Search functionality is essential for most websites as it helps visitors locate the information, content, or products they need. WordPress comes with a native search system, but this can only perform basic lookups, and it can be slower than users expect, especially if your website contains a lot of content.
Luckily, there’s a wide range of advanced search plugins for WordPress that enable you to offer a speedy experience. These plugins often come with useful features such as instant search results, ecommerce product support, and spelling correction that help ensure your visitors can quickly find the information they’re looking for.
There are a lot of WordPress search plugins out there, so to help you find the perfect one for your site, we’ve put together this handy guide. Read on to explore the features you should be looking for in a WordPress search plugin, and then see our reviews of five of the best options.
Features to look for in a WordPress search plugin
Some of the top features to look out for in site search plugins include:
Accurate search results
Of course, the top thing to look for when choosing a WordPress search plugin is the accuracy of its search results. The accuracy of a WordPress search plugin largely depends on a combination of:
- The plugin’s index – While the default WordPress search function works by querying your database each time a user searches, most search plugins build their own index of your site, which it then searches against. Therefore, the accuracy of this index is essential. You should also ensure your WordPress search plugin automatically updates its index every time you add or change content and that it can index all the types of content you want your visitors to be able to discover.
- The plugin’s algorithm – The algorithm used by your search plugin influences how it determines which results to return for your visitors’ search queries. You should look for a WordPress search plugin that allows you to customize its algorithm to meet the needs of your site — for example, you may decide that the plugin should give a higher priority to products in your online store than to images in your site’s media library.
Over 80% of search queries are made up of more than one word, so you should also make sure your WordPress search plugin can deliver accurate results if a phrase or question is entered. For example, Jetpack Search can instantly respond to complex, multi-faceted searches, which helps your visitors find the information they’re looking for without rephrasing their query.
It’s vital that a WordPress search plugin quickly responds to queries.
Some WordPress plugins offer instant search, so your visitors start seeing results as soon as they enter their query, rather than waiting for a search results page to load.
It’s also important to consider what resources the search plugin uses to index your site and process your visitors’ queries. Most WordPress search plugins use your website’s server, which can work well for small sites, but as your site grows, this can put a strain on your web server, and you may notice it takes longer to process search requests and index new content. But other plugins, such as Jetpack Search, take the strain away from your host by using powerful cloud servers to deliver lightning-fast results regardless of the size of your site.
Filters can help your visitors narrow their search results to find exactly what they are looking for. You should look for a WordPress search plugin that allows your visitors to filter their search results based on tags, categories, or product attributes. It’s also important to consider how quickly the search plugin can apply those filters. Some can instantly filter results without reloading the page, while others need to refresh the page to apply filters.
Jetpack’s WordPress search plugin, for example, supports more than 1,000 custom taxonomies.
Customers are two times more likely to make a purchase online after searching on a retailer’s website, so a great search function is essential for any ecommerce store. If you run an online store, your WordPress search plugin should offer full support for your ecommerce platform and allow your visitors to search and filter by product attributes so that they can find the product they are looking for.
Jetpack’s WordPress search plugin, for example, has a special mode for ecommerce sites that can display results in a grid style.
A review of the best site search plugins for WordPress
But how do you find the best search plugin for your WordPress site? To help, we’ve examined some of the top WordPress search plugins and compared them based on their features, pros and cons, ease of use, and pricing.
1. Jetpack Search
Jetpack Search is one of the best WordPress search plugins that offers a wide range of advanced tools to help your visitors instantly find the right content or product.
The plugin offers instant search and will start displaying results as soon as a visitor begins to type in your search box. This means that they don’t have to wait for search results to load. In addition, Jetpack Search is highly customizable and offers a wide range of features and options, enabling you to create an outstanding search experience that blends seamlessly with your site design. Plus, Jetpack Search offers instant spelling correction, so a typo won’t get in the way of your visitors finding what they’re looking for.
Jetpack Search fully integrates with WooCommerce to help your customers find the perfect product for them. The plugin supports complex faceted search requests — for example, “A red and white men’s polo shirt in large for under $25.” In addition, Jetpack Search displays product pictures in search results and allows customers to instantly filter their results by product attributes, so they can quickly find the item they’re looking for.
The plugin can deliver its lightning-fast speed without putting extra strain on your server as it uses Automattic’s powerful cloud servers to index your site and conduct searches. Jetpack Search was made by the experts at Automattic — the same people behind WordPress.com and WooCommerce. This means that Jetpack Search should integrate seamlessly with your WordPress website.
Features of Jetpack Search
- Instant search and filtering without reloading the page
- Advanced customization options, which allows you to create a bespoke search experience
- Advanced ranking algorithms that help you deliver highly-relevant results
- Integration with Jetpack Stats to help you see what visitors are searching for
- Prioritized results based on your site’s most popular pages
- Faceted searches and instant filtering (by tags, categories, dates, custom taxonomies, and post types)
- Real-time indexing, meaning your search index will update within minutes of changes to your site
- Support for multiple languages
- Highlighted search terms in comments and post content
- Spelling corrections
Pros of Jetpack Search
- Jetpack Search helps your visitors quickly find what they want by instantly providing search results as soon as they start typing.
- The plugin supports complex search queries and allows visitors to instantly filter their search results, including by product attributes.
- Unlike most of the other plugins in this list, Jetpack Search is a cloud-based service. This means it can deliver highly accurate search results without using your server resources.
Cons of Jetpack Search
- Jetpack Search doesn’t index the content of PDFs or documents that you’ve uploaded to your WordPress site.
Who is Jetpack Search most suitable for?
Jetpack Search is a great search solution for any WordPress site. As it uses cloud servers to index and search your website, it can effortlessly deliver results regardless of the size of your site. Its deep integration with WooCommerce also makes it ideal for store owners.
Ease of Use
Jetpack Search is easy to install and will automatically start indexing your site. While the plugin offers powerful customization options, these are easy to understand, and detailed documentation is available. Jetpack’s team of WordPress Happiness Engineers also provides email support to all users.
The free version of Jetpack Search allows you to index up to 5,000 records and process 500 search requests per month. The paid plan costs $8.25 per 10,000 records or search requests a month.
ElasticPress.io is a powerful WordPress search service. To enable ElasticPress.io on your site, you must install and configure the ElasticPress WordPress search plugin. Then ElasticPress.io will use its servers to index your site and deliver results. This means your visitors get instant search results that are not limited by the speed or capacity of your website server.
ElasticPress.io integrates with WooCommerce to allow your visitors to search for products using product attributes and filter their results so they can find the perfect item. Using ElasticPress.io, you can customize your search algorithms and control the results visitors receive for your most popular search terms. ElasticPress.io also offers auto suggestions based on common search terms, and automatically corrects spellings, so your visitors can easily find the content they’re looking for.
Features of ElasticPress.io
- Hosted search, which takes the load off your servers
- Instant search, which shows results as soon as users start typing
- WooCommerce integration
- Auto-suggest search terms
- Spelling correction
- Search capabilities within documents and PDFs
- Search filters that allow users to narrow down results
- A custom results editor to help ensure popular search terms return pre-determined content or products
- Custom search weighting
Pros of ElasticPress.io
- Like Jetpack Search, ElasticPress is a hosted service that offers a very fast WordPress search experience for your visitors, which doesn’t use your server storage or resources.
- ElasticPress.io offers a wide range of advanced features that enable you to fully customize your visitors’ search experience.
Cons of ElasticPress.io
- Although there’s a 14-day free trial, there is no free version of ElasticPress.
- ElasticPress is more expensive than the other hosted, highly-customizable solution on this list: Jetpack Search.
Who is ElasticPress.io most suitable for?
ElasticPress.io is best suited to large WooCommerce sites because it offers fast and accurate product searching, but has a significantly higher cost than the other plugins on this list.
Ease of use
Enabling ElasticPress.io on your WordPress website requires some configuration, and the number of options available may be confusing for some users. However, documentation is provided, along with email support for all subscribers.
ElasticPress.io Essential costs $79 per month for up to 20,000 records and 100,000 requests. Additional requests and records are available with the ‘Extended’ plan, which costs $299 per month.
Relevanssi is a popular WordPress search plugin that orders results by relevance. A single WordPress developer, Mikko Saari, is responsible for developing Relevanssi. The plugin replaces WordPress’s built-in search functionality and indexes every part of your site to allow users to search pretty much anything. You can also configure Relevanssi Premium to work with WooCommerce and enable customers to easily search for products on your online store.
Relevanssi uses a partial-relevance algorithm to deliver search results to your visitors, which means that if their complete search term doesn’t turn up an exact result, it will display the results that are the closest match. The plugin also offers ‘Did you mean?’ suggestions to your visitors to help them find the content they’re looking for.
Features of Relevanssi
- The ability to index any content on your WordPress site, including posts, pages, titles, and products
- The ability for visitors to search PDFs, documents, and taxonomy terms (premium plan only)
- Search results ordered in terms of relevance
- Highlighted search terms in your posts and pages
- Customizable weighting for different types of content (premium plan only)
- Search logs to show the most popular queues and searches that returned no results
- Google-style “Did you mean?” suggestions based on user searches
- Spelling corrections (premium plan only)
- Keyword stemming (premium plan only)
Pros of Relevanssi
- A free version of Relevanssi is available, including many core features, like relevance-based results.
- Relvanssi’s premium version supports indexing a wide range of content types, including PDF documents, taxonomy terms, and shortcode-generated content.
Cons of Relevanssi
- Relevanssi uses your own site’s storage and servers, meaning it could impact the speed of your site and take up space on your server. The plugin requires around three times the amount of space as the size of your wp_posts database table.
- Taxonomy searching is only possible in the premium version, so if you run an ecommerce store, the free version won’t allow visitors to search by product category or attribute.
- Live Ajax searching is only possible with the use of an additional plugin.
- Relevanssi has compatibility issues with popular WordPress plugins, including BuddyPress and NextGen Gallery.
Who is Relevanssi most suitable for?
Relevanssi uses your server space and bandwidth to store its index and perform searches, making it best suited for relatively small websites. The premium version is also suitable for ecommerce site owners.
Ease of use
Relevanssi is easy to use and requires minimal setup. The plugin offers a comprehensive knowledge base, and the developer is active on the plugin’s support forum. In addition, email support is provided to premium subscribers.
The plugin is available for free. A premium version that includes additional features, like full WooCommerce support, costs $109 per year.
4. Better Search
Better Search is a free WordPress search plugin that aims to provide your website visitors with more relevant search results. The plugin allows visitors to search most content on your WordPress site, including posts, pages, and custom post types. It also provides a wide range of options to allow you to customize its search outputs, including adjusting the weighting placed on different content types. Better Search logs the queries made by your visitors to generate a heat map to help you visualize the popular searches on your site.
Features of Better Search
- An index of the titles and content of posts, pages, and custom post types
- Relevance-based results
- Customizable search outputs
- Search term logs
Pros of Better Search
- The plugin offers relevance-based searching for WordPress at no cost.
Cons of Better Search
- Better Search cannot index taxonomies, meaning your visitors cannot search based on category or product attributes.
- Visitors can’t instantly see search results, as live searching isn’t supported.
- Spelling correction and suggested searches are not offered.
Who is Better Search most suitable for?
Better Search is a good choice for site owners on a budget who want to provide more relevant search results but who don’t need the advanced features offered by premium plugins. However, as Better Search does not support taxonomy searching, it provides limited benefit to ecommerce store owners.
Ease of use
The plugin is easy to install, and will automatically replace the default WordPress search functionality. However, the advanced options offered by Better Search could be confusing for some users. Limited documentation is provided, but the developers are active on the plugin’s WordPress support forum.
Better Search is available for free from the WordPress plugin repository.
5. Ivory Search
Ivory Search is a WordPress search plugin that offers free and premium versions. The plugin replaces the default WordPress search functionality and allows visitors to scour most of your WordPress site, including posts, pages, titles, and taxonomies. Ivory Search also offers live search, so visitors can see search results as soon as they start typing their query.
Ivory Search also supports WooCommerce, so your customers can search and see results from your product names, descriptions, and attributes. The plugin’s Pro Plus plan includes deeper support for WooCommerce, allowing you to exclude out-of-stock products from search results and for customers to search by product SKU.
Features of Ivory Search
- Indexing for posts, pages, titles, taxonomies, and WooCommerce products
- Ajax-powered live searching
- The ability to create multiple search forms and place them anywhere on your site via shortcodes
- Keyword stemming (premium only)
- Control over the order of search results (premium only)
- The ability to remove password-protected posts from search results (premium only)
- The ability to search by WooCommerce SKU (premium only)
- Search analytics via Google Analytics integration
Pros of Ivory Search
- The ‘starter’ version of Ivory Search is free and includes many advanced features, including support for WooCommerce product attributes.
Cons of Ivory Search
- While Ivory Search Pro Plus will allow you to index uploaded file names, it cannot index the content of PDFs or documents.
- Some features that help your visitors receive the most accurate search results, such as keyword stemming, are only available in the premium versions of the plugin.
- Ivory Search uses your server’s storage and resources to index your site and process requests, so its performance can be limited by the resources available within your hosting package.
Who is Ivory Search most suitable for?
Ivory Search’s free ‘starter’ plan would be a good choice for small to medium size WooCommerce store owners who want a free search plugin that improves their customers’ search experience. The plugin’s premium plans are most suited to site owners who want increased control over their visitors’ search experience but don’t want advanced features, such as native search analytics, instant filtering, spelling correction, and indexing of document content.
Ease of use
Ivory Search’s many options could confuse some users, and the search form and results pages have to be styled via CSS. However, the developer provides detailed documentation alongside support on the plugin’s support forum. Email support is also offered to users of Ivory Search’s paid plans.
The ‘starter’ version of Ivory Search is available for free in the WordPress plugin directory. Ivory Search also offers two paid plans. Its Pro plan offers additional features, including advanced ordering and post exclusion settings, for $19.99 a year. Its Pro Plus plan includes indexing of documents, PDFs, and WooCommerce SKUs for $49.99 a year.
Comparison of the top WordPress search plugins
|Jetpack Search||ElasticPress||Relevanssi||Better Search||Ivory Search|
|Support for faceted search queries||Yes||Yes||Limited||No||No|
|Customizable algorithm||Yes||Yes||Premium only||Limited||Limited|
|Hosted service to remove strain from your servers||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Full WooCommerce support||Yes||Yes||Premium Only||No||Pro Plus Only|
|Cost||Free for up to 500 records. $8.25 a month per 10,000 records||$79 a month per 20,000 records.||Limited free version. $109 a year for the premium version.||Free||Starter – FreePro – $19.99/yearPro Plus- $49.99/year|
Factors to consider when choosing the best WordPress search plugin
Does it offer the features you need?
WordPress site search plugins offer a wide variety of features, and we’ve outlined some of the key features to consider at the start of this article. When choosing a search plugin, it’s important to ensure it has all the features you need to give your visitors a great experience.
Is it easy to use?
You should consider how easy the WordPress site search plugin is to use and how easy it is to customize the plugin’s settings to meet your site’s needs. Some plugins, such as Jetpack Search, are simple to use with minimal setup but still offer high levels of customization so that you can create a bespoke search experience for your site.
Could it slow down your site?
Most WordPress search plugins use your web server to index your site and carry out visitor search requests. Depending on the size of your site and your web hosting package, this could slow down your site. But, some plugins, such as Jetpack Search, use powerful cloud servers to index and search your site, meaning that you can consistently offer a lightning-fast experience to your visitors.
Does it work with WooCommerce?
If you run an online store using WooCommerce, you must ensure your WordPress search plugin allows your customers to find the products through search. Some search plugins only allow customers to search by product title. But other advanced search plugins, including Jetpack Search, allow your customers to perform faceted searches and filter by product attribute so they can quickly find the product they’re looking for.
Conclusion: What is the best search plugin on WordPress?
The best WordPress search plugin will depend on several factors, including the size of your site, your experience with WordPress, and if you need the plugin to offer advanced features such as instant search.
But it’s clear from the comparison table above that Jetpack Search is the best search plugin for WordPress. Jetpack Search is an affordable hosted search solution that offers a wide range of features, including instant search, powerful filtering, and full support for WooCommerce. It’s simple to set up, and works automatically to keep your site’s search index up to date. Plus, it delivers lightning-fast results to your visitors without using valuable server resources. As it’s made by the people behind WordPress.com and WooCommerce, it integrates seamlessly with your site to help your visitors instantly find content or products.
Frequently asked questions about WordPress search plugins
How much does an advanced site search plugin cost on WordPress?
WordPress search plugins vary in price. Some plugins are free, but offer fewer features than their premium counterparts. The top plugin in this article, Jetpack Search, provides a powerful free version perfect for smaller sites, and its paid version offers advanced features at a much lower cost than other hosted search solutions in this review.
Is it easy to configure a site search plugin on WordPress?
This varies by plugin and the amount of customizations made by the site owner. However, most can be set up and working in a few clicks and advanced customizations can be made over time.
What makes a good WordPress site search plugin?
WordPress site search plugins should be quick to set up, easy to use, and offer lightning-fast results while minimizing strain on server resources. And that’s why cloud-based solutions like Jetpack Search are often the go-to option for site owners.
Search plugins should also offer customization options that guide visitors along paths that help you meet your site goals. Finally, solutions are only helpful if they offer accurate results. Ideal plugins will provide automatic spelling corrections and work to constantly keep the results index up-to-date and relevant.
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