Evaluating Coveo For Sitecore
September 26, 2018
If you are evaluating a new search engine you are almost certainly looking at Coveo. After all, Gartner ranks them as the number one solution in their evaluation of insight engines. As you can see from Gartner’s magic quadrant Coveo is ranked number one in terms of both vision and ability to execute.
For a full copy of the report visit here.
If you’re evaluating search engines for your Sitecore instance, Coveo becomes an even easier choice. There is literally no other product on the market that has the seamless integration with Sitecore that Coveo provides.
Sure, you could implement SOLR or Azure Search to meet the basic requirements of Sitecore. But, be prepared for the extensive effort required to create even a basic search interface, let alone provide advanced features like query suggestions and auto-correct of search terms.
By contrast, Coveo provides a simple, easy to implement solution that enables advanced features right out of the box. Not only does Coveo provide a robust search solution, its machine learning technology automatically tunes results based on the content your users find most relevant to specific search terms.
Automatic relevancy tuning has advantages that go far beyond improving search results. It enables you to provide relevant content to your users throughout their journey. In fact, as a relevancy engine, Coveo allows you to provide automated personalization on any page of your site.
How? By providing users relevant content based on the page they are currently viewing, as well as the viewing history of users like them. Since Coveo is fully integrated with Sitecore’s xDB analytics it can track user’s behavior down to the persona with which they are the most closely associated.
While this is extremely powerful in a content management scenario, it becomes invaluable in eCommerce. Amazon estimates that a full third of its sales are driven by the recommendations found in its “similar products” and “customers also bought” listings. Coveo enables you to bring this same technology to your eCommerce experience.
Technologies such as this are, generally speaking, complex and expensive to implement. Even evaluating them requires a multi-month project to implement a simple proof of concept (POC). But, this is one of the things I find the most interesting about Coveo. You can create a simple POC and evaluate its effectiveness in a surprisingly short amount of time.
In fact, we’ve found that with the help of TA Digital, you can have an initial POC up and running in as little as one day! We make this possible through our Coveo for Sitecore Accelerator and our “POC in a Day” service offering.
In this blog, I will lay out how you can get started with your Coveo evaluation quickly and how we can help.
Planning your POC
As with most things, a little planning goes a long way. To make your POC effective, you need to spend some time deciding which features you wish to test and how you will evaluate them.
While I’ve talked about some of the more advanced uses of Coveo for automated personalization, typically you want to start by implementing a dedicated search interface. This will allow you to run queries and see results quickly. Coveo enables this with an integrated editing environment.
You also need to decide on the strategy you want to use when indexing content. Coveo allows you to create a unified index consisting of content from Sitecore as well as a wide variety of external systems. And while this is a powerful feature you’ll certainly want to take advantage of, you should start by indexing and searching content contained within Sitecore itself.
You should also consider limiting the content you initially index to just the items in Sitecore that represent pages or rich content. By default, Coveo will index everything in Sitecore, which can cause issues when you’re evaluating search results. For instance, do you really want items contained in your system settings to show up in search? Probably not.
Finally, think about the environment you want to use for your POC. You will need an environment that contains up-to-date content, is available to your evaluators, and can be kept stable during the evaluation time frame. This can be an existing development or staging server although a dedicated test environment is ideal.
Implementing your POC
Once you’ve completed your planning, you’re ready to proceed with the implementation. Installation of Coveo in your test environment is surprisingly simple. Just install the Coveo for Sitecore package using the installation wizard and you’re ready to start configuration. Since Coveo is a cloud platform, there are no indexing or search servers to configure!
Configuration can be relatively straightforward, but, there are a number of settings that can be confusing for a first-time user. This is an area where TA Digital can really help your team succeed. Our accelerator package contains custom configuration files that implement Coveo best practices and make this step pain free.
Once Coveo is install and running, you are ready to start indexing content. Thanks to Coveo’s tight integration with Sitecore you can kick this process off using the standard Index Manager dialog. Coveo uses a push model for indexing. So the indexing process runs on your server and pushes the content out to the Coveo cloud. This alleviates issues with security and network access you’ll experience with other products.
And while your content is indexing, you can start creating your first search interface. Once again, TA Digital makes this easy for you by providing a number of starter interfaces in our accelerator. These interfaces demonstrate effective ways to deliver search results to your end users. That includes faceting the search results and using tabs to display different types of content. You can modify these starter interfaces quickly and be showing off results as soon as the indexing is complete!
Evaluating and Enhancing your POC
Your first POC is complete, so what’s next? It’s important at this stage to get as much input as you can from members of your organization and end users as well. Lots of question can come up at this point:
- Are the search results what users want to see?
- What information should the search interface display to users?
- Do the facets and tabs help the user narrow down the results effectively?
- What other content should you add to the index?
Take the time to get feedback and decide on your next steps. Many of the changes identified can be handled by modifications to the search interface itself. Others may necessitate advanced tuning or filtering techniques such as boosting and custom query expressions. These subjects are beyond the scope of this article, but, TA Digital can help you implement these enhancements and much more.
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