Coveo unified search: answers to your top FAQs

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Unified search is the latest evolution of the classical search index and has become the new standard in the modern information industry. This article addresses common questions about unified search so you can better understand what it is and how to put it to work for your business.

What is unified search?

Unified search is the newest search modality, allowing users to search a single, integrated search index containing different types of content from multiple data sources. 

Unified search ranks an entire corpus of information using a single user interface, allowing the user to obtain relevant information wherever it’s located. Please refer to our full overview of unified search for additional details.

Why is unified search better than federated search?

With federated search, the system searches multiple databases separately, and the results are combined and presented to the user. In contrast, with unified search, all the data sources are searched at the same time.

Unified search is often seen as more efficient than federated search because it reduces the number of steps needed to find information that matches a searcher’s intent. This article contains more information contrasting the two approaches.

What are the benefits of unified search?

Unified search allows users to search for information using one search bar, where all relevant results are brought to them regardless of data source and are ordered automatically according to their relevance to the search terms. 

Unified search delivers a much better experience than a scenario where the user must visit multiple sources, enter a search query repeatedly, and assess whether the search results are right.

The benefits of unified search are many; here are some of the most notable ones:

  • More relevant and helpful search results
  • A unified and personalized experience delivered to every visitor
  • Enabling self-service
  • Improved conversion rates
  • Improved customer satisfaction
  • Supporting automated marketing, e-commerce, and customer support processes

Has unified search replaced federated search?

Yes. Most modern search solutions use unified indexes.

How does unified search enhance performance?

All searches are fulfilled by a single unified index, which is more efficient than conducting multiple searches in different places.

What are the use cases for unified search?

You can use unified search in any application where there is a need to find relevant information as part of a business process. Some examples of areas where unified search could be helpful include:

  • Workplaces
  • E-commerce sites
  • Customer support environments
  • Custom websites
  • System observability
  • Cybersecurity

How does Coveo compare with ElasticSearch?

Coveo has better user interface frameworks and out-of-the-box integrations with applications like Salesforce and ServiceNow. It also offers far more application connectors (see below for more details).

ElasticSearch provides better data visualization via the Kibana application. It provides the flexibility of architecting the server cluster, but it requires expertise for management. In contrast, Coveo manages system complexity for the search administrator and provides controls related to search functionality.

How do AI and ML fit into the search paradigm?

AI and ML can play an important role in unified search. Here are a few ways these technologies can be applied:

  • Helping search engines understand the intent behind users’ search queries (natural language processing)
  • Personalizing results
  • Showing recommendations based on user type and behavior
  • Enabling image-based search

How can AI-enabled intelligent search help with recommendations?

Intelligent recommendations help users find relevant content based on the behavior of similar users. Recommendations are useful in all use cases and fall into two broad categories: those based on the context of the current search result and those based on overall user behavior, irrespective of context.

AI-enabled search keeps track of various parameters like user profiles, search queries, clicked results, items added to the cart, items purchased, and more. It uses this information to provide recommendations to other users, saving them time in finding relevant results and thus increasing the value for the business.

How do AI and ML reduce manual relevance tuning?

The Coveo search cloud deploys various AI/ML models, like the automatic relevancy tuning and query suggestion models. These models learn from user actions and provide results that have proven useful to new users, thus reducing manual system tuning. AI is important because as the number of parameters defining user behavior increases, it becomes untenable to manually tune the search engine.

What information does the Coveo cloud store?

The Coveo cloud stores the following information:

  • Data sources: content, metadata, and permissions
  • Configuration information related to data sources, search interfaces, and machine learning models
  • Analytics related to search interfaces that machine learning models use

Is the Coveo cloud secure?

Coveo has been engineered from the ground up with security in mind. Their Information Security Program defines the full scope of their data security operations, encompassing customer data security, vulnerability management, compliance, and much more.

Are passwords and credentials stored?

The customers completely manage architecture design, passwords, password rules, and user provisioning. Coveo doesn’t store or manage passwords. You can read more about Coveo's data security and credential management here and here.

Is data safe even if part of the system goes down?

The updates/inserts that make up the Coveo cloud keep your data safe even in case of downtime.

What is Coveo’s uptime?

Coveo offers exceptional uptime performance—typically over 99.9%. For detailed data, see the Coveo uptime tracker.

Does data reside only in my system, or is there a copy within the Coveo cloud?

Coveo stores a copy of the data that needs to be searchable and displayable in the Coveo cloud. Coveo administrators can control the metadata stored in the Coveo cloud.

How often is refreshing done? Is indexing incremental?

When custom connectors are used, refreshing is done in near real-time. For out-of-the-box connectors, it can happen at minimum intervals of five minutes or as scheduled. Note that incremental indexing consists of refresh and rescan operations; the timing provided here is for a refresh operation. Read more about refresh here.

What architecture does Coveo use?

Coveo is hosted using Amazon AWS, one of the leaders in the industry. You can find additional information on deployment options here.

Does Coveo offer vector search?

Coveo does not offer vector search as a function across all data sources, but it is built into the smart snippet ML model and generative AI answering features. Coveo competitors like ElasticSearch do offer vector search.

You can read more about vector search from Coveo and ElasticSearch

What are the multiple-language capabilities of Coveo as part of indexing and searching?

Coveo can index content written in 56 different languages. Read more about Coveo’s supported languages.

What are connectors and how do they work? Which ones are supported?

To retrieve your content and create a data source, Coveo uses connectors – modules that establish connections with specific types of repositories. The connector extracts the relevant data and other information, such as corresponding permissions, to store in your index.

Coveo supports dozens of connectors, including Salesforce, Sharepoint, and more. Coveo has a list of supported connectors and a list of integrations that you can review. 

Can Coveo allow me to build a connector to custom software?

Yes, Coveo supports custom connectors to suit your needs; see all the details and best practices in this guide.

Still have questions?

iTalent Digital is one of Coveo’s most capable and experienced technology partners. Vikas Sachdeva, VP of Product Engineering and Head of iTalent’s Enterprise Search and Personalization Practice, is a Coveo MVP (Most Valuable Partner).

Contact us at to explore how iTalent can help you achieve your unified search goals. You can also visit our dedicated web page or related blog articles to read more about our Enterprise Search expertise.

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