November 12, 2019

Algolia vs Swiftype – Search SaaS Comparison

Google announced it was sunsetting Site Search in 2017. This news had companies scrambling to find alternatives that could deliver the same quality results.

And so, ‘Search as a service’ tools became the new popular kid on the block.  

Getting a search bar right is tough. Understand that the reader’s expectations are set very high, thanks to the likes of Google & Amazon. Which only makes your job that much harder. 

It’s a big reason to not only use a ‘Search as a Service’ tool but also use one that suits your needs. Algolia and Swiftype are both popular options in this genre. 

You can use them to create a truly powerful site search function. One that delivers results quickly, precisely and in a manner that’s helpful to the reader. But which one is right for you?

Epitrove’s tip: If you have a small-scale website, using a search plugin could be more efficient and cost-friendly. Here’s a list of best WordPress search pluginsthat could be useful

Algolia vs Swiftype

In this article, we’ll be comparing the two on parameters like: 

  • Set-up and Indexing 
  • Generating search results 
  • Displaying search results
  • Analytics, Security & Support
  • Pricing

Here’s a summary for you.


Algolia

Swiftype
Ease of set upRequires some effort on
your part
Out-of-the-box
search engine set up
Technical
Knowledge
Is RequiredIs preferred but
not required
API availableYesYes
IndexingRequires data to be
pushed
Automatic crawler
Search results
generated using
Algolia ranking
formula
ElasticSearch
algorithm
Find-as-you-type
results
YesNo
Customizing
result
rankings
Decide order of
priority
– Exclude document
– Add weights to
attributes
Pin or delete
documents
anywhere in the list
– Add weights to
attributes
User InterfaceHighly customizable
but requires coding
Front-end styling
options
AnalyticsMore detailedReal-time data
Access controlUsing API keysUsing account
permissions
Free versionAvailableNot Available
Get AlgoliaGet Swiftype

Algolia vs Swiftype – Set-Up & Indexing

Ease of set up

Swiftype requires no knowledge of code to set up. So it’s easy to add a fully-functional search even for a novice user.

For more control, developers working with Swiftype can always use the API. 

Algolia, on the other hand, needs more technical know-how. And hence, it is probably best left to a developer. 

The idea behind Algolia is to provide tools to developers that help them create powerful search features. 

Epitrove’s tip: You could use the Algolia Dashboard to do an initial set up without using any code. However, to take advantage of the full feature set of Algolia it’s advised that developers use the API. 

Indexing Data

The Swiftype crawler automatically indexes all your webpages. It turns them all into searchable documents. This occurs as part of the setup process.

With Algolia, data needs to be continuously pushed as JSON objects to the Algolia index.

For optimization, it’s important that you push only relevant data to the index. Anything you don’t want showing up in a search can be left out.

Customizing Index

The Swiftype crawler by default crawls everything. However, you can use the Dashboard to manage and set crawl rules.

The rules decide which documents get indexed. Alternatively, if you really want to get into it, you can also use meta tags, robots.txt files or sitemap.xml files.

Algolia comes with pre-set defaults to keep the index relevance in check. And because you decide what documents are to be pushed to the index, it’s already optimized. 

However, for further fine-tuning, you can use two parameters – searchable attributes & custom ranking attributes.

Algolia vs Swiftype – Generating Search Results

Result ranking customization

Swiftype result ranking has two main parameters – Pinning documents and deleting documents.

You can pin documents to highlight the search result you want more people to see. Or you can delete documents you don’t want showing up in the result at all. You can also add weights to certain attributes. 

With Algolia you can use searchable attributes to define what shows up in the search. Not only that you can also decide which ones show up at the top.

Adding to that, custom ranking attributes let you decide which attribute gets higher priority. This could be popularity, availability, etc.

Search rules

Swiftype is powered by ElasticSearch. So, every great feature of ElasticSearch is lent to your search bar.

Algolia, on the other hand, has loads of unique features like geo-search & personalization.

Here’s the complete list:

SwiftypeAlgolia
Typo-ToleranceYes Yes
Highlighting of resultsYesYes
Faceted Search (filter by color, brand)YesYes
Synonyms (bag= clutch)YesYes
Stemming (see = seeing)YesNo
Bigram matchingYesNo
Proximity matchingNoYes
Phrase matching (fast food ≠ food fast)YesYes
Stop words and pluralsYesYes
Geo-based search (‘near me’ results)NoYes
Sorting ( by price, newest) YesYes
Prefix Searching (for as-you-type search)YesYes
Grouping & removing duplicate resultsNoYes
Personalization based on userNoYes
Support for multiple languagesYesYes

Relevance of results

Swiftype, thanks to ElasticSearch, packs a whole lot of powerful search capabilities. This includes bigram-matching, prefix matching, stemming, handling typos, concatenation, etc. These help you achieve better and more relevant results.

Algolia also has a lot of these functionalities. But what sells it is that it’s highly customizable. The primary way it calculates relevance is by using its ranking formula, which you can tinker with to customize it to your business

Algolia vs Swiftype- Displaying Search Results

Speed

Displaying results quickly is important for a good search feature. And Swiftype is a definitely big improvement from the default CMS search bar.

However, when it comes to speed, Algolia is a clear choice. The instant search feature matches the likes of Google. A distributed search network ensures that results are generated at lightning speed and are updated with every new word the user types into the search bar. 

User interface

When designing a user interface with Swiftype you work with the two main components of a search experience – The search field and the result box. Swiftype provides 2 out-of-the-box methods to add the two to your website: Site Search search tab and Site search overlay

Customize the appearance, layout & colors of the search and autocomplete result.

Building a UI with Algolia is a lot more complicated. InstantSearch.js is a Javascript library you can use to create and customize your search feature, but it has a bit of a learning curve

Algolia vs Swiftype – Analytics, Security, and Support

Analytics

Swiftype lets you view real-time data on queries as they are happening.

With the live dashboard, you can see searches around the globe as they happen. Additionally, you can view data for up to the last 90 days.

You get insight on popular searches, conversions & clicks. Choose to track a particular type of conversion and what caused it.

When it comes to analytics, Algolia is more detailed. It has out-of-box search analytics. Go ahead and measure search count, top results, top results with filters, top countries and more.

Clicks and conversion analytics give you an idea about what actions users take. You can now measure how relevant the results are by analyzing which results the user clicks on.

SwiftypeAlgolia
Analytics Retention30 days to 6 months7 days to 1 year
See Top searches YesYes
See ConversionsYesYes
See ClicksYesYes
Top results for specific filtersNoYes
Conversion trackingYesNo
Live analyticsYesNo
Segment analytics dataNoYes
Geo-basedNoYes
Lost opportunities ( low clicks & conversion rates)NoYes

Access Control & security

Algolia uses API keys to provide a way to secure access to your account. There are three predefined keys: Admin, Search-Only, and Monitoring API key. All three provide various levels of access.

You can also use API keys to add restrictions, group users, define the duration of allowed access.

In the case of Swiftype, different site search accounts can have various levels of permission.

The ‘Owner’ account can dole out various degrees of access to other members. The three permission levels in decreasing order of access are Admin, Editor, Viewer.

Both are ISO27001 & SOC 2 compliant for data security

Multi-site support

Swiftype supports search across multiple different domains. 

By comparison,  Algolia supports searches across subdomains of the main site, however, it does not let you create a search across different domains.

Documentation & Support

Both Swiftype and Algolia come with proper documentation and support. However, a few customer reviews seem to point to a few gaps in the Algolia documentation.

Algolia vs Swiftype – Pricing

Pricing with Algolia seems to be one of the primary complaints among users.

Very few of the advanced features are actually available for the free version. And you can only get features like advanced analytics with the Enterprise version. 
This tiered pricing plan gets expensive as you scale. 

Swiftype doesn’t have a free version. And overall it is pricier than Algolia. But the distribution of functionalities across the three tiers is more uniform

SwiftypeAlgolia
Free trial  AvailableAvailable
Free/Community versionNot AvailableAvailable-50k operations, 10k records
Standard/Starter plan$79/mo-50k queries, 5k documents$29/mo-250k operations, 50k records
Pro plan $199/mo-100k queries, 10k documents$499/mo
-5M operations,1M records
Enterprise planCustomCustom

Algolia vs Swiftype – Prominent Customers

Both Swiftype and Algolia have powered search for big enterprises:

Companies using Swiftype
Companies using Algolia

Algolia vs Swiftype – Pros and Cons

Swiftype

ProsCons
Requires no coding knowledge to set upNo free version
Automatic crawler for indexingExpensive, especially for smaller businesses
Multi-site supportPDF/Word Indexing not available with Standard Plan
Real-time analytics

Algolia

ProsCons
Incredibly fastDesigning your own search UI can be challenging
Displays search results as you typeNeeds technical knowledge to execute advanced features
High degree customization can be achievedPricing gets expensive as you scale
Personalized search
Advanced Analytics

Conclusion

If you’re looking for instant results, customization and are comfortable with code, Algolia will leave no room for complaints. However, if you are looking for a no-code, simpler but yet powerful search Swiftype might be your guy.

Let us know which one you would pick? And why?

If you think a search plugin might be a better fit for your website, check out this article comparing Relevanssi and SearchWP.

Is there another platform you’d recommend? Write to us in the comments.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this blog post might be affiliate links. When you purchase through a link on our website, we receive a small commission, at no added cost to you, which helps us run Epitrove and keep producing great content. This does not influence our recommendations; we only recommend products we work with or love. Thank you for your support!

Lavanya Deshmukh
Lavanya Deshmukh

Computer Engineer, food enthusiast and die-hard Harry Potter fan that now writes content full time for Epitrove

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