The WordPress internal search is a function that is deeply embedded in the system. Essentially, there is a listing of posts and pages. If WordPress is used as a blog, there is often a list of e.g. 10 most recent blog posts on the home page. A category selection is not much different, only that a certain number of posts that have been assigned to a certain category are displayed. A search simply lists those posts or pages that match the search criteria.
The search term is passed to WordPress using a string in the address line, i.e. a so-called HTTP GET query. This means that the user asks the server https://domain.tld for the term that follows the separator ? is entered. In our case s=keyword. s is the name of the variable and keyword is the term to be searched for.
This works regardless of whether the webpage contains a search window or not. Normally, of course, the visitor does not enter the search term in the address line, but uses a search box, i.e. a small form that usually only consists of one text input option and is often triggered by means of line breaks, i.e. not even a “Send” or “Search” button .
Nothing else happens in the background, however, other than the search term being transferred to WordPress, just like in the address bar. The user usually receives a list of entries found. So a search consists of
- a search box
- a result list
- and something magical between the two things
Does every page now require an internal search? No, there are certainly cases where a search is not desired. Eg. One-page designs are applications where the designer (for whatever reason) does not want that one page to be left. Such designs are often used for micropages or landing pages and are intended to either lead to a conversion or to the provider’s preferred destination.
If you don’t want a search, you have to actively prevent it! Just not offering a search mask is not enough. The Disable Search plugin reliably handles this small task.
The search form of the WordPress internal search
On the Yoast page you will find the following on the subject of search forms:
It should be clearly visible. If you want your visitors to use the search function, don’t hide it in the footer of the page. Placing these in the sidebar or title area is a better option.
It must be clear that this is a search function. This is very important. Just an input field without a title, send button or watermark that explains the search function will not suffice.
Using the search function is the second attempt to use the visited website. Users don’t want to search, they actually want to land on the page where they can find the information they’re headed for. Therefore, a search must also be simple, unambiguous and clear – and work.
The hit list
For the results page, the Yoast article cited above recommends:
The search term should be highlighted on the search results page
The results page should contain a snippet of text containing the search term
Search results should be ranked by relevance
Search pages are not indexed by Google
The theme usually determines the appearance of the hit list. If you don’t find an option for the “number of hits per page” in its settings, don’t despair: for WordPress, a hit list is like an archive page of posts. So if you want to set the number of posts and pages found, you have to change the maximum number of blog pages shown in the settings in the dashboard.
1. Relevanssi plugin for WordPress
With Relevanssi, I’ll start right away with a search plugin, which is extremely popular. Relevanssi may even be the most popular of all search plugins for WordPress, especially since its basic version is free to use. Relevanssi can index PDF file content, search multisites, user profiles, categories, shortcode content and much, much more.
Relevanssi is powerful and easy to install, making search for WordPress suitably nimble. In addition, the whole thing integrates itself, so it more or less overwrites the normal WordPress search, so you don’t have to adjust much anymore.
2. Ajax Search
Ajax Search is available as a free Lite version in the plugin directory as well as a paid Pro version. The main focus here is on displaying content as you type. Ajax Search is already searching as soon as the first letter has been typed. This makes it possible to display various content that may be relevant to the search quickly and as directly as possible, i.e. without redirection or waiting time. Even more interesting, however, is that the plugin is comparatively cheap and has been maintained since 2012.
With SearchWP there is another powerful search plugin for WordPress. SearchWP also crawls PDF files, shortcodes, can include e-commerce product details in the search and is fully configurable so that everyone gets a search that they can tailor to their blog. The extensions are interesting at SearchWP. There is a metrics addon that shows statistics for internal searches and transmits particularly popular search terms to you.
This is powerful and useful to optimize content accordingly. The Related addon is also interesting because it uses the search database to present similar content that your users are likely to click on. SearchWP is therefore a very well thought-out WordPress plugin, which I actually really like.
Now we have arrived at the Jetpack Search. The Jetpack plugin comes from Automattic, the makers of WordPress and the providers of WordPress.com, WooCommerce and Jetpack. What speaks for the Jetpack search is that everything happens on external servers.
This in turn means that the search function, indexing and everything else does not cripple your own web space. By the way, Jetpack itself uses Elasticsearch for this, which I have also already presented to you here. However, this is inserted completely automatically and therefore in a particularly simple way. So if you want to integrate a strong search into WordPress with little effort, you won’t go wrong here. Site search starts at Jetpack from about $5 a month.
Conclusion on the WordPress search plugins
In the end we would like to talk again briefly about the fact that features are not everything. Don’t be fooled by plugins that promise a lot and advertise with the greatest features. Always think about the performance, always check where the whole thing is calculated (cloud or your own server) and then decide what suits you and your website best.
Some solutions are great for large WordPress portals, but what’s the point of a small blog? This aspect should never be forgotten, because whether free or paid, in the end you always pay in one way or another. Either with money or with performance, which you will then lack elsewhere.
Finally, we hope that the insight into the possibilities was interesting and that you might discover a new expansion that interests you. However, not too much is happening with the WordPress search plugins. Their development is usually very complex and accordingly there are only a few really recommendable extensions for the CMS. I have presented the best of them to you above.
Have you already had experience with the search function and what bothers you about the standard WordPress search? Feel free to write it in the comments and let’s discuss some pros and cons.