How to Pick the Right Search Technology for Your Sitecore Site
Websites come in all shapes and sizes. But the content that you produce for yours is what provides your visitors with value. As your site evolves and you create more content, it’s important to offer search features that help your visitors find the content they need. It’s also vital to make sure this search functionality fits your business objectives and goals.
When it comes to your website, there are a few different options that can satisfy your search needs. Although these technologies can be used with several content management systems, we wanted to explore two of them that specifically work with Sitecore: Coveo and Apache Solr.
What are Coveo and Solr?
Solr creates search functionality by indexing all available files on your site. Its search can be used on your site by website visitors, and internally within Sitecore, to power lookups by content authors. Solr must be configured by a web developer to return results based on certain filter/facet/sort options defined by a user on your website. But Solr is as close to a native, out-of-the-box, search option that you can find, especially for Sitecore.
Coveo is a cloud-based, API-integrated platform that provides robust search features. This includes advanced capabilities for relevancy control and federated search, which allows you to search multiple content locations from a single interface. Coveo integrates seamlessly with Sitecore and lets you configure and monitor your sites’ search from a third-party dashboard. As a company, Coveo has also spent time and resources developing a large set of Sitecore components in their Hive offering that can accelerate your site search implementation.
NOTE: Before we dive into comparisons of each technology, it’s important to note that if you need federated search capabilities for your website, then Coveo will likely be the right choice for you. Solr doesn’t support this out-of-the-box and requires extensive custom development to configure properly.
Comparing Coveo and Solr
While both technologies offer distinct functionality and approaches to delivering search, there are some differences you should consider before you implement them in Sitecore. The following chart offers key comparisons between the two options to help you decide which one will work best for you:
Connection is made by an API call. All information is managed by an external site
Configuration and maintenance are done by developers
Easily configurable through an external site dashboard
Requires custom configuration
Reporting and analytics tracking comes out-of-the-box
Third-party tools are available and can be easily installed, but additional developer work is required
Out-of-the-box AI-powered, personalization designed to relevant recommendations, upsell opportunities and up-to-date inventory management
Supports most Ecommerce efforts such as relevancy tuning, product search code integration, and other features, but requires custom configuration
Native integrations built-in for various tech stack software including Salesforce, ServiceNow, Sitecore, AppDirect, and Microsoft Dynamics 365
Third-party software integration is possible, but is not out-of-the-box and requires custom configuration
Can be cloud-hosted
Can be cloud-hosted
Maintenance and Support
24/7 Live Support
No external support (internal developers and community documentation only)
Query volume based paid license
NOTE: If you decide to use Coveo, the Sitecore integration works alongside Solr since Sitecore utilizes Solr’s functionality for internal searches of items and files.
Different Industries Have Different Needs
Both Solr and Coveo offer your website’s users rich, powerful faceted search that can enhance their overall experience. While both technologies work on small and large websites, your decision about which one to choose should depend on your business needs, goals, and objectives. These may vary depending on your industry.
Foundation websites often don’t have much content aside from evergreen informational pages and a single blog or article feed, which is why Solr could be a good fit for your foundation website. Solr easily provides meaningful search results from keyword searches and cuts down on your tech stack and subscription costs.
Some foundations have multiple publications or generate information for other organizations, so they need more robust search functionality for their websites. Coveo fits great in these situations because of its easy to configure federated search, which makes all your content searchable from one place with user-tailored, machine-learning-powered results.
If your association has products on your site or across multiple sites, multiple blogs or publications, events, classes or courses, or an associated foundation for donations, then you should consider Coveo for your search needs. Its machine learning algorithms, advanced analytics, support for products, federated search, highly configurable Sitecore components, and easy to use admin features will be indispensable given the diversity of your content.
On the other hand, if your site is comprised of mostly informational content about your association and an integrated blog, Solr can easily meet your needs. Solr handles search for products, events, and courses, but anything beyond basic faceting and keyword search requires additional custom development.
Healthcare websites vary in their subject matter. They can range from simple doctor and hospital contact information, to comprehensive medical content like blogs, case studies, and research assessments.
A simpler site with basic doctor and location information could use Solr’s capabilities to offer a well-rounded search experience.
Although a site that features a larger library of content could be better served by Coveo’s out-of-the-box features such as in-depth analytics, machine learning, and personalization. These features can help you understand user trends and serve up relevant information to your website’s visitors.
Education websites are often content heavy—comprised of professional blogs, industry/political news, and organization-specific initiatives. If your goal is to deliver a comprehensive list of these items that can be sorted and filtered easily, then Solr might be sufficient.
However, if your education website is part of a broader education system that features multiple sites, like a college network with sister locations, or a local school district, you might consider Coveo. If these sites want to feature content from each other, then Coveo is the most viable option since it provides federated search out-of-the-box.
Business to Consumer (B2C)
B2C websites are much more agile in nature, so they can feature almost any type of content. Many B2C sites need to have a robust product that is usable, and easily searchable.
Solr offers a quality platform for your site to display its product offerings. Its faceted search with filters and sorting options create an effortless search experience. But custom configuration is needed to finetune and support other merchandising needs.
Coveo provides these features out-of-the-box but it also uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to produce product recommendations based on your users’ behavior. Additionally, Coveo offers a seamless experience from search result to cart, to enhance the buying process with up-to-date inventory/product availability statuses.
Cost is always a factor, and while on the surface it seems like Solr is the less expensive option, you should consider the time needed for your developers to properly configure and maintain your search if you want functionality beyond faceting and lightly configured keyword search relevance.
If you’re seeking extensive reporting and customization with the ability to perform federated search and to personalize with machine learning and artificial intelligence, then Coveo is the right option for you. You will also benefit from having Coveo’s dedicated support along the way. However, if you’re looking for a fully functional, Sitecore-native, out-of-the-box search then you may consider Solr, since it could be a less expensive option that will satisfy all your search needs.