By Timo Selvaraj
We’ve all experienced it before: you visit a website, confident it should have some particular information you’re looking for, but there’s nothing you can do to get the search tool to reward you with the right results. You search for term after term, each time finding too many results or too few, leading to a frustrating experience. At Matrix Group, we give special attention to the visitor’s experience and that includes search. We want it to be effective, intuitive, comprehensive, and fast.
We develop with many different search tools and engines, but especially with the decline of Google site search, SearchBlox has become one of our favorites. It offers plenty of useful indexing strategies, a built-in scheduler, special features like synonyms and featured results, and a variety of integration opportunities. Although SearchBlox offers ready-to-use interface components, our implementations use a custom ajax-enabled front-end that makes calls to the SearchBlox search servlet.
Here are three features made easy with SearchBlox that we leverage the most:
If you’ve ever shopped online, you understand the value of a faceted search. Visit Amazon and search for shoes and you’ll be bombarded with results. But you also get a handy set of facets that let you filter your results from that starting point: shoes for men, rated highly, in a certain price range.
With SearchBlox, we achieve this first by writing the classification attributes as comma-separated values into meta tags in the page header. A common meta tag looks like this:
<meta name="Topics" content="Community, Ethics" />
With the meta tags in place, the SearchBlox crawler will incorporate the content in its index. Then we include the classification in the call to the SearchBlox servlet, identifying the facet field by name:
With these elements in place, SearchBlox returns the classification breakdown and counts to let visitors filter the initial results for any keyword.
SearchBlox also lets clients highlight specific results for a given keyword or phrase. Each featured result includes a title and description for text results, along with the target URL and the keyword(s) that trigger it. With the SearchBlox interface, you can even set a result to appear within a specific date range.
We like featured results for the following circumstances:
A single instance of SearchBlox lets you crawl multiple sites. One way to achieve this with a HTTP collection is to introduce more than one “Root URL” when configuring the collection. As long as your “Allow Paths” and “Disallow Paths” don’t prevent it, SearchBlox will iterate through each root URL and generate a federated index of all your sites.
Another way to provide federated search is to create separate collections for each site or asset collection. This is certainly the way to go if your assets are different types of collection, for example a HTTP website, a database, a RSS feed. But another benefit of this strategy is that it lets you extend a new facet option to visitors by introducing the collection name in the call to the SearchBlox servlet:
Using the collection facet parameter “colname” – and introducing it to the front end – you can now let visitors filter results from their keyword search by the collections you’ve defined.
Not every site benefits from all of these options, but having them available with SearchBlox makes it a great go-to solution. To see an example of how all three of these features co-exist on a single website, visit www.smacna.org and search for the term hvac.
About Matrix Group
Dave Hoernig is Director of Software Engineering and the Sitefinity Product Manager at Matrix Group International, Inc.
Matrix Group International, Inc. is an award-winning digital agency in the Washington DC area specializing in web design, development, association management, integration, mobile, e-marketing, and digital strategy services for associations, professional societies and nonprofits. Using state of the art web technologies, Matrix Group helps clients promote their organizations, streamline their business processes, improve staff productivity, expand market reach, and position them for success. To learn more about Matrix Group, please visit www.MatrixGroup.net.