Search has come a long way since WordPress was launched in 2003. In WordPress 3.7, some long-overdue search improvements were finally made to the system, however the default search functionality of WordPress still leaves something to be desired. I am sure you have all noticed that doing a search on a WordPress powered website does not always bring up relevant results. Sometimes the article you are looking for is buried beyond page three of the search results.
Due to WordPress’s search functionality being criticized so much by its users, many alternative search solutions are available that replace it with something better.
In this article, I would like to show you a selection of the best plugins and solutions available for giving visitors a better search experience. The majority of these solutions are free, however some services charge for more advanced features.
With around half a million downloads on WordPress, Relevanssi is one of the most popular search engine solutions available for WordPress. The plugin was originally designed to replace the abandoned plugin WP Search, and soon picked up a loyal following due to its unique features.
As the name suggests, Relevanssi tried to place an emphasis on relevance rather than date order. It allows visitors to use OR and AND operators to improve search results. It also allows search terms to be highlighted in results. A premium version is available for $39.95 per year that boasts advanced features such as throttling to improve efficiency and the ability to change the weight of ranking factors.
In addition to live search, the plugin also offers a lot of customizability for search results such as meta information, thumbnails and different styles.
Better Search is a great search plugin that provides relevant search results. Through the plugin settings area, you can adjust the weight of ranking features to either title or post content. The plugin supports all caching plugins such as W3 Total Cache and it includes an option to display popular search terms.
Search Everything lives up to its name by allowing you to filter results by search comments, tags, taxonomies, pages, categories and more. The plugin also allows you to highlight searched terms. It also has a feature entitled “Research Everything” that allows you to search for your posts and link to them while writing an article.
Whereas Search Everything allows you to control what is searched, Sphinx gives visitors the option of also searching posts, pages, comments and tags. Results can also be displayed by freshness (i.e. date order), relevance, or both.
The plugin comes packaged widgets for top searches, latest searches and related searches. A statistics tool to help you analyze search terms is also included.
Swiftype is a search service that is used by many large companies. All searches are performed on their servers, which reduces load on your own website. It’s dashboard displays a range of statistics such as top queries, top content by click throughs, search trends, and more. One of its best features is the ability to reorder search results; which is useful if you do not like the results of a particular search term.
The service allows a website with one thousand pages or less to use the service free. Plans for websites with more content start at $49 per month.
To improve their website’s search functionality, many people turn to the most popular website in the world. Google’s Custom Search option offers relevant search results, image searching and speech input. You can display search results ad free or display advertisements and earn 51% of any revenue that is generated from visitors.
The default code that Google gives you generates search results on the same page or frame. The downside to this is that if you placed the search box on your sidebar, search results would be displayed there too. Thankfully, it is very easy to display search results on a dedicated page. All you have to do is grab the code from this page and add it to a dedicated search results page on your website (e.g. create a page entitled “Search Results”). Just remember to modify the code with your website’s Search Engine ID (given by Google) and search engine results page URL (i.e. the URL of the search results page you created).
I have always found Google search to be straight forward to configure; however I appreciate that many people are looking for an easier solution. One plugin that simplifies the process is WordPress Google Search. Once installed, all you have to do is drag and drop its widget into your widget zone. That is all there is to it.
You do not need to enter your Google account information for the plugin to work. The downside to this is that the plugin does not allow you to earn extra money through Google Adsense.
WPMU sell a custom google search plugin with user-friendly options for $19. In order to work correctly, the plugin requires the code that Google gives you through their Google Search page. This means that your Google Adsense integration is still controlled through your Google account.
The plugin was designed for novice users. It allows you to choose the style of results, choose where results are displayed, and whether a sidebar is displayed on search result pages. If you do not need any of these features, I recommend entering your Google Custom Search code directly yourself.
Highlight Search Terms does not replace the default WordPress search engine, however the plugin does enhance the search experience by highlighting the searched terms on search results pages. It also counts phrases wrapped in quotation marks as a single search term. The plugin is compatible with caching plugins, BuddyPress and bbPress.
Some people like WordPress’s search functionality, others find it frustrating. If you fall into the latter group, I recommend you try one of the solutions detailed in this article.
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