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Sphider is a PHP search engine that you can either add to your existing site or use as a stand alone search engine. It’s small, easy to install, and not complicated at all to set up. I have probably spent more time with this script than most of the others out there because I still run a site that uses Sphider. I started out using a pay per click search engine in 2004 with a commercial script called Smarter Scripts, and in 2007 I moved to Sphider and I like it so much more.

The best part about Sphider is that it’s a real search engine that will index whatever sites you choose. Some of the commercial options out there are nothing more than feed engines instead of true search engines. You borrow and display the search results from Google, MSN, and DMOZ and perhaps some affiliate feeds like RevenuePilot and Searchfeed to hopefully make a few dollars here and there, but none of it is your own. Sphider give you greater control over your database by allowing you to approve or deny which sites are allowed.

It has some standard settings you would expect such as results per page, minimum word length in order to be indexed, or required number of words on a page for it to be indexed. Then there’s a couple other simply yet effective ones that I particularly like such as the Sphider Suggest feature that will pop up a number of related keywords as you type your search phrase. There is also a small section called Weights in which you can select how important search aspects are in your search results. For example, if you felt that the most important keywords are found in the title of a web page, you can set the weight of words in web page titles to be very high. This would give precedence to those sites when a keyword or phrase was searched for that matched it’s page title.

There’s a statistics section for you to find your top keywords, most popular searches, number of sites, largest indexed pages and more. I personally like to view the searches people perform and also monitor the time it takes to kick out the results. I did notice that if the results show that there were zero pages returned, it takes a very long time. I’m not a database guy so I’m not sure, but perhaps it’s because it’s searching the entire database and still coming up empty. Regardless, I’m still very happy with my Sphider site and continue to add to it all the time.

There might be prettier search sites out there since Sphider is pretty stripped down, but I like a lot of white space. I’d rather figure out how to add or change something than how to remove it entirely. This search software is ridiculously simple to learn and the possibilities of niche search site implementation is virtually endless. If you’ve ever considered organizing all your favorite bookmarks for that hobby of yours and offering them to the public, a Sphider search engine is your perfect solution.