Web at UofL

Resources and information for those who create and maintain UofL websites

Google Custom Search

On May 10, 2019 the university will transition to a new internal search engine on louisville.edu – Google Custom Search. Google Custom Search will power the search box on the louisville.edu homepage and Plone sites. Users should see improved accuracy in results and increased speed. In addition, it will allow greater control on the administrative side to evolve the overall functionality and precision of search results. Watch UofL Today for additional announcements about the transition.

General Questions

Why is UofL getting a new search solution?
In 2018, the university was notified that our previous search solution (Google Search Appliance) was being shut down by Google. As such, UofL quickly implemented a short-term replacement from another search provider. This has been powering our site search since June 2018. After implementation, we continued to evaluate better, longer-term options leading us to selecting Google Custom Search.
What is Google Custom Search?
Google Custom Search is the new solution UofL will utilize to power its search box on louisville.edu homepage and Plone sites. It crawls our large number of websites and offers results when users search specific words or phrases, in addition to faculty and staff contact information. It is powered primarily by Google’s algorithm, and optimized and customized through some fine-tuning, site-mapping and promotions to provide a high-quality search experience.
What makes this solution better?
There are several key distinctions that make GCS a good fit for our university sites. Users should see improved result accuracy that is closer to the pre-2018 experience offered on our sites. In addition, the GCS will be faster/more responsive and will allow greater control on the administrative side to help improve the overall functionality and returned results. College, school and smaller UofL websites will now be able to have the search engine query and return results for content located just on their site.
What impact will I see during the changeover?
The appearance will remain largely the same, but the results should improve immediately after launch on May 10, 2019.
What can I do to make sure my department/program still shows up high in search results?
A university’s search solution must accommodate many different audiences, purposes and needs. Fine-tuning the experience so that it is not exclusionary to certain key audiences requires a bit of finesse, but ultimately, we need input to help make it better.
You should search as you normally would for any important items or topics that would be found on your site. If results are unexpected or unsatisfactory, let us know. Please keep in mind that, much like all Google systems, our new search solution will “learn” and improve over time as more users search in particular patterns or for certain content.
Who do I contact if I encounter a problem?
If your encounter any problems, you can let us know by sending an email to web@louisville.edu
How do I report excessive inaccuracies in search results?
UofL aims to provide the correct search results for the most-often queried terms within the first page of results. However, in the event that your search returns an unacceptable result (e.g. 'Admissions' not appearing until page 3 of results), please fill out a report.

Web Admins

What do I as a website admin need to do to make the switch to Google Custom Search?
If your site utilizes one of the university Plone themes, you will be moved to Google Custom Search automatically. After May 10, you may want to review the set root for your "search this site" functionality.
What is "search this site" functionality and what do I need to do to implement it?
The Google Custom Search will offer querying for all louisville.edu pages, or just pages within a sub-site (e.g. College of Business, Registrar). After launch, if no action is taken on your part as a UofL Plone website administrator, the “search this site” functionality will be added to your search bar as an additional option for users. The site “root,” or the place that the your site's content search will begin, will be automatically populated from your site’s URL. Whatever subfolder comes after “louisville.edu” will be your autogenerated site root for search. If this preset site root is incorrect, it can be edited within the Plone admin dashboard.
Screencast demo for the UofL community:
What if I don’t want “search this site” functionality?
The “search this site” functionality will be automatically added to every site at launch to give your visitors additional control. However, if you want to remove it from your site, you or your site administrator need to remove the specified “root” location from the Plone Admin area of your website.
If I build a custom Plone theme, how does this change impact me?
The new search solution is made up of a simple form that can be added to any page or theme if you have basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. If you are using one of the existing main Plone themes as your base you should not need to do anything further, as the base that you built your theme on will already include the new search code. However, if prior to May 2019 you customized a Plone installation using a non-default theme as its base you may need to add the Google Custom search solution code to your theme. There will be a screen share on April 16, 2019 at 2pm demonstrating the installation process. More details to follow.