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Elasticsearch Indexing Best Practices

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Elasticsearch is a powerful and versatile search and analytics engine that is widely used for a variety of applications, including full-text search, log and event data analysis, and more. One of the key components of Elasticsearch is its indexing process, which is essential for efficient and effective searching and analysis. In this extended blog post, we will delve deeper into Elasticsearch indexing, exploring best practices and providing code examples to illustrate these practices.

Understanding Elasticsearch Indexing

Before we dive into the best practices, let’s gain a more profound understanding of what indexing entails in the context of Elasticsearch. Indexing is the process of adding and organizing documents (data) within Elasticsearch so that they can be efficiently searched and retrieved. Elasticsearch uses an inverted index data structure to achieve fast search performance.

Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the indexing process:

  1. Document Ingestion: Data is ingested into Elasticsearch in the form of documents. A document is a JSON object that represents a piece of data.
  2. Tokenization and Analysis: Text fields in documents are tokenized and analyzed. This involves breaking text into individual terms (tokens) and applying various text processing techniques like stemming, lowercase conversion, and stop-word removal.
  3. Inverted Index: Elasticsearch creates an inverted index for each field in the documents. An inverted index is a data structure that maps terms to the documents that contain them. This enables efficient full-text search.
  4. Storage and Indexing: Elasticsearch stores the documents and the inverted index on disk in a highly compressed format for efficient storage and retrieval.

Now, let’s explore in detail some of the best practices for Elasticsearch indexing.

1. Choose the Right Data Model

Before you start indexing data in Elasticsearch, it’s crucial to design a data model that fits your use case. Consider the following points:

  • Index Per Use Case: Create separate indices for different types of data or use cases. For example, store log data in one index and user profiles in another. This helps maintain data isolation and simplifies index management.
  • Mapping Types: Elasticsearch 7.x and later versions only support a single mapping type per index. Plan your data model accordingly and avoid using multiple mapping types within a single index.

2. Define Proper Mapping

Mapping defines the schema of your documents. Defining a proper mapping is essential to specify data types, text analyzers, and other settings. Here’s an example of defining a mapping for an Elasticsearch index using the Elasticsearch Python client:

from elasticsearch import Elasticsearch

es = Elasticsearch()

index_name = "my_index"

mapping = {
    "mappings": {
        "properties": {
            "title": {"type": "text"},
            "date": {"type": "date"},
            "content": {"type": "text", "analyzer": "english"},

es.indices.create(index=index_name, body=mapping)

In this example, we define a mapping for an index named “my_index” with three fields: “title,” “date,” and “content.” This mapping specifies that “title” and “content” are of type “text,” while “date” is of type “date.”

3. Use Bulk Indexing

When inserting a large volume of documents into Elasticsearch, using the bulk API can significantly improve performance. Here’s an example using Python’s elasticsearch-py library:

from elasticsearch import Elasticsearch
from elasticsearch.helpers import bulk

es = Elasticsearch()

docs = [
    {"_index": "my_index", "_id": 1, "_source": {"title": "Document 1", "content": "This is the content."}},
    {"_index": "my_index", "_id": 2, "_source": {"title": "Document 2", "content": "More content."}}

success, failed = bulk(es, docs)

The bulk API allows you to send multiple documents in a single request, reducing network overhead and improving indexing speed, especially when dealing with a large dataset.

4. Tune Refresh and Flush Intervals

Elasticsearch has two essential settings related to data persistence and searchability: refresh interval and flush interval. The default values are generally suitable for most use cases, but in high-write scenarios, you may need to adjust these settings carefully.

  • Refresh Interval: The refresh interval controls how often new data becomes searchable. The default is one second ("1s"), but you can adjust it to a longer duration if your data is not required to be immediately searchable. For example, setting it to "5s" would reduce the overhead of frequent refreshes.
  • Flush Interval: The flush interval determines how often data is persisted to disk. The default flush interval settings are generally appropriate. However, in situations where you have limited disk space or a high volume of data, you can increase the flush threshold size to reduce the frequency of flushing to disk. For example:
PUT my_index/_settings
  "refresh_interval": "5s",
  "index.translog.flush_threshold_size": "512mb"

By fine-tuning these settings, you can strike a balance between search performance and data persistence efficiency.

5. Use Index Aliases

Index aliases provide a way to abstract the underlying index structure and simplify index management. You can use aliases to perform actions like reindexing or swapping indices without affecting the application’s behavior. For example:

POST /_aliases
  "actions": [
    {"add": {"index": "new_data_index", "alias": "my_index"}},
    {"remove": {"index": "old_data_index", "alias": "my_index"}}

This example demonstrates adding an alias “my_index” to a new data index while removing the same alias from an old data index. Applications can continue to use “my_index” without any interruption, and you can seamlessly manage your data behind the scenes.

6. Monitor and Optimize

Regularly monitoring your Elasticsearch cluster’s performance is essential to ensure it meets your requirements. You can use tools like Kibana or Elasticsearch’s RESTful API to monitor various metrics, including:

  • Indexing Rate: Monitor the rate at which documents are indexed into Elasticsearch. Sudden spikes or drops in indexing rates may indicate issues or changes in your data flow.
  • Query Performance: Track query response times to ensure that searches are performing efficiently. Optimize queries and indices as needed to improve performance.
  • Resource Utilization: Keep an eye on resource utilization metrics, such as CPU, memory, and disk usage. Ensure that your cluster has enough resources to handle your workload, and consider scaling horizontally or vertically if necessary.
  • Cluster Health: Monitor the overall health of your Elasticsearch cluster, including the status of nodes, indices, and shards.

Optimize your cluster configuration based on the observed performance metrics. This may involve adding more nodes, adjusting memory settings, or optimizing your queries and mappings.


Elasticsearch indexing is a critical aspect of building a fast and efficient search and analytics system. By following these best practices and gaining a deeper understanding of Elasticsearch’s indexing process, you can ensure that your Elasticsearch indices are well-structured, performant, and scalable. Remember to continually monitor and optimize your Elasticsearch cluster to maintain its reliability and performance.

Keep in mind that Elasticsearch best practices may evolve with new versions and updates, so it’s essential to stay updated with the latest documentation and community recommendations for your specific use case. Elasticsearch offers a rich set of features and capabilities, and mastering its indexing process is a crucial step towards harnessing its full potential for your applications.



Riya is a DevOps Engineer with a passion for new technologies. She is a programmer by heart trying to learn something about everything. On a personal front, she loves traveling, listening to music, and binge-watching web series.

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