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On-site search improvements for Magento

27.01.2015

A good performing on-site search is a critical component of a successful e-commerce website. Visitor to the site will be able to easily find the products that they are looking for and purchase much more easily than with a poor performing search.

Solr is the default search engine used for Magento Enterprise Edition (not used in the community edition). This engine uses Lucene Java search library for text indexing and search. If you are a store owner, you are probably aware of the bad results returned by the Magento search engine when you test it.

It does not have to be that way of course, because you still can take the Magento on-site search function to the next level by using third party extensions. With a bit of money spent, setup and configuration, every store owner can get a good on-site search engine working for their customers. The following are some of the best options for you to quickly improve your Magento store’s on-site search experience.

Sphinx Search Ultimate

As the name tells you, it is arguably the best on-site search solution for Magento out there. The setup can seem a bit daunting for beginners, but the struggle is worth it. Created by Mirasvit, this product combined three products in one; Search Spell-Correction, Search AutoComplete & Suggestions and Advanced Sphinx Search Pro. The search engine uses Sphinx technology which is used in many major sites such as Tumblr, The Pirate Bay and Youku among others. This extension will cost you $149 and you can expect to get the following improvements:

• Increased speed: Sphinx search takes less time to perform compared to the default Magento search engine. This will be even more noticeable when you have larger databases.
• High relevancy: With Sphinx, users will get more relevant results because of the better search algorithm; Exact matches ranks higher, keyword frequency is taken into consideration, typing error correction, long tail search and also proximity analysis.
• Stemming enabled: your customers will have the same results for singular or plural forms of keyword search.
• Normalisation of spelling variations, abbreviations, synonyms, etc.
• More options for your customers to customise their search such as category search, product search by tags, etc.

From the conversion front, statistics show a promising 50% conversion increase by using Sphinx. Definitely not a bad number and it is also 100% open source in case you want to tweak something yourself.

Sphinx Search

Better Store Search (BSS)

This search extension enhances the accuracy of Magento on-site product search by moving products that better match search queries to the top of the results. Google uses this method of search relevance as well. There is also the phonetic matching features that will ask “Did you mean xxx” just like Google. This extension price starts from $249 and with that, you can expect to get the following benefits:

• Plural-singular word form adjustment to ensure product relevance
• Match all your Magento categories to your product search results including items that belong to a category if the category’s name is matched in the search.
• Assign weight to product categories to decide whether they will appear higher or lower in search results.
• Full 30-day refund policy if it does not improve your on-site search.
• Allowance to install it on different domain/server development environment

This module significantly improves the search results compared to Magento default search, but it still suffers from some issues:

• Lack of improvement for multiple word searches, e.g. searching “HTC phones” gave “Nokia phones” in the demo.
• Poor recognition of wrong queries such as “Shoees”. It won’t return any shoe product.
• Questionable attributes ranking system for the search result. For instance, camera search will return you a camera charger at the top instead of a camera which is less intuitive and less logical to the customers.

Better Store Search magento

Solrgento

This search module is developed by German developer Damian Luszczymak and first appeared in 2010. It overwrites Magento’s search index so that the product data will now be present in the Solr-Index and not in the database. The search index will be updated automatically where there are updates in the product data. Configuration is relatively complex but self-explanatory.

Solrgento Magento Search

At €750, this is the most expensive search extension that you can get out there. You will probably be surprised by the high price and wonder what comes with it. You can expect the following:

• Features rich with fuzzy search solution, auto complete, rank, search tips, and fast caching. Developers predict 200 times shop search performance increase with this module.
• Great error recognition which guarantees customers to still find the products that they want even with wrong search queries.
• Unique to this module is the Browse content (CMS) pages feature.
This module delivers an overall solid on-site search capability with some unique features. But you will still find a few thing lacking:
• There are many cheaper options available.
• This module is missing an alternative search suggestion “Did you mean…”
• No online demos which will deter many prospective buyers at this price point.

The three above modules are among the most comprehensive on-site search solutions available for Magento. If you look for search modules in Magento connect, you will find a lot of available search extensions. Note that some of these modules will perform a very specific task only such as auto-complete and they are available at a lower price point. Some of them are even available as a free extension (Catalog Search Refinement is an example of such module).

For the best value for money, Sphinx Search Ultimate is worthy of consideration. The more expensive solution such as Solrgento and Better Store Search can also be an option depending on your server setup, features preference, store size and search engine preference. When possible, always run a test to ensure that your module choice can meet your expectations.

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