Volusion Search

There are just two words that sum up the internal search function of Volusion eCommerce shopping cart software — but being a professional, I won’t use those two words, and will instead just say, “not good“.

When a user searches your Volusion store, the search only returns results where the search term appears in the Product Code, Product Name or if the words were (manually) entered in the Additional Product Keywords field of a product record. By default, none of the text in product descriptions, product options, category pages, help files, policy pages, the “knowledge base”, (or image alt tags, meta data, etc, etc), or any other text in your store is searched.

To enable Volusion’s “extensive search“, (which does at least search the description fields of your product pages), you need to add the following hidden input field into your search form.

<input type=”hidden” name=”Extensive_Search” value=”Y”>

Still the result pages are poorly formatted and since there are no suggestions for mis-spelled words, semantic or contextual search functionality, and no “best match” — this leaves the user to fumble through the results, or worse; may cause potential customers to leave your site and go to Google or another search engine to locate the product they want to buy.

You May be Losing Sales because of Volusion Search!

But, there is a solution…

If you want a truly comprehensive search function for your Volusion store the solution is to integrate the Google Custom Search Engine product into your site.

The product, formerly known as Google COOP, (and sometimes referred to as Google CSE), is a way of using the power of Google’s search technologies, but limit the results to only pages from your site. Better still, the results appear on your site — and you don’t need to do anything special to the content pages of your site to get them all indexed and searchable.

The reason I refer to Google CSE as a product is, for commercial sites, you pay for the service. The fees are very reasonable, and most sites can probably get by with the base, ($100), plan which includes indexing of up to 5,000 web pages and an annual limit of 250,000 searches, (which equals an average of 684 searches per day).

The table below shows the pricing structure for the Google Custom Search Engine commercial product.

Number of web pages Search Query Limit (annual) Pricing (annual)
Up to 5,000 250,000 $100
5,001 – 50,000 250,000 $500
50,001 – 100,000 500,000 $850
100,001 – 300,000 500,000 $2,250
> 300,000 > 500,000 (Contact Google CSE sales)

Ok, so now you’re considering using Google Custom Search, and the fees seem reasonable, so your next question is probably, “How hard is it to setup?

The basic installation should take about an hour to complete, (including registering for the service, setting up the search parameters, installing a generic search box and results page and testing the setup. Creating a truly custom solution that matches the look and feel of your site can take longer).

Here’s the steps needed to get things going:

1). go to the Google Custom Search Engine home page, (http://www.google.com/coop/cse/)

2). click the “Create a Custom Search Engine” button, (if you are not already logged in you will be prompted to sign in with an existing Google account or create a new one).

3). Once you are logged in, click the Create a Custom Search Engine link.

You will be prompted to enter basic info about your search engine, (a name, description, some general keywords that relate to the overall subject of the contents being searched, and a default language).

You will then be prompted to tell Google if you only want to search certain sites, or the entire web, (using Google CSE to replace the native Volusion search function, you will most likely only want to search your Volusion store’s web pages).

Next, you will be prompted to select an edition, (Standard or Business edition), and to read the Terms & Conditions. Note: You can select the standard edition at first to test things out, then upgrade to the Business Edition so no competitor ads will appear on your search results, and so you can use the XML feed options and get business class support from Google).

Once you’ve completed the setup page, you will be taken to a page where you can test the Custom Search Engine you’ve created and see the actual results it will produce.

For standard CSE’s you will then be prompted to click the finish button, and Google will send you a verification email. If you’ve chosen the business edition, you’ll be prompted to provide contact information and credit card info to pay for your Google Custom Search Engine services.

4). Once these steps are completed, you will find a link to your custom search engine under the “My Products” heading on your Google account page.

Click the My Search Engines link, and you will find a list of the search engines you’ve created and links to their Home Page, Control Panel, Statistics, (and a link to delete a search engine if you want to).

Next, click the Control Panel link, and you’ll find several controls you can use to adjust the look and feel of your search engine, what sites it includes, statistics, etc.. For the purpose of this tutorial, we are going to wrap things up looking at the Code link.

5). On the following page, you’ll make the final settings and get the code you need to insert into Volusion to incorporate the Google Custom Search box and display the search results.

You’ll want to check off “Host Results on Your Website“, and then provide the URL of the search results page.

6). At this point you will need to edit code on your Volusion site to complete the integration.

The needed skills are: (a) the ability to edit the HTML in your site’s template file, (b) the ability to create an HTML page offline and, (c) the ability to FTP the file you create to your Volusion site.

6a).The first step is to cut and paste the Google Search Box Code into your site’s template file to replace the native search box code. The next step is to create a page for the search results to display on.

6b). Which results page method you use will depend on your ability to modify your site’s code, and will also depend on how you want your search results page to look. A simple method is to open your store’s template file, copy and paste it into a text or HTML editor, replace the “content area div” with a div containing the Google Search Results Code and FTP the file to your site.

Once you have completed the basic installation, you can tweak the Google code to get just the look and feel, (and results), you want. For details of how to adjust the settings, refer to the documentation on the Google Custom Search Engine pages.

7). Test, test, test! Test the search box and results page you’ve created, (several times, and using many different types of searches). Be sure to check that all links from the results page return the user to your site, (e.g.- any “Home” or category links or links to other parts of your Volusion store).

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