Saturday, 24 May 2014

When Blogger's Search Engine Didn't Work, I Built My Own

So I've finished moving to Blogger in anticipation of losing my hosting when it runs out in August due to the fact that I'm not planning to renew it.

First thing I've noticed is that I feel like I've been pushed backwards through time to 2007 when I first started playing with HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

That was when I realised that without access to a cPanel of some kind, you're going to be limited in terms of what you can host here. Drive will take HTML files but won't display them as intended and Blogger rejects all JavaScript that's not housed in its gadget containers. It was Google's control freakery that sent me running to the other hosting companies in the first place.

Which is fine, it's their roof, their rules. However, generally speaking, if you want people to think well of your services it might be an idea to provide them with a decent service in the first place, eh?

Make your own Search gadget

I've found hacks and workarounds that allow me to put a Nivo slider on a Blogger website and make it look like the kind of thing I knock out in my sleep on WP. The existence of tutorials for doing this kind of thing has provided a way out of a particular problem that has arisen just now, to wit: the dang search box gadget doesn't work.

Here's what you do:

Go to Google Custom Search and follow the instructions to build a search engine of your very own. You can customize it to the max, changing the look and feel as and when required. Now copy and paste your shiny new code into a HTML/Java gadget and add it to your sidebar. Now try it out. Isn't it pretty? It's also effective, turning up the search results I wanted first time, no hassle.

Indexing a cherry blog

So you want to get your new blog indexed straight away instead of waiting for the search engine bots to pick it up in a day or so. Your new search engine isn't going to work if you don't.

Here's what you do:

Set up a Google Analytics account and follow the instructions. Go to Admin, click on the Property tab or click on Create New Property if you can see it. Now follow the instructions till you get a Tracking ID. Copy that, then go to Blogger/Settings/Other and paste the ID where it's needed. Job done.

Now you've got to submit a sitemap. Follow the instructions here. Bear in mind that it will only bring up indexed pages. If your blog isn't fully indexed, you won't find much via the search box. Wait for it to propagate properly.

Function or form?

Now it's time to test your search engine. Google's toolkit lets you set up your search engine and tweak it till you're happy with it. The search engine is but a tool to enable people to search your blog for information. I use it to find old blog posts. Analytics, etc., will show you which of your pages is the most effective at getting page views. Avoid clickbait; you want to get people to bookmark or subscribe, not show up, read it, click off, and never come back. You can make it look pretty but you've got to get the job done, and the job is to get the required results, and the result you want is a crowd of fans who keep on coming back for more.

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