There’s a big difference between software-as-a-service (“SaaS”) site search, and the typical free (or nearly free) site search plug-ins available for download. The top three site search providers by market share – Oracle, SLI-Systems, and Nextopia – provide an intelligent site search algorithm, handle the site search traffic load on their own servers, and include excellent integration and ongoing support. You don’t get that with a plug-in.
First, SaaS site search providers, like Nextopia, provide an intelligent search algorithm that learns from user queries to produce more accurate search results over time. For example, Nextopia’s adaptive algorithm quickly learns which are the most popular products on your site, and displays those products first when relevant to a given search query. Enhanced autocomplete in the search box has “fuzzy matching” (i.e., works with entries that are less than 100% perfect by comparing with a database of previous entries) and is error tolerant. Plug-ins, by contrast, can have difficulty returning accurate search results from partial matches, may cause other elements of your website to function incorrectly or not appear, and may provide only very limited functionality in the “free” version.
Second, with a site search provider, the traffic and query load is on the site search provider’s servers. A top tier provider such as Nextopia will have a bank of high capacity, high security servers in the cloud, virtually eliminating downtime and slow load speeds. A plug-in, by contrast, can put a strain on your site or servers depending on the amount of traffic and queries you get. If the plug-in runs on the vendor’s servers (and we’re not going to name any names), it will typically only handle a certain amount of traffic before search goes down, and it is not always clear how much traffic this is. It would be unfortunate, to say the least, to experience a traffic spike and have search go down. User comments indicate that plug-in pricing can be variable, and rise rapidly for sites with more posts and traffic.
Third, site search providers have resources – a team of integration experts to get you up and running quickly, and a customer success team to ensure you continue to get the most out of your site search. At Nextopia, for example, customer integration is typically completed within 2-4 weeks by our integration team, and customers receive up to 20 hours of training if needed. Each account is assigned its own customer success manager, reachable by phone, email, or chat. Some plug-ins, including popular ones, provide no support at all in their free versions.
Considering a “free” site search plug-in? Buyer beware. You may get what you pay for.
If you want to sell more online, consider site search from Internet Retailer’s top 3 SaaS site search vendors – Oracle, SLI Systems, and Nextopia. If you need site search that’s easy to integrate, cost effective, and doesn’t lock you into a contract, choose Nextopia.