As SaaS products and e-Commerce websites get more and more complex, incredible site search has become a critical component of a successful user experience. These days, products have plenty of moving parts—users, objects or files, tickets or tags, documents or images, etc. Site search can make finding the right page or component dramatically easier for users that want to avoid half-a-dozen clicks for the simplest task.
However, building good site search is difficult. Building site search can feel like creating a whole new product of its own with some products boasting keyboard shortcuts, light-box like snazzy modals, and lightning cached results. Thankfully, in 2022, there is a widespread range of competitive site search tools that you can install in your product to provide a better search experience.
What are Site Search Tools?
Site search is distinct from a page-level search-bar because it enables the user to search the entire website without having to first navigate to the relevant page. Site search dramatically minimizes the amount of mental energy that users have to exert to find what they are looking for. Instead, users can find relevant content by simply typing in the first few letters of their ideal result. At that point, the site search tool should efficiently expose possible matches to the user.
Site search tools usually involve two components—a frontend experience for the user to navigate through and a backend connector that makes surfacing content fast. There are other optimizations that can improve the user experience. Some products will utilize specialized caching to return results to the end users faster than a backend database ever could. Some will make it easy to enable fuzzy search and synonym-search so that users can find relevant content even if they search for the wrong product. Others will utilize A.I. to try to predict user intent.
Site search tools can typically be compared on four factors—(a) how discrete / brand blend-able it is, (b) pricing model, (c) recommendation strength, and (d) speed. Some tools excel in multiple categories while others are focused strictly on one.
The 5 Best Site Search Tools in 2022
Here is a comprehensive list of the best site search tools in 2022.
CommandBar—Best SaaS Site Search Tool
CommandBar, an all-in-one action widget, is a site search tool optimized for SaaS. Unlike most site search solutions which focus on listable objects, such as users or documents, CommandBar combines page actions, navigation, searchable objects, and help documents into one simple form factor.
The philosophy behind CommandBar is that users often search to solve problems, and that search should lead to the action itself or relevant help content to aid the user towards their goal. CommandBar is as much an onboarding product as a site search product—its features are designed to achieve healthy product and feature adoption, not just finding day-to-day objects in your product.
Because SaaS products often struggle with feature and product adoption, CommandBar is an ideal site search tool that takes a more holistic approach to search. However, if speed is a concern due to a massive database of searchable objects, you can combine CommandBar with the next entry on the list, Algolia, via CommandBar’s Algolia integration.
Algolia—Best Backend Site Search Tool
Algolia was one of the first site search leaders and continues to dominate the space. Algolia is a speed-first solution that utilizes advanced caching techniques to surface relevant content quickly to the end user. Algolia includes a widget that can be embedded in your website to expose a site-search interface, but you can also use Algolia with your own search-bar by queuing it directly for results.
Algolia’s pricing is very transparent because it outlines your max-cost without factoring in bulk-discounts (as opposed to hazy “enterprise” pricing). Algolia’s free tier includes 10,000 searches (all time), 10,000 recommended results per month, and 10,000 records per month. Depending on your usage, any one of those parameters could be your limiting factor to upgrade, although it’s most likely the former two. Afterward, Algolia charges $1.00 per 1,000 requests / month and an additional $0.60 for Algolia Recommended results. For larger companies, you will be able to snag Volume discounts or Committed-Use discounts.
Algolia is enterprise-focused, with a number of major brands, like Lacoste and NBCUniversal, listed as their customers. It is one of the most secure site search tools with SOC 3 certification. Algolia is also extensible—if you want to utilize CommandBar’s omnipotent capabilities and form factor but also harness Algolia’s backend search capabilities, you can integrate CommandBar with Algolia to get the best of both worlds. This is a great match if you dislike Algolia’s bloated default search UI but love its performance benefits.
AddSearch—Best eCommerce Site Search Tool
Branded as AI-powered search, AddSearch is focused on e-Commerce companies that want to grow conversions by recommending the right products to customers. AddSearch includes a search widget UI, but is more focused on exposing the ideal results to each customer. While similar to Algolia’s value proposition, Add Search has a different tier-based pricing scheme. There is no free tier, and you need to purchase premium ($499/mo) to customize your search-bar, alongside other bundled features such as managing search results and synonyms support.
AddSearch, however, isn’t as fast as Algolia. Algolia focuses on caching results and connecting directly to your database; AddSearch instead requires less developer effort but utilizes crawling to discover pages on your website, similar to how Google works. As a result, AddSearch is not always in sync and can take 3-7 days to showcase new content. As a result, AddSearch is better for businesses with a slowly growing product catalog.
While AddSearch is e-Commerce focused, many e-Commerce websites may still utilize a generalized solution like Algolia if speed is a priority. However, if you run on WordPress, you can utilize AddSearch’s WordPress plugin to easily sync AddSearch with your product and page catalog.
Swiftype—Best Elasticsearch Site Search Tool
Owned by Elastic which pioneered Elasticsearch, Swiftype is a site search product focused on being easy to implement and maintain without boasting the same recommendations benefits of Algolia or AddSearch. While that might sound like Swiftype is engineered for smaller organizations, they have numerous enterprise clients including Aol, CBS, Shopify, Samsung, and Okta, who all likely tap Elasticsearch’s generalized search features (which can be utilized in backend contexts too).
Swiftype focuses on simplicity through two value props—an easy-to-integrate widget and simple-to-analyze analytics. Swiftype is fantastic for businesses that don’t see site search as a major feature but do want to implement it without harnessing too much team bandwidth.
The pricing is tier-based like AddSearch and is slightly cheaper at $199/mo for the main tier. However, after 10,000 objects, you need to upgrade to enterprise which doesn’t have transparent pricing. A majority of Swiftype’s revenue, unlike a more size-agnostic product like Algolia, is likely from enterprise deals.
Search.io—Best Complex Query Site Search Tool
Purchased by Algolia in 2022, Search.io is a site search product focused on complex results. Unlike most search results that feature fancy dropdowns that primarily hyperlink to the object’s dedicated page, Search.io includes a hybridized search + browse experience optimized for e-Commerce surfing. Search.io makes it easy to include reviews & ratings, descriptions, discounts, and more in the search results alongside filtering for each of those after a search is initiated.
A good way of thinking about Search.io is that it delivers an Amazon-like browsing experience for any website. You can surface results that are similar because they share similar language (accounting for synonyms), and you can personalize results by factoring in customer data such as purchasing trends and geographies. Search.io is SMB friendly but also has enterprise clients including the BBC, Unity, Sennheiser, and Lockheed Martin.
Search.io pricing is tier based. The cheapest tier is $19/mo and includes 10,000 queries a year, and the most expensive tier is $999/mo and includes 1M queries. Afterward, you’ll need to upgrade to their enterprise tier with opaque pricing. Search.io has a hidden free tier which is similar to the Starter tier but includes their logo on the search box.
Currently, there are no public plans regarding how Search.io will relate to Algolia, notably if Search.io remains independent or will be integrated into Algolia’s general stack.
Luigi’s Box—Honorable Mention
Europe-based Luigi’s Box is a site search tool that has a distinct form factor. Luigi’s box utilizes a columnar pop-up to separate search categories, recommended products, and search results from the user query. Luigi’s Box is heavily optimized for e-Commerce and is designed for companies that try to encourage users to purchase popular products and take profitable paths.
Luigi’s Box boasts conversions as high as a 35% boost. They have a free tier to try the product without any focus on increased conversions. Paid tiers, retailing at 199€/mo and 299€/mo are designed to increase conversions. Additionally, you can utilize their built-in form-like experience to get a custom quote based on your site search needs.
Luigi’s Box utilizes some older design conventions and may be the perfect addition to websites that were designed between 2007 and 2015 and that haven’t updated their aesthetic since. While the look may be dated, it is functional and may be perfect for website’s with an older customer base.
Site search can dramatically improve your overall user experience by helping users find results on your website quickly, whether that results in improved retention or paid conversions. For any growing, sprawling, or complex product, site search is a worthy investment worth exploring even early on in a brand or product’s growth. Sometimes, site search can help you differentiate your product from competitors.
There are plenty of site search tools on the market for different types of websites. If you are an e-Commerce business, there are tools specifically designed for your storefront, like Algolia. Meanwhile, for products with search needs beyond documents, like page actions or navigation, and those wanting to include nudges, and other UX widgets - then CommandBar is an effective solution. Algolia’s split backend & frontend approach pairs well with widget UX leaders like CommandBar to get the best of both worlds, too.