Website Improvements #9: Google Custom Search

The search interface for all five of our websites Middlebury, MIIS, the Museum of Art, Davis UWC Scholars, and Davis Projects for Peace, has been upgraded to use the Google Custom Search Engine. The GCSE creates a custom search index on Google’s servers for each of our sites which gives us far more control over which pages to include and exclude from the search. Previously, our search was going against Google’s full web index, which we would tell it to narrow to just our site. By creating the index ahead of time, we can get better and more extensive search results, solving issues we were having getting good results on our News Release Archive search.

The GCSE also lets us define “refinements” for sub-sites we want to search. You can see these on the right side of the new Middlebury search page. Click on the sub-site in the list to narrow your search. Though all the examples are separate sites in our case, we could refine on any URL path. For example, we could add a “Dining” refinement or one for an academic department.

The Catalog and Directory search results have moved from a cramped right column to a new blue bar just below the search box. Simply click on the name of the catalog or directory you want to search and you’ll see results from that application. The last search page only showed the name of the course or person, but now that these are show in the center of the page we have room to include the full directory entry or course description.

This also gives us quick statistics on the most popular searches. This new search was introduced for Middlebury in January, so we can see that over the last couple weeks, these were the most popular searches:

  • 376: “search midd”
  • 34: “banner web”
  • 25: “hazing”
  • 11: “axt”
  • 11: “hld”
  • 10: “feb graduation”
  • 10: “justin stearns”
  • 10: “kathryn davis”

There are still a few refinements to be made to this service, so please give us your feedback and let us know what we can do to improve our site’s search experience.

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