If you’ve ever searched a WordPress site, you have likely noticed the results you get back from any search query leave a lot to be desired. And if you use WordPress as your content management system of choice, you may have noticed pages finding their way into site search results, which you would prefer people didn’t see.
The unfortunate truth is that native WordPress site search needs some work to ensure it’s delivering your readers the best results. So what can you do to improve the relevance of your site search results? Fortunately, there are a number of easy-to-use WordPress plugins that can help – no need to mess around with code, just install, activate, and tweak the settings to make them work how you want them to.
1. Search Everything
With over 80,000+ active installed, Search Everything has a solid user base and it’s served me well on several websites. There are no hoops to jump through, just activate, tweak the settings, and you’re ready to go. A useful feature included is search highlighting – whenever a search query is used, users will easily see it on the results page.
The main reason I started using this plugin was to stop particular pages such as landing pages and download pages being found in search results – you can choose to exclude entire categories or specific posts/pages. In the configuration menu, you have the option to choose exactly what taxonomies are used for search queries. So for example, search results can be generated by searching through custom post types, attachments, comments, categories and more.
2. Custom Google Search
Custom Google Search is a premium plugin by WPMU DEV, which allows you to replace the native WordPress search functionality with Google’s Custom Search. There are a few more hoops to jump through to set up this plugin, in comparison to other plugins like Search Everything, but setup is still straight forward.
Whenever I try to search a website using the native WordPress search, I usually get far better results by typing “site:domain.com” into Google. This plugin will provide a much better experience for your readers. And it’s compatible with both BuddyPress and Multisite.
The only thing that I dislike about this plugin is the cost which comes in at a steep $19/month for the plugin alone, or $49/month to get all of WPMU DEV’s plugins and themes. The $49/month option holds the most value considering the sheer number of plugins you’ll get access to, although the important question to consider is – do you really need them?
There are several alternatives which include adding Custom Search manually following this tutorial by WP Beginner or a free plugin; WP Google Search.
Similar to Search Everything, Relevanssi has over 80,000+ active installs and receives regular updates. Relevanssi is a free plugin with the option to purchase a premium version that gives you extra control over your search functionality. The price of the premium version starts at $49.95. In comparison to Search Everything, the setup process is more complex but should enable the plugin to provide more accurate search results.
Results can be ordered by relevance or publication date and by default the plugin will use fuzzy matching when straight search terms get no hits. Fuzzy matching matches everything that begins or ends with the search term.
One feature in particular that stands out is the option to add a weight to particular elements. For example, post titles are given a weight of 5 by default and comment text is given 0.75. You can also select tag and category weights, but anything else would require a premium license. You will then be able to adjust the weights of post types, taxonomies and postdates. Other premium features include WordPress Multisite support, export/import settings, guaranteed support, sticky posts, and more. But neither the free version or premium versions support BuddyPress.
4. Swiftype Search
Swiftype Search is a newer plugin that boasts some powerful features. Unlike Search Everything and Relevanssi, this plugin won’t make your server work harder. Everything is hosted on their servers which is awesome.
Pricing is worked out on a quota based system. You can sign up for a free account, this will give you a quota of 500 total unique pages and up to 1,000 searches per month which should be sufficient for most small websites. Paid accounts range from $19/month to $249/month depending on the size of your website and the number of queries. Paid accounts also remove branding and unlock additional features such as search analytics.
One feature I particularly like is the option to customize specific search queries to make them more relevant. For example, if you notice particular terms are being searched for in the analytics, you can manually edit them to give more accurate results – if those results aren’t as accurate as you would like.
You can also utilize the Swiftype platform to add mobile search to apps and leverage their API, which I imagine can be incredibly useful for developers. And for marketers, the real-time analytics functionality can deliver some valuable insights, especially for larger sites.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means; however the plugins I’ve discussed will provide something suitable for almost any situation. Whether it is the option to leverage Google’s Custom Search, provide an easy way to remove particular pages/posts from your site’s search, power the internal search of a large e-commerce site or simply improve the relevance of search results for your personal blog – you’ll find a plugin to help you.
However, there are always other options out there. Are you using any of the above plugins? Or are you using a different one? What has your experience been with these types of plugins? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured Image: Gil C/Shutterstock.com
All screenshots by Adam Connell. Taken November 2015.