Search technology and its application by our users is an ever-growing aspect of technical documentation today. How many times have you seen “I found the following Microsoft Knowledge Base article using a Google search.” (or have you been guilty of doing the same yourself?) I say “guilty” because it’s funny that Microsoft has built the best content site in their Knowledge Base and yet a competitor’s search engine brought the user to the site.
Sure, any knowledge base absolutely must have a search engine and search box available to visitors to the site. A manual of some sort was once a requirement for a consumer product, but I’m not sure if a book-like manual is a requirement any more. Will the custom crafted search engine go the same way?
In the case of someone finding the content using another search engine, it means that for that particular visitor, all the resources and time and money spent on providing a search engine specific to that knowledge base was wasted. There was zero return on investment for the search engine but all return on investment on the content itself.