5 Plugins to Supercharge the Search Function on Your WordPress Site
If you’ve got a WordPress site with hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of articles that date back for years, one of the best things you can do for your regular visitors is to provide a powerful search feature that enables them to find specific posts.
It’s not always easy for people who visit your site to find what they’re looking for based on the default WordPress search feature. It’s best to provide a state-of-the-art solution, especially if you’re pushing out several posts per day.
Fortunately, there are numerous plugins available that provide enhanced search functionality. In this article, we’ve listed our top five choices when it comes to the best plugins to supercharge your search function.
One of the most widely used plugins for an improved WordPress search experience is the cleverly named Relevanssi. It replaces the standard WordPress search feature with a superior engine that also offers an improved display of the search results.
Relevanssi enables your visitors to search based on partial results. For example, this “fuzzy search” feature will show results for “appendicitis” when the user simply searches on “append”. Don’t ask me why that particular example came to mind…
Also, Relevanssi will sort search results based on relevance instead of date. That’s useful for people looking for an evergreen post based on a specific keyword.
Furthermore, the plugin enables visitors to search using boolean expressions. For example, a visitor can search for “albatross AND neck” and see results that only include both words. Alternatively, a visitor can search for “albatross OR neck” and see results that include either word.
Relevanssi also enables “phrase” searches with the use of quotation marks. For example, a visitor can search for “albatross around the neck” and see results that include only that exact phrase. (Seriously – I have no idea where these examples are coming from.)
Relevanssi also offers the following benefits:
- Excerpt displays, showing where the search result occurred.
- Highlighted search words when the visitor reads the entire post.
- Search results that include keywords found in comments, categories, tags, and even custom fields.
- A query log, so that you can see which queries are the most popular.
- Administrative control to adjust weighting for words in titles, comments, and tags.
- Search restriction based on categories and tags, if that’s what you want.
- A Google-style “Did you mean?” suggestion based on popular searches in the event that the visitor puts a typo in the search box.
- Multi-language support.
But wait, there’s more. All of the features described above are available in the free version of the plugin. If you opt to go for the premium version (available in three pricing models), you’ll enjoy the following additional features:
- Improved typo correction for the “Did you mean?” feature.
- Multi-site support.
- Search results based on user profiles, taxonomy term pages, and arbitrary columns in the WP_POSTS MySQL table.
- Increased weight to recent posts, if that’s what you want.
- Support for + and – (AND and NOT) in the search bar.
- Highlighted search expressions for visitors arriving from external search engines.
- Import and export functionality.
With over 80,000 installations as of this writing, many WordPress site administrators have found Relevanssi to be the “go to” option for a better search feature.
If you just want to add some enhanced functionality to your site, but don’t need anything quite as robust as Relevanssi, consider Better Search.
Better Search will give your visitors search results that are relevant to both the title and the content of the post. According to the plugin author, they’ll also find what they’re looking for faster than with the default search feature.
The plugin also enables you to customize the output. For example, you can add greater weight to the title or the content.
Better Search also tracks searches and will show you a “search heat map” that will display the most popular searches at your site. That heat map can be displayed to your theme’s footer or sidebar.
Additionally, Better Search offers the following features:
- Automatic replacement of your default WordPress search feature with seamless integration, so that you don’t have to do anything except install and activate the plugin.
- Search results based on relevancy or date.
- Support for boolean or natural language search.
- Highlighted search terms in the results list.
- Integration with cache plugins, such as WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache.
- A profanity filter.
Also, you can’t beat the price: It’s free. If you’re on a budget and you’re looking for a lightweight but superior search function for your WordPress website, Better Search might just be your best option.
If you’re looking for something that will give your visitors instantaneous results as they’re typing in search expressions in the search field, then you should consider Dave’s WordPress Live Search.
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The plugin – surprisingly written by somebody named Dave – queries the WordPress database while visitors are typing search words. It displays a sorted list of posts that match the results of the words as they’re being typed. This means that the search results are continually refined as the visitor continues typing. That’s why it’s called a “live search”. It’s Google-tastic.
Another selling point: The plugin integrates with the aforementioned Relevanssi for improved live search results.
Dave’s WordPress Live Search is currently active on over 10,000 websites as of this writing and enjoys a 4.5 star rating. Good on you, Dave.
For a sophisticated premium option that won’t break the bank, consider Ajax Search Pro for WordPress.
Search results are presented with featured images, if any are found. Results can include posts of any type, including WooCommerce products that might be advertised on the site.
As for the display of the search bar, the plugin offers four built-in layouts (vertical, horizontal, polaroid, and isotopic) with more than 60 predefined themes for each layout.
The plugin also comes with widgets that enable you to display the latest searches, most popular searches, and the search box itself in the sidebar of your website. Shortcodes are also available.
Ajax Search for WordPress also provides a configurable relevance panel so that you can fine-tune your plugin. If you’re a sophisticated database expert who uses MyISAM, you can opt for a full-text search and create indices with even more relevant search results.
The plugin also offers the following features:
- Multisite support.
- Keyword suggestions and autocomplete.
- Keyword highlighting in search results.
- Search statistics.
- Integration with Google Analytics.
- Export and import functionality.
- Performance tracking.
One thing that seems a bit user-hostile about the plugin is that, once the search is completed, the search field is no longer in focus. This means that the visitor will have to click on it again to perform another search. You can see that for yourself at the demo.
Still, Ajax Search Pro for WordPress has been downloaded more than 2,100 times and enjoys a better than 4.5 rating as of this writing. The author claims to update the plugin frequently in response to user feedback, and the reviews seem to support that.
Consider this plugin if you’re looking for a professional live search offering.
Last on the list is our very own Custom Google Search.
This plugin enables you to replace the standard WordPress search with a search powered by Google itself. Features include:
- Custom styles making the search look more attractive.
- The ability to limit the search to one site or multiple sites – great for Multisite!
- A built-in widget adds a search box to your sidebar.
- Different ways to display search results – on a search page, in a pop-up or in your sidebar.
With lots of styles and themes to choose from, you can really make your search box and results match the style of your page. As the results are powered by Google, your users are guaranteed to get far more accurate search results.
Custom Google Search is compatible with Multisite and BuddyPress, and is currently being translated into seven other languages, including Korean and Dutch.
WPMU DEV members can pick up Custom Google Search plugin now and start utilizing the power of Google search on their own website.
What’s your favorite search plugin for WordPress? Feel free to share your experiences with various search plugins in the comments section.