WordPress is constantly growing and developing, getting better year after year. However, there is one feature that has always stood out like a sore thumb – the Search function.
No matter how many versions of WordPress are released, the standard WordPress search functionality never seems to quite keep up with the rest. It offers very limited search capability. In fact, it displays the search results according to their dates rather than their relativity, and it doesn’t even search through custom post types, PDF content, tags, comments, excerpts and so on.
These limitations can harm the usability of your site, especially if you’ve got large amounts of content. Your users might want to look up a post from quite a while back and without a proper search function it might take them ages to find it, or they could just give up.
To overcome all this a few developers have worked hard to create a search box that can function as well as your site. I’ve gone through the top WordPress search plugins around and compiled a list of those that do the best job at enhancing your website’s user experience. So here it goes.
Setting up the search criteria is an easy process that comes with a lot of options. You’re free to choose which parts of your site you want to be searchable; post types, taxonomies, custom fields. PDFs are also searchable, making sure every bit of your content can be found by your users.
You’re even free to specify exactly what weight you want to give to keywords depending on where they can be found. So you can give more weight to titles than to comments or even just leave out a specific category.
You can even set up more than one search engine. So if there’s a particular section of your site that experiences heavier traffic than the rest you can add a search function to that section only. This won’t interfere with the main site’s search function and will help your users find more specific information.
Besides all this SearchWP is also very developer friendly. In fact you’ve got dozens of hooks you can easily customize to make sure the plugin works just the way you want it to. In addition to that, it even provides search statistics, showing you what your visitors are searching for as well as the results that they find and don’t find.
For even more functionality you have the option of adding a number of extensions to the plugin. These include such things as Live Search, Fuzzy Matches, Term Highlight, and so on. For a full detailed list of these extensions head over to SearchWP’s Official Extensions page.
For a visual look at what SearchWP does for you just check out the demo video below and be impressed.
SearchWP has three licenses on offer. A Single Site License costs $49; a Business License (5 sities) costs $129; and a Developer License (unlimited sites) costs $249. All licenses come with one year support, one year of automatic updates and all extensions.
Relevanssi is another very popular search engine to replace your default WordPress search. It’s got lots of features and configurable options that help give your visitors better and more accurate results in a more presentable manner.
With Relevanssi installed your visitors will even have the exact terms they searched for highlighted in the documents that come up, making sure they can find what they’re looking for that much faster. You’ve also got a free or a premium option. The free version is limited in its functionality and all new updates and features will only be added to the premium version. So let’s focus on that.
Of course you will get the same basic functions that I mentioned in SearchWP such as search results showing in order of relevance rather than date; adjusting the weighting for titles, tags and so on; indexing of custom post types and taxonomies; etc.
In addition to these it offers a cool feature called Fuzzy matching. What this does is it matches partial words rather than just the exact complete words you search for. So if you can’t remember the whole word, let’s say “Relevanssi”, you can search for “Rele” and it will still come up in your results.
Some of the other premium features from Relevanssi include assigning extra weight to new posts, searching and indexing user profiles and much more. For a full feature list comparison you can head to their Features page.
As I mentioned above, Relevanssi has a free as well as a premium option. The free option can be downloaded from the WordPress Plugin Repository while the premium version can be purchased from their site.
There are two Premium licenses; the Standard License offers unlimited installs on personal blogs and costs $39.95, and the Developer License offers unlimited installs on personal and client blogs and commercial sites, and this costs $69.95.
Toolset makes it easier for you to build some of the most important features for advanced websites – one of which is a custom search. Toolset’s search is designed so that even inexperienced developers can install it. In fact, you won’t need to use any complex PHP coding.
Some of Toolset’s search features include:
- The ability to search through all types of content
- Multiple filters including text, checkboxes and numbers
- Complete control over how your search results look – as a grid, a list, on maps or any other style
- AJAX updates to change results on-the-fly
- Pagination for your results
- Display results on custom maps which can be filtered by distance or from your current location
- Sort your results based on filters
- Search using quotes, ON and AND queries
Toolset even provides you with a Custom Types Training Course which offers you short videos teaching you step by step how to build a search as well as other types of custom content.
Toolset offers three types of pricing ranging from $69 for the first year for the Toolset Presentation account to $299 a year for the unlimited Toolset Agency account.
Once again you’re free to select what sections of your site you want it to search; pages, excerpts, tags, attachments, comments, custom fields, etc. You can even specify your own search highlight style and exclude any pages or posts you don’t want to be searched.
Two of the newer and cooler features added to Search Everything are Research Everything and Power Search. Research Everything lets you search for your posts and link to them while you’re actually writing a new post. Power Search enables the search to span out into the wider web.
Dave’s WordPress Live Search uses the in-built search and jQuery from WordPress but adds “live search” functionality. What this means is that as visitors type their keywords into the your WordPress site’s search box the plugin is continuously at work looking for search results that match what the user typed so far.
So if I’m looking for “WordPress”, as I’m typing it will start showing results with the letter “W”, then the letters “Wo”, then “Wor”, and so on. This means that your visitors have the chance to find what they’re looking for before they even finish typing their keyword.
Some Other Free Alternatives
- Replaces the standard WP search with a better, more relevant search engine.
- Searches run on their own powerful servers to avoid bogging down your site.
- Works with your theme’s search.php template – basically plug-n-play.
- Modify the weighting of posts, categories, etc.
- Modify what types of posts or categories are searched.
- Fast typeahead autocomplete search suggestions based on titles, tags and author names.
- Search results automatically update when you save, delete or change search content.
- A Swiftype dashboard from where you can re-order search results with a drag-n-drop feature.
- Impactful search analytics to help you understand your users.
Get Swiftype Search
- Automatically replaces the default WordPress search upon installation.
- Seamless integration resulting in the output of your search results being perfectly integrated into your theme without any custom search templats.
- Search results are sorted by relevance rather than date. This can be turned off if you want to show results by date.
- Modify the weighting of posts, categories, etc to your liking.
- Display a list of the most popular search terms (daily and overall) on your blog in the form of a heatmap.
- Customisation is possible by inputting your own CSS in the Custom Styles tab in the Settings page.
- Supports caching plugins such as WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache
- Profanity Filter to stop any words you want to be filtered out of search queries.
- Translation Ready
Conclusions & Recommendations
From what I’ve written above you’ve probably realised how valuable having such a search plugin in your site can be. The default WordPress search function just doesn’t cut it.
In my opinion I’d have to say that your best option would be SearchWP. The amount of features and options available is extensive, and the fact that it’s a premium plugin means you’ve got support whenever you need it. The long list of extensions is also impressive, adding to the fully-featured feel of the plugin.
Have you had any experiences with these plugins? Or do you know of any other ones worth mentioning? Get in touch with us in the comments below.
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to subscribe to WP Mayor’s RSS feed.