There’s one thing that’s been true about WordPress since the beginning:
The default search functionality isn’t always that great. I mean, it’s functional enough…but it’s definitely no Google. Beyond just plain not turning up great results sometimes, it also might not include all the information you need, especially if you’re using WordPress more as a CMS than a blogging platform.
For example, I had one site where I wanted the search function to return results from custom fields that I was using on a custom post type. But…there’s no way to control that from your WordPress dashboard.
So if you want more control over your WordPress site’s search, or you’re just looking for a way to improve the WordPress search function, you need some of these WordPress search plugins.
8+ Best WordPress Search Plugins In 2018
On this list, you’ll find both free and premium search plugins. With them, you’ll be able to do cool stuff like…
- Manually assign different weights to various criteria to adjust your search algorithm
- Include custom fields, custom post types, and shortcode outputs in search results
- Add live AJAX search (so that visitors see results as they’re typing)
- Perform some other minor tweaks that can make your WordPress site’s search more usable
Let’s dig in!
SearchWP is probably the most comprehensive WordPress search plugin (or at least one of them!). Unfortunately, it’s not free. But I will cover free plugins later on.
SearchWP gives you detailed control over exactly how your WordPress search functions. With the plugin, you can:
- Assign custom weights to control how much importance different parts of your content are given.
- Add more comprehensive search by also searching custom fields (including WooCommerce or EDD product details), shortcode output, PDF/Office documents, and more.
- Exclude specific content from search results
- View search statistics to see what people are searching for (and if they can find it)
You can also create multiple different search configurations so that you can use different types of search in different spots on your site, though you will need some technical-savvy to do so.
The plugin uses your default search results page styling – so everything will look the same as your theme’s styles dictate. That is, there’s no need to mess around with custom styles.
And if you want even more functionality, there are also modular add-ons that can give you:
- Fuzzy matches
- Search term highlighting
- Term synonyms
If you want to completely overhaul your WordPress site’s search, SearchWP is one of the best all-in-one solutions that you’ll find. Prices start at $79 for use on a single site.
Relevanssi is another great option to overhaul your WordPress search and make the results more accurate. Unlike SearchWP, there’s also a free version (to go along with the premium version).
With the free version, you can:
- Include custom fields, comments, shortcode outputs, taxonomies, and custom post types in your site’s search results
- Search with “quotes” to find an exact match (SearchWP doesn’t let you do this)
- Use OR and AND queries
- Highlight search terms in results
- Adjust the weighting given to titles, tags, and comments
- Display search suggestions (like Google’s “Did You Mean?”)
And if you go with the premium version, you’ll be able to:
- Index PDF content
- Search across multiple sites for WordPress Multisite
- Index any column in the wp_posts table
- Assign custom weights to post types, taxonomies, or new posts
- Use some other helpful features
If you want something free that can revamp your search, I think Relevanssi is a great option. Learn more about Relevanssi.
3. Search Everything
As the name suggests, Search Everything is a simple plugin that expands the scope of the default WordPress search.
I use this plugin on one of my sites where I needed WordPress to be able to search custom fields for a custom post type that I added. It works perfectly and does exactly what I want.
With it, you can enable or disable search for:
- Custom fields
- Category names/descriptions
And you can also highlight search terms in the results.
It’s a lot simpler than the previous two plugins – but if you’re fine with the default search algorithm and just want to expand its scope, this one does a great job in my experience.
It’s also 100% free.
4. Ajax Search
Ajax Search is a popular freemium plugin that adds live AJAX search to your WordPress site. That is, visitors will see results instantly as they type – no page reload required (see the live demo here). And it works on both desktops and mobile devices.
Beyond the core live search functionality, you can also:
- Search in custom fields and custom post types
- Exclude certain categories and posts
- Include images in search results
If you upgrade to the paid version, you’ll also get:
- Search WooCommerce, bbPress, BuddyPress, and some others
- Group by category or post type
- More themes/layouts
- Search statistics
- Some other helpful features
The free version is available at WordPress.org. The Pro version costs $36.
5. SearchWP Live Ajax Search
SearchWP Live Ajax Search is another live AJAX search plugin from the same developer as SearchWP. Despite the name, you do NOT need SearchWP to use this plugin.
This plugin will use SearchWP if you have it installed – but it’s not a requirement.
The plugin comes with a search widget that you can use to easily add live search to any widget area. But if you want to use it in other areas, you’ll need at least some basic familiarity with code to implement the plugin.
6. Search Exclude
Up until now, a lot of the WordPress search plugins that I’ve shown you have focused on including additional information in search results.
What if you want to go the opposite way, though?
Search Exclude is a free plugin that lets you use a checkbox in the edit screen to exclude any post or page from your site’s search results.
It’s simple, free, and does exactly what it promises.
7. ACF: Better Search
ACF: Better Search offers a more limited approach to expanding your site’s search. Specifically, it makes it possible to search selected fields from Advanced Custom Fields Pro.
Advanced Custom Fields is a massively popular option for managing custom fields. So if you use it on your site, you can just grab this plugin as a lightweight option for making those fields searchable.
8. A Gaggle Of WooCommerce Search Plugins
There are a ton of popular plugins that are specifically designed to improve WooCommerce search. But because I know that most people probably aren’t running WooCommerce stores, I’m going to shoehorn all of these into a single section so that the list doesn’t become “The Best WooCommerce Search Plugins”:
- Ajax Search for WooCommerce – adds AJAX live search for your WooCommerce products.
- Advanced Woo Search – live search, as well as the option to search in custom fields, include product images/price in search, and plenty more.
- WooCommerce Search Engine – adds live search, including product images/price, as well as other helpful features.
Final Thoughts On These WordPress Search Plugins
If you’re looking for an all-in-one plugin to make big changes to your WordPress site’s search, I recommend SearchWP or Relevanssi as a good first option.
The other plugins are great for making smaller tweaks – but those two offer a stellar comprehensive approach.
And if you’re running a WooCommerce store, I recommend that you check out the plugins I listed at the end because they do a great job of including relevant product information – like prices and images – which makes your store’s search more user-friendly.
Have any other questions about using a WordPress search plugin to improve your site’s search? Leave a comment and we’ll try to help out!