There is no denying that WordPress the best content management system in the world.
In 2020 alone, WordPress powers more than 35% of all websites on the internet. And out of all the known CMS solutions, WordPress accounts for 61% of usage altogether.
But, as with anything in life, there are going to be faults and inconsistencies. And when it comes to the default WordPress search — in some cases, it can leave people unsatisfied.
Here are common issues for the default search in WordPress:
- You cannot look up content in specific categories.
- Search results are often random and without clear direction.
- You need to use a plugin to enable auto-search.
- Results for search queries are not highlighted.
- If you have a lot of posts, the default search will slow down your site.
Clearly, there are a number of people that want more from WordPress’ search functionality – so in this post, we’re going to take a look at the best WordPress search plugins available designed to improve the WordPress search experience.
Data tells us time and time again that customers care about the search function, and even the slightest delay can result in extreme loss of revenue.
We’ll focus on WordPress search plugins which cover many basic necessities, but also plugins which deliver superb advanced search features. The latter is especially important if you operate a busy blog, news site, or even an eCommerce store.
Table of Contents
What To Look For In A Search Plugin
Before we dive into the plugins, let’s go over what you should look for in a search plugins so you can find the best plugin for your website, whether it’s an online magazine or an online store.
1. Check The Ratings And Reviews
The first step when considering a search plugin for your WordPress website is to check the ratings and reviews. The higher rated the plugin is and the more positive reviews it has, the better the chances are that it will serve your needs and do what you need it to do.
Be on the lookout for plugins that have at least 4 or 4,5 star rating and a healthy number of actual reviews. You can also check how many support threads have been resolved as this is a good indication that the developers are active and that they will be there if you run into any problems.
If you’re downloading a plugin from a third-party website (instead of the official plugin repository), make sure to do a Google search for any potential third-party reviews to ensure the plugin works as intended.
2. Pay Attention To The Update Frequency
While some plugins need to update more frequently than others, be sure to check how often the plugin is updated. If you see that the latest update happened over 6 months ago or that updates happen irregularly, be cautious if you decide to go ahead and use the plugin anyway.
Irregular or infrequent updates might mean that the developer is not invested in actively maintaining and developing the plugin further which means you could wind up looking for an alternative.
It also poses a security risk as outdated plugins can be used to gain access to your site and inject malicious code.
3. Make Sure It Has Desired Functionality
Lastly, you want to make sure that the plugin you want to install does what you need it to do. In particular, when it comes to search plugins, check for the following features:
- Phrase searching — most visitors won’t type in the exact name of your blog post or product name. That’s why your search plugin has to be able to interpret the phrases they use to generate the best results.
- Relevant result display — your plugin should also present the results in a clear and relevant fashion. For example, if you have an online store, ideally the search plugin will return the product image, rating, price, and description.
- Speed — a good search plugin should be fast and return results quickly. In addition to that, it shouldn’t slow down your website.
- Several search bar designs to choose from — your chosen search plugin should have several different search bar designs to choose from or the ability to customize the search bar. This will ensure that the search bar matches the rest of your website and keep everything consistent.
- Search logs — finally, make sure your chosen plugin has the ability to keep search logs so you can see what visitors are looking for on your site. This will help you create more targeted content and products for them.
How to Decide Which Plugin Is The Best For You
By now, you know what to look for in a search plugin and you’ve also seen the best search plugins that are available. Here are a few tips that will help you decide which plugin is the best for your website.
For starters, keep in mind the type of website you have. If you have a content heavy website, then obviously choosing a plugin that’s geared for eCommerce websites makes no sense. A plugin like Relevanssi or Ivory Search could be the perfect solution for you.
If you have an eCommerce website with no blog, a plugin like Ajax Search for WooCommerce or Sooqr is the most logical choice. If you have an eCommerce website and you use a blog to attract potential customers, a plugin like Site Search 360 is worth considering.
You should also take into consideration the ability to customize each plugin. If customization is important for you, consider using a plugin that has robust customization features.
If you’re more concerned about learning as much as you can about your visitors a plugin like SwiftType is an excellent choice.
Another thing to keep in mind is your budget. If you’re just getting started, a free plugin might be a better solution for you to keep everything within your budget. But, if you have a large website and if you’re making profit from it, investing in a premium search plugin is well-worth the money.
Ultimately, the final choice comes down to you and your personal preference. Consider giving each plugin a try and then settle on the final solution.
Can you find a reliable WordPress search plugin for free?
I’m sure a lot of you have this question. And the answer is that sure, there are free WordPress search plugins which will improve the default functionality. But if you want a truly sturdy and robust solution, then making a nominal investment is a must.
That said, let’s see what we have in store for the most popular WordPress search plugins. From premium to free, and all the in-between.
#1: Ivory Search
For the number of free features that you get with this plugin, it easily deserves the number #1 spot in this roundup.
Ivory Search provides a complete overhaul for how WordPress search works, yet manages to do it in a simple and easy to understand manner.
After you’re done with installing the plugin, it immediately takes you to the main dashboard. This is where you’ll be able to adjust custom settings and much more.
The image above showcases settings for the content that you want to include in your search results. You can configure Ivory Search in such a way that only relevant content appears for any given search term.
Additional custom options include settings such as:
- Highlight search terms
- Display sticky posts in search results
- How many search results per page
- Whether to display a custom page for empty searches
- … and a lot more!
The premium version which starts at $20 per year includes many additional features. Including searching through author posts, specific taxonomies, and features like post exclusion. With the free version alone, the search experience of your WordPress blog will benefit greatly!
Relevanssi is one of the longest standing WordPress search plugins, and has accumulated over 2.4M downloads over time. The company provides a free version which will immediately boost how the search works on your WordPress site.
One of the things that Relevanssi does differently is that the plugin indexes your entire WordPress posts database. This means that you’re going to save a ton of resources in terms of making custom search queries. The potential downside to this is that you are going to need a substantial amount of free disk space to store all that archived index.
Besides this, there are plenty of great features to boost your default search.
Here are some of those features:
- Sort results by their relevance opposed to publishing date.
- Use “fuzzy matching” to search for word combinations.
- Search exact phrases using the “quotation marks”.
- Multi-site friendly.
- Find relevant results in all document types.
You can also do things like put weight on certain content elements. E.g. Prioritize Titles or Tags for displaying search results. Further, you can log all user-made search queries to see which posts get the most hits. And at the same time, which search queries return no results at all.
The annual membership for premium access costs around $120 per year.
Algolia was never built as a solution specifically for WordPress. In fact, this is a SaaS product developed for and used by platforms such as Y Combinator, Twitch, Stripe and many others.
Leo Colombaro is the only WordPress developer who has ported this search system into a WordPress plugin. But even then, you’re going to need an active subscription with Algolia to make it work. If you look at Algolia’s documentation you’ll find plenty of information on how to do this yourself.
On the pricing side of things, Algolia does offer a free Community plan. Ideal for those just starting out. However, serious content producers and platforms should consider making the investment of $29 per month for advanced features and better reliability.
The only caveat for SearchWP is that it’s a premium-only search plugin for WordPress. Despite that, it is built like a rock. SearchWP takes the entire WordPress search system and replaces it with a powerful engine.
As you will find in the settings panel, this plugin gives you all the right tools to ensure that your WP search functions exactly as you want it to. With the main focus on users having the ability to find the exact piece of content based on their search query.
Furthermore, SearchWP adds many different modules to further enhance your search:
- Live search based on AJAX. See results before hitting Enter!
- Custom Modal form that you can add anywhere.
- Highlight specific search terms if the setting is enabled.
- Use a Shortcode to place a search from anywhere on the site, including inside your blog posts.
- Integration with plugins like WooCommerce, bbPress, Easy Digital Downloads, and others.
Sure, the pricing is steep. $99 for Standard and $149 for Pro — but this amount of features and flexibility should well make up for itself. Like we already learned, the site search is arguably the most important site feature.
Sooqr is a relatively new search plugin for WordPress. And, it is specifically tailored for eCommerce needs. So, if you’re using WooCommerce on the daily — then Sooqr might have something to offer to boost not only your search results but also your revenue.
A good search engine generates relevant results, and that is exactly what Sooqr does! As a web shop owner you decide what’s on top with our Ranking Rules, a really powerful tool for selling what you want to sell.
Other features include instant results, custom filters, and search result sorting. Precisely the kind of features that an eCommerce store would require. It’s early to say how well Sooqr is going to perform in the long run, but their initial offering is extremely enticing.
Anyone can sign-up for the free 30-day trial and this should be plenty of time to see if Sooqr improves both your sales and customer satisfaction.
#6: Ajax Search Pro
Sure, Codecanyon plugins can be either hit or a miss. But Ajax Search Pro has more than 10,000 active customers; certainly making this a successful search plugin. And as the name implies, this is a plugin successful for its Ajax functionality.
In other words, this plugin will auto-complete all search queries made by your users. So, rather than having to load a new page with all the results, Ajax Search Pro will present relevant content in real-time.
Of course, users can still click the Search button and be redirected to a search results page. That said, what else does Ajax Search Pro has to offer?
Here are our favorite features:
- Fully responsive and works great on mobile devices.
- Customizable so that you can adopt a new design.
- Compatible with Visual Composer for implementing this plugin inside many different areas of your site.
- Back-end settings for adding filters, search options, and many other configuration options.
The price for this amazing plugin is $24 one-time fee, which also gives you 6 months of free support.
#7: Reactive Search Pro
Continuing with our Codecanyon review, there’s another WP search plugin worth a mention. This one, Reactive Search Pro, has around 2,000 active users and provides a tremendous set of search features.
It is powered by React Redux, which means that you’ll be able to edit settings using a thoroughly optimized dashboard panel. Further, it’s quite simple to install, and works out of the box.
But, I know you’re dying to know the features and what makes this search plugin so popular in the first place. So, here it is, a list of the best features, some of which might entice you to give this plugin a try.
- Build your search forms using a Drag & Drop builder.
- Filter search results based on post types, metadata, including data from plugins like Advanced Custom Fields.
- Search Media, specifically, search for Images. This can be either through filename or through added meta-data such as descriptions.
- Super compatible with eCommerce needs. Make your customers find the products they want with ease.
- Experiment with multiple layouts for how search results are displayed.
If you visit the Reactive Pro homepage, you can actually experiment with all of the demos and get a firsthand feel for them. This will save you the headache from purchasing a plugin that otherwise isn’t a good fit for your site.
Like many solutions in this best of WP search plugins — Swiftype is also based on the concept of SaaS. As such, Swiftype can be implemented in custom applications, but thankfully, they’re also actively developing a WordPress plugin.
The Site Search by Swiftype revamps the default search function with something more robust. Expect better search results, more relevant queries, and an analytics dashboard that shows you what your users are searching for and when.
As a SaaS app, Swiftype stores all of your data in its own secure cloud data servers. So, there’s very little strain that’s being put on your site. A huge plus for all you publishers who are dealing with immense amounts of data.
The above example showcases the simplicity of the Swiftype dashboard. Settings are mostly based on click On/Off, and you can regulate the strength for certain ratios that are taken into consideration when users use the search function.
Overall, this is a sturdy and reliable solution — ideal for large sites that deal with lots of content and even sub-content like comments and portfolio items.
The default search function built inside WordPress hardly provides a great search experience to your users. As a result, alternatives like WPSOLR (Based on Apache Solr) are an excellent pick.
Sure, Apache’s Solr is free and open-source software. However, in this case, WPSOLR has been tailored specifically for WordPress. And as such, it will set you back around $250 per year or $40 per month. That said, it’s more than fair of a price given how powerful Solr is for search-related needs.
In their own words, WPSOLR can look up to 3 million data records in less than 200ms. As such, this is a search plugin intended for a massive magazine or editorial sites dealing with millions of search queries on a daily basis.
And seeing how WordPress is popular amongst the most visited sites in the world, there’s no doubt in our minds that WPSOLR is serving a necessary purpose.
#10: Cherry Search
And lastly, we have Cherry Search — a WordPress search plugin with more than 20,000 active users. This plugin implements advanced search features so that your users can find content in its entirety.
It’s no secret that WordPress taxonomies such as tags, categories, titles, and other meta-data can quickly pile up. By using Cherry Search — users will find it easy to locate the content they need with eagle-eye precision.
Here are the features you can expect:
- Replace the native search form with the one provided by Cherry.
- Include or Exclude categories from specific search results.
- Users can filter search results based on Ascending or Descending ratio.
- Limit the number of search results users are going to see per one query.
- Choose to show or hide post thumbnails. Great to save on resources!
And, of course, a lot more. Since the plugin is completely free, this might just be the one to use to improve your WordPress search experience.
#11: Site Search 360
If you’re looking for a robust solution that works for both content-heavy sites and eCommerce websites, Site Search 360 is a great option to consider. You can customize the look and the functionality of your search bar as well as take advantage of powerful analytics features to learn more about your website visitors and customers.
Key features of the plugin include:
- Smart semantic search with auto-completion suggestions
- Detailed search logs and analytics
- Search bar customization
- Results grouping so visitors have an easier time finding what they’re looking for
- The ability to search secure content and pull results from FAQ sections
This plugin has a free version which allows your visitors to perform up to 1000 queries for free. Paid plans start at $9/month.
#12: Ajax Search for WooCommerce
Ajax Search for WooCommerce is another search plugin geared exclusively for WooCommerce websites. This plugin can be downloaded for free from the official repository and boasts the following features:
- Search by product title, long and short description, and SKU
- Show product image, price, description, and SKU in live search results
- Special mobile search mode for better UX
- The plugin displays “add to cart” button with a quantity field and extended product data displayed on hovering over the live suggestion
- Search for product categories and tags
- Google Analytics support
- WPML compatible
- Customization features
If you need more advanced features, you can upgrade to the pro version of the plugin which includes ultra-fast search engine based on inverted index, fuzzy matching, search for posts and pages, and more. Pricing for the pro version of the plugin starts at $49/year for one site.
ACF: Better Search
ACF Better Search is one of the fastest plugins on this list and it stands out thanks to the ability to search by content from selected fields of Advanced Custom Fields plugin. The key feature of this plugin is the light mode which speeds up the searches even more allowing your customers to get to the results as fast as possible.
Other notable features include:
- Search for whole phrases
- Completely free plugin
- Support for various fields including Text, Text Area, Number, Email, Url, File, Wysiwyg Editor, Select, Checkbox, and Radio Button
This plugin is a great choice for any type of website, especially those that need to give fast and accurate results to their readers.
WordPress is a phenomenal blogging and content management platform. It’s no surprise that WordPress developers have created more than 10,000 free themes and more than 55,000 free plugins.
And while the default search function might have it faults, we’ve seen plenty of evidence in this roundup that there are sound solutions available at your disposal.
We’d love to know what you think about WordPress search, and don’t hesitate to let us know about your favorite plugins!