Using Google Site Search with NationBuilder

MagnifierIncluding a search feature on your site or blog is a no-brainer these days. Whether your site is huge or tiny, your users no longer expect to have to figure out where to go to get what they want. Digging through categorized hierarchical menus is a last resort which will often deter people enough to send them to a different website altogether. The bottom line is that users expect to be able to type “pickled figs” on your homepage and then be shown everything that your site has to say about pickled figs.

With that in mind, you'll understand my surprise when I went looking to turn on the search feature in the NationBuilder interface and came up empty handed. Sure that I was just missing something, I went and checked out the first six Featured Nations on to see how they had implemented search on their sites. What did I find? None of them had search capabilities!

With the hundreds or thousands of blog posts that will accumulate on these sites, how are people supposed to find what they're looking for quickly? Seeing that I'm in the business of migrating sites to NationBuilder from other platforms that do have integrated search, it would simply be unacceptable to tell a client “Yes, we'll move you and your thousands of posts to NationBuilder, but no one will be able to search them.”

Luckily, after a quick chat with the always-helpful NationBuilder support staff, I was informed that there is a solution: Google Custom Search.

With Custom Search, you can create your own google-powered search engine that only searches your site (or sites). It's free as long as you can stand a semi-transparent Google logo inside your search bar and some text-only google ads next to your search results. If you want a fully-customizable search without the Google branding or ads, you can subscribe to Google Site Search for $100 a year.

There are a few caveats, though.

First, Google Custom Search only returns results that are indexed by Google. So if you have a website with top-secret information that isn't accessible to the public, Google Custom Search won't be able to search or return that information. Fortunately, most public-facing websites actually work hard to keep their information available to Google and to the public, so Google Custom Search will work perfectly for most sites.

Second, to add a Google Custom Search to your NationBuilder site, you have to be willing and able to modify the code of your NationBuilder theme. This is probably why none of the FeaturedNations have a search feature yet. Fortunately we here at Wrangler Media know exactly how to to implement a Google Custom Search and match it to any color scheme, no problem.

To sum it up: no NationBuilder site is complete without search, and for the moment, Google Custom Search is the only way to get it.

Want to implement search on your NationBuilder site? Shoot us an email.