Did you know that the default WordPress search engine isn’t really that efficient (and awesome) like the rest of WordPress?
Although search is available as a function in WordPress, it does not search custom post types and taxonomies.
This means that if you have a custom post type like “Book” for a book review website, then the default search isn’t going to look there.
Thankfully there are a host of awesome plugins that help you implement a powerful search solution in your WordPress site, with varying degrees of specificity.
For example, some plugins help you to select search categories, whereas advanced ones enable you to search content inside PDF files!
We’ve divided this list into 3 categories – premium, free and freemium. The freemium ones are the most popular since they offer amazing functionality with zero cost. Let’s get started!
Premium Search Plugins for WordPress
SearchWP is currently one of the best premium search plugins in the market with a ton of features. The plugin scans all your existing posts, pages and other custom post types – basically every bit of (index-able) content in your WordPress site and builds a giant index which is updated periodically.
You can manually select the custom post types and categories you want to include in your search results. This feature is very useful for people looking for granular search parameters.
Search settings offered by SearchWP
You can also reorder individual search elements in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) by assigning “weights” to your posts and pages.
Another feature this plugin is called “fuzzy match” which is my personal favourite. What this does is matches partial keywords supplied in the search query. For example, if you can’t remember the exact name of a particular plugin, say “Relevanssi” you can simply type “relevan” and SearchWP would return the partially matches posts.
SearchWP also includes PDF search module, i.e. it indexes content within (unlocked) PDF files. This means that your search results could also include results from within PDF files. Of course this feature is configurable.
SearchWP starts at $49 a year including updates and supports bbPress and WPML integration.
AJAX Search Pro for WordPress – Live Search Plugin
This plugin from developer wpdreams has clocked over 2,800+ sales making it one of the highest selling WordPress search plugins on CodeCanyon.
A host of settings offered by AJAX Search Pro
Imagine you wanted to search something whose name you couldn’t remember. As you keep typing the keywords, the results are generated. This is immensely helpful in finding the correct (or relevant) result in the shortest amount of time.
The plugin features over 60 customizable themes, retina ready graphics, multiple search result layouts and a host of other customization options. It also supports custom post types and taxonomies.
The plugin is compatible with Visual Composer, and multilingual plugins such as qTranslate and WPML and costs $26 USD.
Lift Search for WordPress
Remember how we were talking about overly powerful search options for WordPress? Well, this is one of them.
You search is powered by an external service called Amazon CloudSearch. It is essentially a cloud based search solution capable of processing enormous amounts of data, multiple datatypes (not just text, but images and other advanced types as well) with highly advanced search algorithms.
Lift essentially connects Amazon CloudSearch to your WordPress installation
CloudSearch is a product of Amazon Web Services which requires a subscription to use. Since it is a cloud based service – it follows a pay-as-you-go model, which is essentially what it sounds like – you pay for how much you use. AWS offers a 12 month free trial which you can use to test the service.
The plugin itself is free. It is a simple interface which connects your WordPress site to Amazon CloudSearch.
I would not recommend this plugin for everyday users, but for true geeks. If you’d like to get your hands dirty and want to learn something new, this plugin (I mean, CloudSearch) is definitely worth a try!
Freemium Search Plugins for WordPress
Swiftype is a WordPress VIP approved advanced search plugin, with a host of amazing features such as search query autocomplete drop-down menu, drag-and-drop interface for reordering the search results in the SERP and powerful search analytics. It is built for large scale WordPress sites with 10,000+ posts (think TechCrunch).
You can re-order search results to promote your posts
The free version of the plugin supports a max of 50 search result customizations, a single website installation and contains the Swiftype branding. Paid plans start at $19/month.
Relevanssi is one of the most popular search plugins in the WordPress repository. By that we mean it has over 90,000+ active installations.
Now since Relevanssi is a freemium plugin, you would expect the good features to be locked behind a subscription. On the contrary, the free version of the plugin provides this amazing features:
- Exact phrase match: If you surround your query with a quote, Relevanssi will only return those results that match the exact phrase.
- Fuzzy search: Similar to SearchWP, Relevanssi offers fuzzy logic search in the free version of the plugin.
Relevanssi sorts the search results based on relevancy rather than the published date. It also offers other features like excerpt displays in SERP, highlighted search words, typo suggestions similar to Google’s “Did you mean?” feature and a whole lot more.
The premium version of Relevanssi includes some technically advanced features which we’re not going to discuss here.
Free WordPress Search Plugins
Better Search is a completely free WordPress search plugin which indexes posts, pages and custom post types. You can assign weights to individual elements, such as post title, excerpt, body, etc. which enables you to customize the search results.
Better Search settings panel
Better Search also has a search heatmap, which displays the most popular searches in your site. You could also use it your theme’s footer or sidebar.
Dave’s WordPress Live Search
This plugin, as the name suggests, uses AJAX to query the WordPress database in real time and return results as the query is typed.
Settings page of the plugin
It also integrates with Relevanssi to give it that “live search” feature.
This free plugin with over 80,000 active installations can search posts, pages and custom post types and taxonomies. It also highlights search results with the query keywords.
List of options available in this plugin
You also have the ability to exclude selected posts and categories from the search results.
Category Wise Search
Category Wise Search is a dead drop simple plugin that lets you accomplish a single, simple task – search based on categories.
Plugin’s Settings panel
If you do not wish to spend time configuring other feature-filled plugins, this one might just be the solution.
If you ever wanted to exclude or include certain custom post types, posts, pages and content by authors in your WordPress search results, then Simply Exclude would be an awesome plugin for you.
Keep in mind that the plugin internally uses the default WordPress search functionality, so that might be a limiting factor.
Ultimate WP Query Search Filter
This WordPress search plugin enables you to filter the search results through post types, taxonomies and meta fields. The search result can be displayed either through the theme search template or an AJAX call.
For developers, the plugin’s functionality is extendable with hooks. You can create multiple search forms and select AJAX or default theme search template for returning the search results. As a bonus, you can display these search forms in your posts and pages via shortcodes.
Google Custom Search for WordPress
Well, this is it people – the mother of all search plugins. Well, not exactly. You can infuse the power of Google Search in your WordPress site.
However, the process is lengthy, time consuming, and frankly – it is utter geekery! If you want to try it out for yourself, I would recommend this tutorial by WPBeginner as a starting point.
The end product would be a small search bar you can place anywhere in your WordPress site. When someone performs a search operation, results from your site will be returned.
However, the SERP will be branded with Google logos. If you want to whitelabel the SERP, then you’d need to purchase a subscription which is over $100 annually.
Deciding which search plugin is the best choice for you will depend on the size of your site, the functionality that’s most important to you, and how much you’re willing to spend to get it.
Search should be an intuitive process. You need to study your visitor’s behaviour first – do they use the search function? If so, how often? Once you resolve that your search is being utilized a significant amount, then you can go for a free or freemium search plugin like Relevanssi.
Have we missed out your favourite search plugin? If so, let us know and we’ll add it to our list!