What is Search as a Service?
Search as a service is when an organization’s search functions are managed by an external provider under the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. This could be either an enterprise search or a site-specific web search.
SaaS models generally involve licensing of software on a subscription basis and are also referred to as web-based software or on-demand software. SaaS for searching can also be provided under various names: managed search, hosted search, cloud search, custom search, enterprise search, and even e-commerce search.
The last two decades have seen exponential growth in cloud computing and a subsequent explosion in the SaaS business model. Traditional methods of using software meant purchasing its license, using on-premises servers to deploy it, and having a dedicated team of developers and technicians to run it.
The SaaS model made life much easier for organizations. They can buy a monthly or annual subscription for the software required and access it remotely through application programming interfaces (APIs). Usually, there are add-ons that can be paid for as needed, as not every organization needs the full suite of tools. Not only is this simpler and economical, but it also allows the organization to save on costs such as maintenance and upgrades as they don’t own any hardware or software themselves.
The ‘Search’ Options
A search bar on the website needs to work well in order for the visitors to find their way to the right content on the site. Research indicates that 43% of users navigate to the search bar as their first action when they hit the site, so it’s important to get it right.
The organization could make use of the default search solution available with their existing content management system, they could develop their own search solutions, or they could outsource it to a service provider; essentially search as a service.
The default search functions of most content management systems are usually easy to use but also limited in what they can do. They lack advanced functional management features and technical features. This means no functions like analytics, reporting tools, crawler intervals, or spelling correction.
When the website grows bigger, the standard search solutions available sometimes do not keep up. The organization could build their own solution, but this is a complex field. It would need a dedicated IT team with the right knowledge of search technology. It is a time-consuming and expensive process.
This is where search as a service fits right in.
The Need for Search in an Organization
The digital landscape necessitates fast and powerful search capabilities.
Whether it’s an internal search function or an e-commerce company with pages and pages of products that consumers want to access, fast and efficient search is an essential component for success.
Enterprise search needs to be efficient for employees to be productive. Without targeted and organized search software, employees can spend about a third of their working day just gathering the information they need to execute their daily tasks. A unified search experience brings together all information in one place and makes it easily accessible, while increasing efficiency and productivity in the process.
An e-commerce business or a company with a focus on consumers will probably have a lot of content, and a lot of visitors. If the website’s search does not work well or quickly, they risk losing those potential customers. Great search functions that yield specific and helpful results mean happy customers.
These are just two of the main reasons why cloud-driven infrastructures that have extensive API-driven integrations and automation are the top choice for search solutions. Search as a service can deliver the necessary scalability in an increasingly big data-driven world.
The Need for Search as a Service
The search function is an essential component of any business database function, whether it encompasses internal databases, internal document stores, or the content of a website. As already mentioned above, search is needed for both internal employees and external customers, and a range of other stakeholders.
While enterprise search applications have existed since the early 1990s (primarily in the form of text search for documents), it was Google that provided a consistent search experience. Google set the benchmark for search applications, providing a solution that was simple, reliable, and consistent.
But delivering these mandates has become increasingly difficult for enterprises today. By their very nature, search applications must look in every nook and cranny to find the correct content and index it. This can entail integrating with a huge number of third-party software platforms, websites, file systems, and datasets. The complex security systems these platforms usually have pose an added challenge.
Moreover, implementing search for millions of documents with thousands of concurrent users, all with varying levels of security, is another challenge. Solving these challenges requires expertise and specialized software. It needs a total rethinking of the existing operating models that deliver the search application services.
A search as a service provider can handle all this hard work and guarantees scalability and performance for the searches of both users and customers in the process.
Because a search as a service is housed in the cloud and run and managed by the search as a service provider, using it keeps the organization from all the risks connected with major IT projects such as cost, time, and resources. It provides a customized and risk-free solution with excellent performance and a quick time to market.
How Does Search as a Service Work?
The basic premise of search as a service includes a site search engine that is developed, maintained, and hosted by the search service provider. It is made available to the customer over the internet. The organization can use this search engine to index their content and data. A high-quality search functionality, in the form of a search bar, is also integrated onto the website and intranet as required.
To use the search as a service model, the organization first needs to allow the search engine to access all relevant data on the website. This data is fed into the search engine in a specific format, usually JSON or CSV. The search engine then creates an index.
When the search engine accesses multiple distinct databases and combines all the entries into a single index, it is referred to as federated search. Federated search allows users to have a better user experience while enterprises can better organize their databases, in a manner that is rational and convenient for them.
After the index has been created, they simply incorporate the search bar, which serves as the front-end interface for the search engine’s APIs. When users type a query into the search bar, the APIs fetch the appropriate results from a remote server.
Providers of search as a service usually offer easy integrations in the form of API plugins or add-ons.
Best Practices for Implementing Search as a Service
Businesses and organizations can significantly enhance their search capabilities and provide their users with a more individualized and relevant search experience by implementing search as a service. But as with any technology, it is essential to adhere to certain guidelines and best practices to ensure successful adoption.
Here are some pointers to consider when putting search as a service into practice.
Define the Search Goals
Defining the goals expected from the search function needs to be done before implementing search as a service. The organization should ideally define the kinds of content they want to make searchable, and the customization levels they need. They should also be able to approximate the expected volume of searches.
It will be easier for the organization to select the ideal search provider and guarantee a successful implementation if they have a clear grasp of the needs.
Choose the Right Service Provider
There are several search as a service providers to pick from, and each has their own advantages and qualifications. It’s crucial to thoroughly weigh the options and select a provider who suits the unique requirements and objectives of your business. To make the right decision, the organization needs to consider factors such as the provider’s reputation, the search engine’s features and capabilities, and the level of support and assistance offered.
Test and Optimize
To make sure the search experience satisfies the demands of the users, it must be tested and optimized after they’ve deployed the search as a service solution. To increase the relevance of results, they may need to make some tweaks to the ranking algorithms or to the design of the search results page. The organization may also have to make the addition or removal of certain filters and criteria.
The Benefits of Search as a Service
There are a range of benefits to enjoy from implementing a search as a service model.
It Brings Agility
Solutions provided by search as a service improve operational efficiency. Once it is installed and running, internal teams won’t need to spend countless hours debugging, testing, resolving logistical problems, or developing new features, because the search provider will take care of keeping things functioning.
In fact, self-service capabilities provided by search as a service enable the business to focus more on accomplishing organizational goals and less on optimizing search.
Costs Come Down
Companies incur fewer infrastructure and operational costs when using search as a service. Because they don’t need to hire separate operations teams for the search tool, the tech stack is made simpler, and work is completed quicker. For developers, these elements result in a fundamentally superior experience.
Speeds up Search Results
A good search experience has a need for speed. Websites utilizing search as a service can handle complicated search requirements such as alternate-language searches, typo tolerance, and personalization.
Reliability and Scalability
The search function must expand and change as the needs of the business do. For in-house search solutions, the organization will need to hire specialist developers to handle issues such as server downtime, network latency, and/or responsiveness concerns.
On the other hand, search as a service enables the company to delegate infrastructure support for dependability and scalability to outside professionals.
Enables Multi-channel use
Instead of developing different solutions for each channel, search as a service allows enterprises to power numerous channels with a single search solution. Because of this, consumers can access rapid, pertinent information regardless of the search channel they choose, including desktop, mobile, voice, and mobile web and applications.
Eliminates Data Silos
Most enterprises have numerous divisions, properties, and data silos on their own websites. All of these can be readily covered by a good search as a service tool, providing the user with a unified view of all the content, products, and services in a user-friendly interface.
Provides Actionable Insights
Search as a service has one key advantage that no business can overlook- these solutions can track user activity and give website owners the tools to act upon the insights. They can see the performance of various pages and pieces of content with the site search analytics, which also reveal which resources are the most effective and why.
Additionally, analytics provide information on conversions, keywords, inquiries, the efficiency of CTRs, and other industry or business-specific things. This data, supplied in an easy-to-use dashboard from the service provider, also aids in making better selections about product and marketing tactics.
Customization and Flexibility
When businesses have the right search as a service provider, they can let the business-specific needs and goals drive the search configuration and design. Such customization ensures that the search is matched perfectly with the business. What’s more, the organization can adjust components such as ranking factors and prioritization to keep improving the search tool and better serve the customers’ needs.
Personalization is the future of search. The search as a service provider can supply the business with the infrastructure, data, and analytics needed to support personalized search at a scale that in-house solutions or search plugins simply cannot match.
When the user feels that the search results are catering to their needs, the more opportunities they have to upsell or cross-sell with related products or content. Moreover, the business can then optimize the search for multiple languages at the same time.
Customizable Visual Design
If they’re creating their own search function, the organization will have to spend some resources on the user experience (UX) as well as the visual design of the tool too. The search as a service provider can offer a choice of visual designs and themes that integrate perfectly with the website.
These graphics can be personalized; customization means the business can try various components inside the program to find a visually appealing layout. Pagination, filters, and facets are just a few of the design options that interact with the search to give users a simple and seamless experience.
Effective functionality leads to efficiency. Search as a service providers make significant investments in the back-end capabilities, including everything from timely indexing to quick answers to querying to federated search.
This frees them up to concentrate on adjusting and perfecting their own search results.
Optimized search as a service solutions offer highly relevant and customized results for each site visitor. This is in contrast to the generic, frequently unprioritized lists of results produced by default CMS or e-commerce platform searches.
What Should an Organization Look for in a Search as a Service Tool?
Search technology has come a long way, especially with the use of machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).
There are some essential factors the search as a service tool should have:
- Fast, accurate, and intuitive results
- Advanced predictive analytics and language modeling algorithms that find the most relevant information in the data
- Ability to present possible search results as the type
- Typo tolerance
- Optimized and customizable layouts that perform well across devices
- Multiple language support
- Simple, yet intuitive dashboard
- Data-driven insights that improve customer experiences, increase conversions, and assist in identifying and understanding trends
Optimize Search Capabilities with Search as a Service
Search as a Service can be a helpful alternative for businesses wishing to increase their search capabilities. These tools can improve UX and cut down on development time. Search as a service tools are adaptable, expandable, and in many instances, economical. They can be tailored to match individual needs and utilized across several platforms.
Search as a service offers online businesses a variety of search-related advantages that can help them flourish in the current, fiercely competitive online environment. Furthermore, these search engines can level the playing field for smaller enterprises, too, by drastically decreasing the cost and time needed to provide fast and highly-relevant search results.
For enterprises, search as a service also provides a cost-effective way to improve operational efficiency and improve the customer experience.