price is reasonable for most small- to mid-size websites.

Did we leave anything out? Let us know if you’ve found a better option in the comments below. (But note that links trigger our spam filters.)

Barrett Johnson

Marketing @webflowapp. Design, history, and music enthusiast.

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