The typical search solution used for a web site in Campus Suite utilizes the Google Custom Search Engine, or "CSE". As you might suspect, we leverage the power of Google search. Most of your site pages are already indexed in the Google search engine. A CSE simply rounds up only your content and serves it back to someone when they search your site.
This is the preferred site search solution today for a variety of reasons. The most significant benefit is that your content is automatically indexed by the Google bot. If you add new content to your site, the Google bot will index and make it so that content is retrievable via your site search. The second benefit is that Google "spiders" your site. This is significant because spidering makes it so that all of your content, whether it is a static page, PDF file, or data pulled from your database (such as a news or events) is searchable. Traditional methods to power a search mechanism required much custom programming and additional effort to make all of your content available for search. In a word, Google has perfected search ability and made it available for customers to use the function on their site.
Setting up a Google CSE
You can easily set up a CSE when you are logged in to your Google account. If your organization has a Google account, you should be logged in to this one. Go here for more details on setting up the Google custom search engine.
Disable Sponsor Links/Ads
Google CSE is free to non-profit organizations and so they are allowed to disable sponsored ads. To do so, login to your search engine where you configured it. Look for the option "Business" in the left navigation. Clicking that should present you with the opportunity to turn ads off. Prepare to prove to Google that you are a non-profit organization in the event you are contacted by their compliance team.
If you are not a non-profit, then you have to live with the typical Google sponsored links on your site (to the top and left of your own search results) or pay them $100 a year to disable the sponsored links.
Important Notes and Caveats
One small downside of this solution is that your content has to be indexed periodically by the Google bot. Say you add some new content to a page on your site. That content will not be searchable until the Google bot finds and indexes it. The frequency of when the google bot returns to your site to index your content is something no one has control over. However, we've found it to be very reliable and content is indexed in an acceptable time, usually within two weeks. When you delete a page or file, it can take up to two weeks for Google to spider and remove that link from its index as well.
Regarding deploying a new web site
If you have set up a brand new web site in Campus Suite that is preparing to be launched, consider the fact that Google has already indexed your existing content in its engine. So, out of the gate, if someone were to search your site, it would return old page results, causing 404 (page not found) errors. This is because those old pages no longer exist on your new website. The new pages need to be indexed and the old URL's need to be dropped.
This is resolved over time (usually two weeks) as the Google bot returns to your site multiple times and indexes your new content. During this time, the search results that are returned when a user searches your site can point to both new pages that work, and old pages that break. We try to eliminate that experience by hiding the site search and giving the bots enough time to re-index your new pages. It's better to hide it vs. serving up results that produce a 404 page not found error.
In the end, you will find Google does a great job of dropping your old pages that no longer exist, and adding your new pages. Your site search function (and your results in the Google index at large) become more accurate. It's true there are usually some stubborn links to pages that do not drop out. No one knows why, but it happens. When these pages are identified, we first look to the "Redirect Manager"... we can redirect these pages in most cases. For thos absolutley stubborn pages, our support team can help you get set up in Google Webmaster tools to allow you to see your website as the Google bot does. These tools can be used to tell Google to purge those stubborn results... among other functions.
During the time your search engine is hidden, you can still access it, and test it by putting in your domain name, and then adding /search-results after it. When you fell the results are looking solid, then its time to re-enable your search engine to the public. Simply submit a ticket to Support asking them to turn it back on for you.