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Hot Apps: Picosearch

What's the right price for a search engine on your Web site? Picosearch indexes your site so visitors can search it and reports to you on search terms used

So you've created the perfect Web site for your personal or small business visitors. Wouldn't it be cool if your site had its very own search engine — sort of a mini-Google — especially if it's free? If so, based on the various search engines I've used over the years, the best alternative for my money (or blissfully for the lack of it) currently is Picosearch.

The process is so simple. Add a snippet of mindlessly easy HTML code to your Web site's search page and then have Picosearch index your site. You can design your site's search page so that it blends into the rest of your site and set other options. Regardless, your site's visitors will be able to search your site within minutes of beginning to set up your personal search engine.

But not so fast! Your most important consideration is whether to offer your visitors a search feature at all. Consider two mini-case studies. My own Web site contains more than 100 HTML text documents, some of which can be reached only after readers drill down to the desired page with four or more mouse clicks. Meanwhile, a Web site I maintain for a client has about half that many HTML pages, most of which are just one or two hyperlinks off the main page.

My own site is sufficiently large and complex that I added a search engine. My client's site is so easy to navigate that adding a search engine that would detour visitors to a search page would mostly just take them away from the site' content — not a good thing.

Picosearch reports the search terms used by your site visitors. These reports almost tempt me to remove the search feature from my own Web site. My visitors tend to be techie-savvy and literate, but more often than not they enter search terms that miss the mark so widely that they probably never find site content that meets their needs.

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