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Getting Started with Sitecore Search

By Uy Tran



Sitecore Search is one of Sitecore's newest products and their official foray into search as a service. Up until the launch of the product, Sitecore had been relying on Solr search in their Sitecore XP product, or recommending customers use other third-party vendors such as Coveo or Searchstax.

This article will introduce you to the basics of Sitecore Search from the viewpoint of a Solr developer, so you'll be able to see and understand the different terminology, which will help you when you're setting up your own Sitecore Search instance.

Sitecore Search Concepts

  1. Content Types - One of the most important building blocks of Sitecore search. This corresponds to a document type in a solr database. The most common one you will be declaring will usually be "web page" (which can actually be named whatever you want it), but if you were to have concepts like "doctor" or "location," this is where you would declare that.
  2. Sources - This is similar to the concept of an index in Solr. Instead of the previously required master, core and web indexes that correspond to databases, you are more free to set these up to correspond to real world usage. Examples would be production, staging and dev, to correspond to your environments.
  3. Widgets - This concept is new, but extremely important to Sitecore Search. Widgets act as logical container for the consumption of your search, and allow its features to be segmented and applied specifically per widget. Imagine you had both a regular search results page and a find a doctor search page. Each would need a separate widget in Sitecore Search, so that search admins could individually pin results or exclude results without affecting the other interface.
  4. CEC - The customer engagement console. This is where power users and developers are expected to login to and use to view analytics reports and change different data settings. Previously, Solr was done almost purely in code and with an infrastructure admin interface. Now, you have an actual dashboard for users out of the box.
  5. API only - As of right now, there are no out of the box components. There are some sample repositories provided by Sitecore, however, as well as SDK support for React. You will likely be creating a middleware API layer if using the auth token, or can set up a FE application to call Sitecore Search directly if you set up a subdomain. While nothing is stopping you from implementing all these calls server side in MVC, the system is built to be consumed as an API, which means the front-end team can interact directly with Search.

Sitecore Search is a modern SaaS product, meaning it can consume content anywhere.

Advantages of Sitecore Search over Solr

  • No infrastructure - This is obviously the biggest one, as anyone who has had to set up and maintain Solr server knows, whether using traditional methods or Kubernetes. Arkane Digital even usually recommended outsourcing this to a company like Searchstax anyway, as the effort and skill needed to maintain the infrastructure carries a high cost. In addition, scaling is all handled by Sitecore, so you don't have to worry about traffic spikes if your company has a large conference or running a Superbowl commercial.
  • Integrated Analytics and AI - Performance of search results and even AB testing is included with the product. These same analytics are used to drive the AI learning and ranking of the search results, meaning relevant results will be promoted automatically, leading to better customer satisfaction. This also means that things like search suggestions are now included out of the box.
  • Works without Sitecore - This is potentially the biggest advantage of all. For large, complex organizations with multiple divisions and websites that might not necessarily be managed centrally, Sitecore Search is a modern SaaS product, meaning it can consume content anywhere. Solr was obviously tied very closely to Sitecore XP and you would have to create your own ingestion and consumption APIs if you wanted to use it outside of Sitecore. Sitecore Search includes smart crawlers and even API ingestion out of the box, so any site you have anywhere can be used in Sitecore search.

Sitecore Search Caveats

As your strategy partners, we're also here to help you make an informed decision. Here are a few of the disadvantages of Sitecore Search currently.

  • Maturity of the product - The product was acquired by Sitecore from a company called Reflektion, and the main product is actually Sitecore Discover, which is a powerful ecommerce search and recommendation engine. Search itself is an offshoot and relatively new.
  • Cost - While Sitecore Search is extremely competitive in cost, the search cost for Sitecore XP customers was usually "0" extra, as you need Solr for Sitecore to function anyway. But note as you move away from Sitecore XP to something like XM Cloud, Solr is no longer part of the package, and Sitecore Search and all of its features will be necessary to provide consumer facing search.


I hope that this article has been useful for those trying to get the details on Sitecore Search. We here at Arkane Digital would love to answer any further questions you have, so please feel free to contact us!

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