WPLift is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Relevanssi WordPress Search Plugin Review & Setup

Last Updated on August 31st, 2023


Are your site user’s complaining that they can’t find their favorite articles anymore?

Is your best content drifting to the bottom of every search query?

The native search functionality that WordPress provides lacks the sophistication needed to parse through web content and return targeted results for user search queries. Instead of leaving users frustrated with low-quality search results, get the Relevanssi plugin to get better WordPress search functionality for your site.


What is the Relevanssi Plugin?

The WordPress Relevanssi plugin is a search backend designed to provide targeted search results for users. It also provides exceptional control of content indexing, the search algorithm, and result selection. The native WordPress search function provides only limited control of these features using a one-size-fits-all schema that often misses the most relevant content in search results. For large sites with complex taxonomies, the deficiencies of the native search algorithm are often very pronounced.

The Relevanssi plugin addresses these deficiencies by providing a customizable search algorithm that seamlessly integrates with the WordPress search frontend. In particular, Relevanssi accepts search queries from users and parses through the taxonomy of each website to deliver targeted results to each query. 

How Do You Use Relevanssi?

The Relevanssi plugin can be installed from the WordPress plugin library. Free and premium versions of the plugin can be activated on your website. Once activated, the plugin provides a selection of customizable options for configuring how website content is indexed, how the search is performed, and what results are returned to the user. Using default values or after customizing, Relevanssi indexes the content on the website and automatically starts to process user queries received from the WordPress search widget.

The Relevanssi Premium plugin offers an extended feature set providing additional customizations for websites with complex taxonomies and administrators who want the latest features and priority support. 

For a 1-year license, the Premium plugin costs $99, with a permanent license costing $299.

Get the Relevanssi plugin for your site now to provide your users with an enhanced and improved search experience.

Key Features

Free Version

  • Easy-to-use search customization interface
  • Seamless integration with WordPress search widget
  • Search posts, pages, categories, tags, and comments
  • Multisite search supported
  • Custom search fields supported
  • Result indexing by relevance and age
  • Search logging by IP address supported

Premium Plugin

  • Support for WordPress CLI commands for enhanced usability
  • Custom indexing of user profiles, taxonomy terms, and any category in the wp_posts database
  • Custom weighting by search criteria
  • Priority support
  • Enhanced results under “Did you mean?” display
  • Automatic plugin updates
  • Indexing of content in attached files
  • Special options for adding additional weighting for new posts
  • Stopwords can be limited to only content
  • Search redirects
  • Related posts display
  • Import and export settings between sites

Pros & Cons

An easy-to-use, highly configurable search plugin which works seamlessly with the WordPress search widget, Relevanssi is a top choice for large websites which need a configurable search algorithm to deliver targeted search results across a range of queries. For small websites with limited content, Relevanssi can present an overwhelming number of search customizations that may prove off-putting to inexperienced web developers.

Article Continues Below

Read on for an in-depth look at this plugin.


Ease of Use

The WordPress Relevanssi plugin is easy to install and use. Designed to work seamlessly within the prebuilt WordPress search framework, Relevanssi can be downloaded, installed, and run in minutes. If your users are routinely swamped with irrelevant content, and you need a fast solution that works NOW, then Relevanssi is a tried and tested go-to option which can deliver an immediate improvement to your website’s search performance. 

Custom Taxonomy Searches

Once you understand custom taxonomy searches, then you’ll never want to go back. Configuring your search algorithm to include categories, tags, and custom search fields will enable you to round up even more helpful results for users. Think about it like importing the power of a Google search to your website, where you get a lot more control over the search algorithm. The power is real, and Releanssi puts all of that in your hands – Awesome!

You Can Search Any MySQL Category in the wp_posts Database

Along with the powerful custom taxonomy search feature, the premium version of the Relevenssi plugin enables searching through any category specified in the MySQL database storing wp_posts. In other words, Relevanssi can sort your website posts by any identifier related to them, such as an author name, post length, post type, shortcode used in the post, comments, etc.

This powerful search methodology opens up a range of possibilities for making searches more efficient and search results more targeted. Instead of simply selecting the most relevant titles, Relevanssi can be configured to parse through an indexed and weighted set of deep metadata descriptors, yielding a more robust search performance across a diverse set of input queries.

Dynamic Operator Selection

Sometimes, optimizing your search options for relevancy may lead to low search result volume for some queries. This can frustrate users as they may want to examine more search results than the algorithm returned. Instead of reconfiguring your search optimizations from scratch, the Relevanssi premium plugin offers some helpful alternatives for increasing search volume.

In particular, dynamic operator selection allows Relevanssi to switch the operator used to concatenate search terms to increase search results. For example, the premium plugin can change “search for (horses AND dogs AND seagulls)” to “search for (horses OR dogs OR seagulls)”. This may increase the number of available search results. Relevanssi can simply switch the OR operator with the AND operator to reduce the number of search results.    


Specialized Knowledge Needed for Advanced Search Options

Relevanssi is designed to meet the needs of experienced website developers with specialized needs. If you are new to search and want to get full value from the Relevanssi Premium Plugin, gear up to learn advanced search techniques and tools. Whether you’re searching through MySQL databases or including taxonomy terms in the search index, Relevanssi requires comfort with common search techniques and best practices.

Large Memory Usage

Indexing all of these custom fields and values takes up memory – lots of it. The developers advise that you make sure to have at least three times the storage space of your wp_posts file available BEFORE installing Relevanssi. If you have less than that, plan on upgrading your hosting plan right away. Stifling Relevanssi memory usage could severely harm performance and lead to serious functional issues. Plan ahead to avoid serious problems later on.

Overwhelming Number of Search Indexing Options

The range of options available in the Relevanssi premium plugin may prove overwhelming for beginning or inexperienced website developers. If your site only has a handful of posts and you would like an easy way to help users find the content they are looking for, then the free version of the Relevanssi plugin using default settings may be a better option.

Article Continues Below

In such instances, the benefits of advanced features such as search result throttling, multisite network-level searching, and weighted taxonomy searches may only provide a marginal benefit. However, the complexity of configuring these search options correctly may prove a barrier to inexperienced users.

Relevanssi Interface is Dull

Everyone likes a fun, colorful graphical user interface to work with regardless of the task being performed. Unfortunately, the Relevanssi plugin GUI has a low visual appeal, using only basic colors and shapes. This provides a functional design that is effective but dull and uninteresting to use. Hopefully, a future release of this plugin will come with an enhanced color scheme and layout, which will make it more fun to use.  

Relevanssi Installation & Setup

Step 1: Download and Install the Plugin

Both the free version and the premium version of the Relevanssi plugin are available from the website. You can download the plugin from the site and install it into your WordPress website. The free version can be installed directly from the WordPress directory.

Step 2: Activate the Plugin

Once installed, enable the plugin on your site or network. The paid version has a one-year or a lifetime license option. If you select the one-year option, then you may need to manually renew the license after the year ends to continue receiving upgrades and access to new features.

Step 3: Basic Options

Once activated, you’ll need to configure the plugin for your website. The plugin comes with default settings enabled, but to customize them, you can navigate to Settings -> Relevanssi.

Credit: WordPress.org

Under the Basic Options tab, you configure an array of options, such as:

  • Enabling fuzzy matching
  • Limiting the number of returned search results
  • Adjusting the order of search results listings

Step 4: Weights

Credit: WordPress.org

Next, the Weights allows you to control how search results are prioritized. By increasing the weighting of a category above 1, you increase the likelihood that results with that characteristic will be returned. Alternatively, by reducing the weight factor to zero, you remove the criterion from consideration in the search results selection process.

Step 5: Logs

Logs allow you to review user queries and evaluate the quality of the returned search results.

Article Continues Below

Credit: WordPress.org

Step 6: Exclusions, Restrictions, and Search Hit Highlighting

To further control search results, you can use the Exclusions and Restrictions tab to limit the indexed taxonomy searched by Relevanssi. For instance, you could exclude comments from the search while allowing Relevanssi to search author names.

Credit: WordPress.org

In addition, the WordPress Relevanssi plugin allows you to highlight keywords in search results and control the output for each hit (e.g., the number of displayed characters per hit).

Step 7: Save Options

Once you have finished selecting your search filtering options, make sure to select the Save Options button to update the default values.

Step 8: Build the Index

By selecting the Build the Index option, the Relevanssi plugin crawls through your website and wp
database indexing keywords and categories.

Credit: WordPress.org

To control what is indexed, you can select the Indexing Options tab. Here, you can choose to index:

  • Post types:
    • Posts
    • Pages
    • Attachments
    • Custom post types
  • Taxonomies
    • Categories
    • Tags
    •  Custom taxonomies
  • Author pages
  • Excerpts
  • Comments

Here, you can also select the Synonym tab to define key-value pairs and the and Stopwords tab to identify search terms to ignore (e.g., their, here, the, etc.).

Credit: WordPress.org

Finally, you can turn on Caching to speed up search results if you have sufficient memory available in your hosting plan.

Once completed, select the Build the Index option to complete the indexing process.

Step 9: Continue Indexing

As you add new content to your website, you can select Continue Indexing to update the index.

Step 10: Start Searching

Now that Relevanssi has indexed your site, whenever a user submits a search query, Relevanssi will take over the search results generation process from WordPress site search providing relevant and targeted results for user queries.


Relevanssi is a search backend designed to replace WordPress default search with customizable search filters which return highly targeted search results to user queries. Excellent for large websites with complex taxonomies, Relevanssi provides several layers of search filtering to enhance control of the search algorithm and search results.

For smaller sites with simple taxonomies, the Relevanssi plugin may offer a feature set which exceeds the needs and expertise of novice website developers. However, the default settings of the free version of the plugin should prove effective in such use cases.

All in all: Relevanssi is the right plugin to drive better WordPress search results for your website.

What do you think of the Relevanssi plugin? Drop us a comment below.

A team of WordPress experts that love to test out new WordPress related software, WordPress plugins and WordPress themes.