Penn Foster Upgrades Site Search
to deliver a seamless online experience

SearchStax saves time and money while providing agile features in higher ed website refresh

Our alternative to SearchStax technology was a large-scale internal development effort. And even with a substantial investment, that development would have given us a fraction of the capabilities we are getting. For instance, we wouldn’t have a user-centric UI that puts marketing in control. We would have no analytics. And marketing would have had to continually rely on development to tweak search.

Chad Smith
Senior Application Developer at Penn Foster


Founded in 1890 by newspaper editor Thomas J. Foster, Penn Foster is an institution with a long-lived legacy for helping students achieve professional advancement. It all started by offering coal miners education to advance their careers, increase their safety and improve their quality of life.

Over 130 years later, the institution’s commitment to helping students achieve their professional goals through affordable, accessible, career-focused learning hasn’t wavered; more than 13 million students have taken courses at Penn Foster, with over 100 accredited degree, diploma and certificate programs on offer.

As a pioneer of distance learning and programs that are designed to fit busy, professional lives, Penn Foster’s digital demands are rapidly scaling with each passing academic year.

Chief among those demands is creating a website user experience that connects visitors with the content they need to trust Penn Foster as their next step in higher education.


Penn Foster relies on its online presence to reach, engage and enroll potential students. That means their website has to deliver a top-tier experience that’s optimized to reduce user friction and eliminate the gap between prospective students and the information they’re seeking.

This goal supports one of their key web metrics: a conversion event that culminates in an enrollment.

Website search plays a critical role in their user experience and conversion pipeline as their site is incredibly content-rich; from general information to program options, to course details, to FAQs and so much more, their site serves as a major resource and information repository for both current and prospective students.

As the Penn Foster team embarked on a website refresh project, they identified search as a key success factor. However, with all of their other development priorities, improving search seemed like an impossible task.

The stakes: Penn Foster needed a way to improve their search experience, easily promote the right content and deliver relevant results as a top priority for their website refresh.


Penn Foster was already using SearchStax’s Managed Search service to manage the Solr infrastructure for their Sitecore-based website. When they learned that SearchStax had launched Site Search, an out-of-the-box solution, engineered to provide the agility they needed to optimize site outcomes, the Penn Foster team engaged SearchStax for a demo.

The rest is history.

According to Chad Smith, Senior Application Developer at Penn Foster, the top four reasons his team selected SearchStax include:

  1. Existing SearchStax Managed Search Customer – Penn Foster was already using Managed Search for their Solr infrastructure, so it was a natural extension to move forward with Site Search.
  2. Integration with Sitecore – SearchStax is tightly integrated with Sitecore and has integrations to reduce implementation time.
  3. SearchStax UX support – SearchStax’s involvement with the front-end design showed commitment to continued support, and the SearchStax UX Accelerator significantly reduced implementation time.
  4. Needed features at a better price – There aren’t many options for advanced search in the Sitecore world and SearchStax had the right features at a price that alternatives simply couldn’t compete with.


With the implementation of Site Search, Penn Foster was able to stay on-track and under-budget for their website refresh project.

But more importantly, they upgraded their site search experience without having to make sacrifices along the way:

“Before we knew of Site Search, we had to cut tons of search features to achieve our initial launch date. Now they are all back on the table, and more… This will change everything.” – Chad Smith

Penn Foster now delivers a website search experience that is:

  • Cost effective, reducing their yearly spend on search-related upkeep.
  • Incredibly agile, allowing dynamic changes to be made without pushing code.
  • Intelligent, providing full visibility into core performance metrics like most searched, impressions, CTR and most engaging content.

Penn Foster can now make search improvements with confidence and agility, giving their marketing department full control with the easy-to-use tools and data in SearchStax’s Site Search solution.


Site Search




North America


Higher Education

Let’s talk about how you can drive better onsite search experiences and gain insights with SearchStax