Posted by & filed under Search, WordPress.

For a while I’ve been wanting to create a specialized search engine for a project I have been working on. Given the limited amount of time I have, I clearly had to piggyback on current technologies. Search engines today do an awesome job of indexing the web to find what you need when you need it. I wanted a specialized search engine to limit the results to relevant web content given a specific subject.

Here were my requirements going into this:

  1. Limit the search to the sites I want. I give them a list and it only searches those sites. The list would need to be updated dynamically or via an API.
  2. Allows me to modify the search results in any order I want or mixing it with other data.
  3. Allows me to format the search results how I please.
  4. I want the results in a multiple formats to allow for flexibility when and where the results are displayed.
  5. I would love to try to monetize the search engine however I want.

Searching for what I needed led me to discover many cool technologies.

I first looked at possibly the most obvious: Google Custom Search Engine. Google CSE is a cool product but it didn’t suit my needs at all. The terms of service don’t allow you to modify the results. I also looked at Google AJAX Search API. Again, doesn’t fit the requirements. I may find a need for the AJAX Search API in the near future though.

Other technologies deserved some attention as well. Products such as CouchDB and Lucene required too much so I didn’t spend much time looking into these.

I had looked at Yahoo BOSS (build your own search service). Initially, it didn’t look like it would suit my needs. After revisiting BOSS, looking at code samples and the API, it was exactly what I was looking for. Easy, fast, reliable. Fits exactly my requirements. Awesome.

Since the site I am building was based on WordPress (like all my sites), I decided to put my work it into a WordPress plugin to allow a WordPress site to easily add a real search engine to the site just by defining some simple options. The first version will be very limited in what can be done but I have a lot of features that I will be adding to it very soon.

I just need to get it ready to release. Soon I hope.

4 Responses to “Building a Quick Search Engine”

  1. Vito Botta


    I just dropped by to say thanks!
    I am working on a new WordPress blog, and was playing with a number of plugins as well as with Lijit and Google Custom Search, to replace WP’s built in search.
    None of the solutions I’ve tried so far were optimal for a reason or another.

    I then remembered about Yahoo BOSS and did a quick search to see if it was possible to use it with WordPress, and that’s how I found your useful website.

    Your plugin works great! I got an API from Yahoo and your plugin up and running in a couple of minutes!

    The only issues I’ve seen so far are
    – a PHP error if no results are returned for a particular query
    – if the user mispells a search term, no results are likely to be returned and no suggestion is made as for what the correct search term might be, as it happens with google CSE.

    Any workarounds?

    Again many thanks!

  2. Matt Burden

    It looks like this plugin is broken now. Is that the case? Did Yahoo! move to a paid service? If I debug WordPress am getting the following error:

    Fatal error: Cannot use object of type WP_Error as array in /vservers/ip64852/htdocs/wp-content/plugins/yahoo-boss/yahoo-boss-results.php on line 140

    Any insight would be helpful, thanks!

    • Josh

      @Matt: the plugin needs to be upgraded to Yahoo! BOSS v2 which is a paid service. I plan on doing it, just not sure when.

  3. Tess

    Hey Josh,

    Is there an upgrade coming… i am interested in this plugin.

    Cheers, Tess


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