Search Engine Software For Your Web Site

Search engine software can be used to index the information on your web site or intranet, making it easier for visitors to find what they are looking for. There are plenty of “site search,” “intranet search” or “enterprise search” solutions, ranging from simple, free packages to feature-packed, high-end commercial products.

On this page, you’ll find articles that discuss the general issues of selecting search software solutions. Search usability is an important topic, so articles on this issue are also listed. Finally, reviews and news of various search software products are also included.

You will not find actual search products listed on this page — only reviews and resources. For product listings, it is highly recommended to visit the Search Tools web site, which provides comprehensive coverage of this area.

Please note that article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication’s search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.

GeneralUsabilityProduct Reviews & News


Search Tools

Comprehensive listings of software products, by platform or by name. There is also introductory material to search tools, product news and links to articles, resources and reviews. An outstanding resource for those interested in this topic. A must visit.

Adding Search to Your Site
WebMonkey, March 1, 2000

Excellent guide to adding search to your web site without having to install software, written by site search maven Avi Rappoport.

Custom Inktomi

This site is designed for those running Inktomi’s enterprise search software as a site search solution. It’s meant to help you spider better with the software, set meta tag controls, customize results and more.


Why Searches Fail

From, this report looks at the top reasons why site search fails to serve users and suggests solutions, such as search engines that offer synonym lists, stemming, spellcheckers, don’t use stopwords and other advice.

Brands Suffer From Search Dysfunctions
ClickZ, Oct. 8, 2002

Improve your own internal search or risk having frustrated customers.

Why Search Engines Fail
SearchDay, Aug. 29, 2002

Two major research studies stress-tested web site search engines around the world, analyzing search failures and offering important insights for dramatically improving search usability.

Why Good Sites Lack Search Engines
SearchDay, August 22, 2002

A new survey attempts to explain the inexplicable: why some perfectly good web sites fail to provide a search engine to improve user navigation.

In Defense of Search
Semantic Studios, Dec. 7, 2001

Well-known usability expert Jared Spool could be described at anti-search. Reports from his company consistently warn that web site designers shouldn’t force users to search for what they want. Instead, he tends to favor clearly-labeled navigational structures. I’d agree with much of what he says, but search still has a role to play. It’s is a feature users do expect, and it can be a useful feature to offer, if done correctly. Usability analyst Peter Morville has more thoughts on why search shouldn’t be ignored, in his “In Defense of Search.”

Getting Them to What They Want
User Interface Engineering, Oct. 2001˜uieweb/what_they_want.htm

From usability expert Jared Spool, this report discusses the importance of good navigation, rather than running a search-centric site. It costs $25, but it’s a small price for plenty of good content and advice.

Designing Web Usability – Search
Web Developers Virtual Library, June 8, 2001

Usability guru Jakob Nielsen shares his tips on improving search at your own web site.

What Causes Customers To Buy On Impulse?
User Interface Engineering, May 2001˜uieweb/whitepaper.htm

This study found that you are more likely to convert visitors into impulse buyers if you make your site’s content easy to browse.

Search: Visible and Simple
Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox, May 13, 2001

Search boxes should be easy to locate, and if the first search fails to bring up what a user wants, the odds are they’ll give up as further attempts are prone to failure.

Search: 29 Design Guidelines for Usable Search
Nielsen Norman Group, March 2001

I haven’t reviewed this report, just out from Jakob Nielsen, but it’s said to cover the usability of search at 20 ecommerce sites in the US. Search success rates were found to be low, and the US $45 report offers many guidelines to improving performance.

The Fundamentals of Quality Search
ClickZ, Jan. 18, 2001

Tips from Gerry McGovern of acclaimed web agency NUA, on making basic site search better.

More Fundamentals for a Quality Search
ClickZ, Jan. 25, 2001

As above, focusing on advanced site search and search results pages.

Must Search Stink?
Forrester Research, June 2000,1338,9412,FF.html

This survey was compiled from interviews with 50 ecommerce executives responsible their site search functionality. While search was found to be extremely important by many — and considered very useful by about half — the report found that upon closer examination, the quality of site search was lacking. The report then takes a close look at problem areas and suggests solutions.

Why Onsite Searching Stinks
User Interface Engineering, Sept. 1997˜uieweb/searchar.htm

User Interface Engineering found all sorts of problems when they tested how well site specific search engines worked at some major web sites. Learn how to improve your search situation.

Product Reviews & News

The Grammar of Sound
Technology Review, April 30, 2003

Need to search through audio recordings to find particular keyword references? New technology from Fast-Talk Communications aims to make this much easier. Of course, SpeechBot (, has allowed you to do this for ages for selected news content. The service either lets you search against written transcripts to match portions of audio recordings or has used speech recognition to create transcripts where none are available. However, FAST-Talk skips the transcription step used by SpeechBot and other audio-indexing companies. Instead, it makes a sound — rather than word — transcription of a document. This is supposed speed the indexing process.

Corporations seek better search results, April 28, 2003

Analyzing search requests on corporate web sites — corporate search analytics — can be an important way to understand customers. But will companies really move toward doing this better, when they already tend to do poorly just providing a corporate search facility at all? New analytical tools that are coming up may help.

Analyst: Jeeves to sell enterprise unit, April 2, 2003

Ask Jeeves may be getting out of the enterprise search game, according to Forrester Research.

Employees are a lot like consumers in how they look for data. But is giving them Google enough?
Information Week, Jan. 20, 2003

Looks at different enterprise search practices being used by companies, including the Google Search Appliance, Verity K2 and iPhrase.

Special Search Tools Issue, Part 2
SearchDay, August 1, 2002

Search tools maven Avi Rappoport covers new and updated web site search tools and search engines. Also links to Part 1.

Google Unveils Mid-Market Search Appliance, Sept. 30, 2002

Google releases new versions of its enterprise search “appliance.”

Put down that knife
Red Herring, July 22, 2002

Dremedia aims to make searching audio and digital archives easier. Long article about the UK company started by two ex-BBC employees and the need for a good multimedia search engine. However, Dremedia will face competition from long-standing enterprise multimedia search players and Convera is not mentioned in the article and Virage is barely touched on. Dremedia has financial and software backing from another UK-based search firm, Autonomy.

iPhrase steps out with new search software
InfoWorld, July 15, 2002

Enterprise and site search company iPhrase releases a new version of its technology.

New Lycos Biz Unit Targets Commercial Sites
ASP News, May 20, 2002,,3411_1141501,00.html

Lycos, once in the enterprise search space years ago, is making a return to it with a new business unit targeting the market. The difference is that much of the enterprise search technology comes from FAST, rather than from Lycos in-house. However, there are provisions to build enterprise portals with content from Lycos web search, with customer bulletin boards and financial and news information from Lycos-owned Wired News.

Special Search Tools Issue, Part 2
SearchDay, May 16, 2002

Search tools maven Avi Rappoport covers new articles, announcements and reports from the world of web site search software. Links to part 1.

Inside the Google Search Appliance
SearchDay, April 30, 2002

Want Google search on your own internal network? Try the Google Appliance, a self-contained version of the popular search engine that’s stuffed into a pizza-sized box.

CIA Taps Inktomi For Government Work, April 24, 2002,,3531_1015521,00.html

The CIA is looking to Inktomi’s enterprise search solution as a way to find documents in multiple languages.

Search engines bolster gov’t security
Reuters, April 17, 2002

In its war on terror, the US government may look harder at enterprise search solutions to help it locate information.

The Search Is On
ComputerWorld, April 15, 2002,4167,STO70041_KEY241,00.html

Looks at four different research projects and products aimed at improving data mining.

AltaVista Search Gets Down to Business
PC World, March 28, 2002,aid,91683,00.asp

Short review of upgraded enterprise search software from AltaVista.

New Windows could solve age-old format puzzle–at a price, March 13, 2002

Microsoft hopes to make it easier to find things on your computer through changes to its future operating systems.

Commentary: Google’s enterprising search, February 12, 2002

Gartner sees some appeal in Google’s product, but not necessarily for business with sophisticated needs. And a quibble with this: “While Google provides standard keyword analysis and other ranking methods, its PageRank–which analyzes a page’s prominence against others in a categorical search to determine which is most often referred and linked to–is less valuable in the structured design of business sites or intranets.” Of course — but that also suggests that Google’s on-the-page ranking systems are somehow inferior to other people. That’s not necessarily the case at all.

Google in a Box
SearchDay, February 11, 2002

Chris Sherman provides a short rundown on the two search appliance products offered by Google and pricing.

Start your engines, Feb. 8, 2002

Long look at new requirements and challenges for those who want to power the US government’s FirstGov information portal.

iPhrase lands deal with Yahoo Finance
Boston Globe, Dec. 10, 2001

iPhrase search technology is to be used to help those looking for information at Yahoo Finance.

Special Search Tools & Products Issue
SearchDay, Nov. 8, 2001

Guest writer and respected industry expert Avi Rappoport provides an update on developments in the world of search tools and products that make sites and intranets searchable.

Build Your Own Yahoo
SearchDay, Nov. 1, 2001

The itch to create your own online portal eventually strikes just about every web searcher. To do it properly, you should make sure you have the right tools for the job.

iPhrase Talks Up LexisNexis Deal, Oct. 29, 2001,1928,2001_911921,00.html

iPhrase, which makes search refinement technology, has expanded its deal to work with LexisNexis.

Jeeves Solutions Unveils JeevesOne, Sept. 24, 2001,2198,3531_889761,00.html

Want Ask Jeeves-style answers for your web site without having to hire the company’s editorial staff? Now the software toolset for managing your own knowledgebase is available, for $100,000 per CPU installation.

Special Search Tools & Products Issue
SearchDay, Sept. 19, 2001

In this issue of SearchDay, guest writer Avi Rappoport provides an update on developments in the world of search products.

The Atomz website search engine
Pandia, Aug. 9, 2001

Review of using Atomz’s software-free site search solution.

Search technology gains recognition
InfoWorld, July 30, 2001

Short news on new search and categorization technologies for corporations from Verity and SmartLogik.

Special Search Tools & Products Issue
SearchDay, July 12, 2001

Guest writer and respected industry expert Avi Rappoport provides an update on developments in the world of search tools and products that make sites and intranets searchable.

AltaVista Unveils New Software
AP, June 12, 2001,1848,44461,00.html

AltaVista has upgraded its search software for intranets, with one of the key enhancements being new support for email formats. It can also work with AltaVista’s “personal” software that runs on employee desktops, so that employees can search beyond just the information available on the company’s shared network servers. This development has some privacy advocates concerned, suggesting that it will be easier for management or fellow employees to find personal information of other employees. This could certainly happen, but this isn’t a software problem, it’s a legal problem. Employees may be surprised to discover that “personal” email on company computers actually belongs to the company. Solution? If you don’t want someone to see something personal, don’t store it on your company computer, because intranet searching is going to continue expanding onto employee desktops. Alternatively, find out what your rights to privacy are according to company policies and your local jurisdictions.

The High Price of Search Technology
eCompany, May 31, 2001,1653,12179,00.html

Review of the Charles Schwab web site deploying new search software from iPhrase, which can assemble information from multiple web pages into a single answer.

Making Search Engines Speak Naturally
Interactive Week, March 26, 2001,4164,2700967,00.html

Focuses on two natural language search companies, EasyAsk and LingoMotors, who were at the Search Engine Strategies conference in Boston.

Revving Up the Search Engines to Keep the E-Aisles Clear
New York Times, Feb. 28, 2001

A look at the challenges in improving search at shopping sites.

Ask Jeeves eyes large enterprises
InfoWorld, Feb. 23, 2001

Ask Jeeves is to place its knowledge management tools in software form, so that enterprises can maintain their own answer databases.

Johns Hopkins Cures Its Search Woes
InternetWeek, Dec. 28, 2000

How Johns Hopkins University put Inktomi’s Ultraseek software to work to make its campus web site searchable.

Northern Light Officially Launches SinglePoint
Information Today, Dec. 18, 2000

Review of new Northern Light product that provides integrated searching across a company’s intranet or web site, the web as a whole and Northern Light’s Special Collection documents.

Search engines get the enterprise treatment
ZDNet, Dec. 12, 2000,11011,2663776,00.html

News search service inks a partnership with Inktomi, which means that we’ll likely see Inktomi partners offer news search in the near future. Inktomi also cuts a deal with video search company Virage, while AltaVista upgrades the search software it offers to businesses.

Search Engines Fire On More Cylinders
Internet Week, Dec. 7, 2000

Details on upgrades to AltaVista search software that is available to businesses for site specific and intranet needs.

Specialized Search Engines Carve Out Niches
TechWeb, Aug. 10, 2000

Summary of new player FizzyLab, which is offering site specific search combined with auto-linkage of pages to related content within a site.

The Vortals Are Coming! The Vortals Are Coming!
The Search Engine Report, April 4, 2000

Covers new players offering vertical search engine capabilities.

AltaVista Search Engine Directory Traversal Vulnerability
BugTraq, Dec. 29, 1999

Describes a security flaw in of AltaVista Search Intranet versions 2.0b and 2.3A. AltaVista has posted a patch — click on the “solution” tab at BugTraq above or go directly to the patch via this link.

Review of Remote Search Services, Nov. 1999

This article covers many of No Software Needed Solutions, along with tips to consider when using these types of services.

Add search to your site, Nov. 1998

A comprehensive guide to adding search to your web site, from Avi Rappoport.

Search Engines for Intranets
Law Library Resource Xchange, July 1998

Covers the basic questions one needs to answer when seeking a search solution.

Site Search and Retrieval Tools
Web Server Online Magazine, June 1997

Covers basic features of how search software works, along with reviews of major packages.

Search Engine Solutions for Your Site
NetGuide, Dec. 1996
–no longer online–

A primer I wrote on some of the things to consider when choosing a package.

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