Add Super Fast Search in Your Gatsby Website

Add Super Fast Search in Your Gatsby Website

This post explains the whole flow from indexing data to building search UI on your Gatsby website.

Edited @ 5 June 2022

This post is outdated, especially with Autocomplete.js. Its new major version has been released. Check out the repository.

Let's add super fast search feature from Algolia to your Gatsby website. Here are the steps:

  1. Setup your account at Algolia
  2. Make your Gatsby build script to upload contents to Algolia
  3. Add search UI that works with Algolia server

This guide is based on gatsby-starter-blog.

This post guides you to do everything from scratch including backend(indexing) to frontend(search UI).

However you can also check out docsearch program and let Algolia do the most of part for you. Check out the documentation if interested.

FYI, is using docsearch.

1. Setup Account

Sign up at Algolia.

Click Indices > Create Index. Let's name our index posts. Type posts. We will not have multiple indexes here based on environments like dev_posts or prod_posts. So let's stick to posts without environment indicator.

Click API Keys and grab values of the following:

  • Application ID
  • Search-Only API Key
  • Admin API Key

2. Indexing

yarn add dotenv gatsby-plugin-algolia
# or
npm install dotenv gatsby-plugin-algolia --save

Create a file .env:


.env is included in .gitignore which means it will never be committed to your git repository. Since it contains GATSBY_ALGOLIA_ADMIN_API_KEY, it shouldn't go public. If you use service like Netlify to deploy your project, you have to set up those environment variables there. For example, at Netlify, visit Settings > Build & deploy > Build environment variables and add those.

Open gatsby-config.js and add the following under plugins:

module.exports = {
  plugins: [
      resolve: `gatsby-plugin-algolia`,
      options: require(`./gatsby-plugin-algolia-config.js`),

Create a file gatsby-plugin-algolia-config.js:

// gatsby-plugin-algolia-config.js

  path: `.env`,

const queries = [
    query: `
        allMarkdownRemark {
          edges {
            node {
              frontmatter {
              fields {
    transformer: ({ data }) =>
          node: {
            frontmatter: { title },
            fields: { slug },
        }) => ({
          description: excerpt,
          path: slug,

module.exports = {
  appId: process.env.GATSBY_ALGOLIA_APP_ID,
  apiKey: process.env.GATSBY_ALGOLIA_ADMIN_API_KEY,
  indexName: process.env.GATSBY_ALGOLIA_INDEX_NAME,

dotenv will pick up environment variables from your .env file during a build process. The names of the environment variables start with GATSBY_ because they're also used at runtime in a browser.

As you see the config above, we're using excerpt as description and slug as path.

Assuming you already have at least one blog post, let's upload your contents to Algolia server.

gatsby build
# or
npx gatsby build

If you have gatsby-plugin-offline configured in your project, gatsby build will create service worker for you and it's not helping when you develop on localhost. Let's delete public folder, unregister service worker under your testing domain(i.g. localhost) at Chrome DevTool > Application > Services Workers and restart gatsby develop.

Now, let's go back to Indices menu at Algolia. You'll see records. Each record will contain title, description and path. We will use title and description as searchable attributes and show them at search result. When a user clicks an item from the search result, the user will be redirected to its path.

At Indices > Ranking > Searchable Attributes, add title and description.

At Indices > Display > Display & Pagination > Attributes to highlight, add title and description.

Okay, we're all set.

3. Search UI

It's time to attach a search UI to your frontend. Algolia provides InstantSearch.js and its React version, React InstanceSearch.js, but we're not going to use it. It is a full-featured search UI library with various built-in components. For now, we just want a simple UI. So we'll use autocomplete.js.

First, open Layout.js and import SearchBox.

  <SearchBox />

Create a file SearchBox.js:

// src/components/SearchBox.js

import React, { Component } from "react";
import { navigate } from "gatsby";
import "./SearchBox.css";

let algoliasearch, autocomplete, client, index;

if (typeof window !== "undefined") {
  algoliasearch = require("algoliasearch/lite");
  autocomplete = require("autocomplete.js");
  client = algoliasearch(
  index = client.initIndex(process.env.GATSBY_ALGOLIA_INDEX_NAME);

class SearchBox extends Component {
  componentDidMount() {
    if (typeof window === "undefined") {
    autocomplete("#algolia-search-input", { hint: false }, [
        source: autocomplete.sources.hits(index, { hitsPerPage: 5 }),
        displayKey: "title",
        templates: {
          suggestion: function ({ _highlightResult: { title, description } }) {
            return `
                <p class="title">${title.value}</p>
                <p class="description">${description.value}</p>
            '<div class="branding">Powered by <img src="" /></div>',
      function (event, suggestion, dataset, context) {
  render() {
    return (
      <div style={{ marginBottom: "1rem" }}>
            border: "none",

export default SearchBox;

Create a file SearchBox.css:

// src/components/SearchBox.css

.algolia-autocomplete {
  width: 100%;
  color: #333;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-input,
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-hint {
  width: 100%;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-input {
  padding: 0.5rem 0.5rem 0.5rem 1rem;
  border-radius: 0.25rem;
  border: 1px solid #ccc;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-hint {
  color: #999;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-dropdown-menu {
  width: 100%;
  background-color: #fff;
  margin-top: 0.25rem;
  -webkit-box-shadow: 0px 2px 6px 0px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2);
  -moz-box-shadow: 0px 2px 6px 0px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2);
  box-shadow: 0px 2px 6px 0px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2);
  border-radius: 0.25rem;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-dropdown-menu .aa-suggestion {
  cursor: pointer;
  padding: 0.5rem 1rem;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-dropdown-menu .aa-suggestion .title {
  font-size: 1rem;
  margin-bottom: 0rem;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-dropdown-menu .aa-suggestion .description {
  font-size: 0.9rem;
  color: #999;
  margin-top: 0.25rem;
  margin-bottom: 0rem;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-dropdown-menu .aa-suggestion.aa-cursor {
  background-color: #c4d3e4;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-dropdown-menu .aa-suggestion em {
  font-weight: bold;
  font-style: normal;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-dropdown-menu .branding {
  font-size: 0.9rem;
  color: #666;
  text-align: right;
  margin: 0 0.5rem 0.25rem 0;
.algolia-autocomplete .aa-dropdown-menu .branding img {
  height: 1.25rem;
  position: relative;
  top: 0.25rem;
  margin-left: 0.25rem;
  margin-bottom: 0;

Add new dependencies:

yarn add algoliasearch autocomplete.js
# or
npm install algoliasearch autocomplete.js --save

algoliasearch queries to Algolia server and autocomplete.js displays its result. They are a perfect couple.

The reason why we're checking the existence of window is that window is not provided during a build process(ref #1 #2).

templates.suggestion returns a template for each result item.

On autocomplete:selected, you see navigate function being called. navigate is from gatsby and that's what Link from gatsby calls internally. So when you programmatically navigate to an internal path, navigate is a way to go.

You will want to change the style of SearchBox. To make it easier, replace second argument of autocomplete function from { hint: false } to { hint: false, debug: true } temporarily. The search result popup will not close on blur. You can check other options for autocomplete.js here.

The actual code in this guide can be found here.

I hope you enjoyed this and let me know what you think.