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About the Google Search Appliance

Google Search Appliance
Google Search Appliance

Google Search Appliance

The Google Search Appliance is a stand-alone server that spends its time crawling through QUB websites and indexing almost every type of document it finds. The results of this are available for searcing by users looking to find content on the websites. Having fast effective search results conveniently to hand can save a lot of time and frustration navigating through menus, if the user knows what he or she needs to find.

The main access point for the Google Appliance is the search page http://google.qub.ac.uk/. It is possible to place a 'search box' on other web pages, that links to the Google appliance through a HTML form and can be used to search that particular site or set of pages.

Improving the Ranking of your Webpage

A common query we are asked is that people want to have a particular webpage returned higher in the list of search engine results for a certain query term. Unfortunately it is not possible to change or bias the Google Search Appliance to achieve this. The relative placement of pages in the results is based on Google's Page Rank algorithm: the order is determined by the relevance and content of the pages (see below) and can't be changed.

Even if it was possible to manipulate the local search engine to give extra prominence to certain pages (e.g. our previous search engine Ultraseek offered some degree of customisation in this regard), it would still only be tweaked for our site - other search engines e.g. google.com will continue to treat it like any other page.

The preferred solution is simply to improve the quality of the page - or to put it another way, the usefulness of the information contained in the page. This improves the likelihood of your page getting a higher search engine rating in two ways:

  1. With more information on the page (in the form of text), it is more likely to contain the query terms users are looking for.
  2. If users find it useful, they are more likely to link to it from other pages, thus improving its search engine rating.

The following are some simple but effective tips to improve the quality of information contained in a web page (and thus its search engine ranking). The list is by no means exhaustive, but the guiding principle should be clear and simple page design, keeping relevant and useful information to a maximum and irrelevant "padding" to a minimum.

  • Use a meaningful title. It is amazing to see how many websites have the same title for every page on the site. Check this especially for Microsoft Word documents placed on the web (File->Properties): these are also indexed by the Google Search Appliance.
  • Use the HTML description meta tag in the header of the document to give a short summary of what the page is about, e.g. <meta name="Description" content="Welcome to the School of Psychology, QUB. This web site provides useful information about the school to staff, students, prospective students and visitors" />
  • Use text wherever possible instead of images, since text in images cannot be read by search engines.
  • Provide alternative description text ("ALT" tags) for images used in the page.
  • Above all, provide relevant and useful information that people will want to read, and progression towards the top of the search engine rankings should be natural!

Add a Google Search Box to your website

This information is intended for web maintainers within Queen's whose sites do not currently reside on the Content Management System (where search facilities are already built in to the site templates). By inserting a short section of HTML code into your page template or on a dedicated search page on your site, it is possible to link to the Google Appliance to search for content specific to that site. The required HTML code is along the lines of:

<form action="http://google.qub.ac.uk/search" method="GET"> 
  <input type="text" name="q">&nbsp;
  <input type="submit" value="QUB Google Search">


  <input type="hidden" name="as_oq" value="site:www.qub.ac.uk/directorates/InformationServices">
  <input type="hidden" name="client" value="default_frontend">
  <input type="hidden" name="site" value="default_collection">
  <input type="hidden" name="output" value="xml_no_dtd">
  <input type="hidden" name="proxystylesheet" value="default_frontend">
</form>
This example searches the Information Services site. The important parameter to change is value of the first hidden input (i.e. the 4th line in the code sequence above), which contains a site specific query term. Into this you should put the top-level URL of your site, leaving off the leading http:// and the trailing /. It is important to use the URL that actually appears to users in the address bar of their browser when they are browsing the site (i.e. accounting for redirects etc.), as this is what the search engine will see when it is crawling the site to index content.

 

This should give a box that looks like the following (try it out below!):

 

It is recommended, for consistency within QUB sites, to place a search box in the top right or bottom left areas of the page if putting it in a page template or on the home page.

Customisation Hints & Tips

It is possible to remove the red QUB banner from the results page by using a different Front end. If lines 5 and 8 in the above section of HTML code are changed to read as follows, the desired effect will be achieved.

 

  <input type="hidden" name="client" value="no-header_frontend"> 
  <input type="hidden" name="proxystylesheet" value="no-header_frontend">

 

The text of the search button ("QUB Google Search" in the above example) may be changed by editing the value of the submit form parameter, i.e. the 3rd line in the code sequence. The button may also be omitted completely by removing that line: in this case the search will take place when the user hits the Enter key (although this is a browser-specific feature). Aesthetic considerations regarding fitting a search box into an existing page template may be a reason to do this.

As an example, in the current version of the main QUB home page (as of Feb '05) the word "Go" is used for the search button, and it is accompanied by a "Powered by Google" image. The image is not necessary and is certainly not a requirement, however experience suggests that due to most web users' familiarity with Google it may encourage them to use the site search feature. Sample logos that may be used are provided below. These are located on the main QUB web server and may be linked from there, by prefixing the appropriate filename (see below) by http://www.qub.ac.uk/core_images/

 


(White)
small_google.gif

(Transparent)
small_google_trans.gif

(White)
tiny_pbgoogle.gif

(White)
tiny_withgoogle.gif

(White)
tiny_usinggoogle.gif

(White)
small_pbgoogle.gif

(White)
medium_pbgoogle.gif

(White)
medium_google.gif

(Transparent)
medium_google_trans.gif
 

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