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Site search and APIs: How they work together

Search engines like Google and websites like Amazon have set the bar high for the user search experience. All businesses, regardless of their vertical or size, struggle to meet the high standard set by industry-leading websites and search tools. Reaching that bar requires developers to have high expertise in crafting complex search capabilities that are simple and rewarding to users.

Unfortunately, most development teams don’t have that specialized knowledge. With Search APIs, however, developers can quickly and seamlessly add powerful search capabilities to their web, mobile, and voice applications, without being search experts.

Though a Search API is primarily a tool for developers, it can help business users gain valuable insights from user search data and give end users a search experience that best meets their expectations.


What is site search?

Site search allows users to quickly search the content or product catalogs of a website and get relevant results. Some site search platforms, like Algolia, are hosted SaaS platforms, which provide the shortest time to market. Not all site search engines employ Search APIs, but search can be implemented much faster for a much better result if Search APIs are used. 

Site search benefits your customers by guiding them to the products, services, or content that they are seeking. It may even make them aware of things they didn’t even realize interested them. It reduces or eliminates the trial and error often needed to find relevant results. Search API features like typo tolerance, autocomplete, federated search, filters/facets, and personalization help to quickly get end-users the results they need.


Your company can also derive many benefits from site search:

  • Capture valuable data. You can analyze search data to better understand your customers’ behavior while browsing your site. For example, you can find gaps in your product offerings by seeing what customers are searching for.
  • Support SEO efforts. Knowing the search terms your customers use on the site can help your SEO efforts. Indeed, the terms they use when searching on your site are clues to effective keywords they are also using in global search engines like Google or Bing. 
  • Ease growing pains. As your website grows and hosts more content, it may get harder for users to find what they are looking for. Site search makes it easy for users to find relevant information, regardless of the amount of content to search through.
  • Hassle-free maintenance. There are added benefits if you use search-as-a-service. Using a hosted SaaS platform means you don’t have to procure, install, and configure servers. It also means that your end-users immediately benefit from any improvement introduced by the company managing the platform.


What are Search APIs?

Search APIs are software components that make it quick and easy to add search capabilities to websites or applications. They typically consist of backend tools that help developers index data, configure search queries, work with analytics, and more. Ready-to-run Search APIs exist to use with Python, PHP, Java, and other languages, minimizing the amount of code developers need to write.


How Search APIs enable powerful search experiences

Search APIs are the most straightforward way to integrate modern search capabilities into your website or application. Designing a search tool that meets all of the end-users’ expectations requires tremendous expertise in multi-linguistics, human-machine interactions, and computer systems. Search APIs incorporate that expertise into their code so that developers can easily integrate robust, fast and modern search capabilities in their websites or applications.

In this section, we’ll describe the main capabilities that developers will benefit from by using Search APIs.


Indexing data

When users search a website, the search engine does not read through every page on the site to find relevant content–that would result in very slow searches. Instead, an index is leveraged.

Indexing is a method used to extract relevant information from database records and prepare it for faster retrieval. An index is basically a table that associates keywords to data relevant to those keywords. 

Search APIs create such indexes, effectively searching ahead of any queries so that they can respond quickly with relevant search results. Indexing is a requirement for search that can live up to users’ high expectations.


Configuring search queries

There are a lot of different Search API solutions. The biggest differentiator among them is how granular a search query configuration can be. Search configuration is crucial to creating an experience where your users’ natural language can be clearly understood by the search engine. Without it, your users are forced to speak the language of your data instead of their own to find what they need. 

Some possible search behaviors that may be configured are:

  • Show the most recent results first
  • Show the highest rated content or products first
  • Filter results to find a specific size, flavor, brand, etc.


You should be able to configure the way the Search API interprets queries. Configurable items may include:

  • Understanding synonyms
  • Understanding abbreviations
  • Understanding the language of your users
  • The order of attributes in the list of searchable attributes. This directly impacts search relevance. Attributes that are higher in the list are considered more relevant than attributes further down.

More configuration options for search queries gives developers the opportunity to fine tune search results. It can ensure that the Search API understands the query and how it relates to your data, thus providing the best user experience possible.


Analyzing data 

Site search analysis is the detailed examination of visitors’ search behavior on your website. Those behaviors include keyword and key-phrase searches, filter and facet selections, and acceptance of search suggestions. 

The primary goal of search is relevance, since satisfying and engaging your users depends on this relevance. Search analytics provides data to help you improve search relevance. For example, analytics can show you new words or expressions your users may prefer so that you can ensure that the search feature understands them.

Analytics is a valuable tool that helps you understand your audience. It allows you to fine-tune the Search API to best meet the needs of your users. Search analysis also provides actionable business insights that can lead to improvements such as a better product catalog, more targeted content, and a better user experience overall. 


Use Search APIs to build a robust search experience 

Search APIs help developers efficiently and effectively implement optimized site search. They help business users gain valuable business insights. They provide end users with a more rewarding search experience. 

Get started providing your users with fast and relevant search results. Algolia’s Search API makes it quick and easy for developers to give users an optimal search experience. Learn more about innovative user experiences for improving e-commerce conversion rates with our eBook Search Beyond the Box.”