The default search that comes with your WordPress theme searches for the content in the POST MySQL database directly. It is rather slow depending on the amount of content present on the site and can be very imprecise. That’s why most big sites have an advanced search engine like Apache Solr and ElasticSearch installed in an SQL database and API’s that can make use of them.
What are the different API’s that can serve as a substitute to the default search?
WPSolr is a site search API developed for WordPress that can function with either Apache Solr or ElasticSearch. It is very inexpensive but does not include hosting of the Search platform. The user has to either locally host it himself or pay to remote host.
The plugin has a great deal of customization options. The user decides exactly what he would like to index and what he would like to show as suggestions or filters.
WPSolr has been designed with WooCommerce in mind and it is possible to index WooCommerce products, categories and tags.
Swiftype is easy to configure and works like a dream but has very limited customization options. You can use either API or crawler and all you have to do to index your site is enter the URL when the prompt appears.
Swiftype is rather expensive but also comes with ElasticSearch hosting.
One of its major downsides is that there are no filters available that are needed by users for discovering products that serve a specific purpose without needing to know a name.
Algolia is one of the biggest names when it comes to site search and powers huge sites like Twitch. It has a great number of databases around the world and offers a lightning fast search experience (1ms) but is a very costly solution.
ElasticPress is rather similar to WPSolr since it satisfies mostly the same needs. It has a search feature but also a number of filter options. The main difference between them is that Elasticpress can only work with ElasticSearch whereas WPSolr works with both Apache Solr and ElasticSearch.
SearchIQ is one of the easiest to install since all you have to do is install the plugin and input the API key from your purchase on their official website. It uses ElasticSearch and has many customization options like what type of content you want to index and the general appearance of the search but it’s major disadvantage is once again a lack of filters.
Site Search 360
Site Search 360 is a good solution if you want a standard search for your e-commerce site with it’s very beginner friendly installation and configuration. Site Search 360’s biggest strength is it’s great results page with integrated filters as well as a price range slider.