Improving standard WordPress search

Note: This is a living post that I’ll update as I go on in my quest to improve WordPress search

Version 1.2 - Added review of Relevanssi Search Plugin
Version 1.1 - Added screenshots of Better Search Plugin

Search is very basic in WordPress so I’m trying to find some better solutions. In particular I have the following goals:

  1. Improve overall search quality and ranking.
  2. Be able to index specific content. Apart from jus pages and posts I would like to index PDF files and specific woo-commerce products.
  3. Suggest specific content for individual keywords. More or less as if I had an Ad-words campaign on my internal search web search. This is important to propose suggested editorially curated search results before those arranged by the search ranking algorithm.

Useful articles

To start I look for well-written articles on the subject of WordPress Search.

This is what I have found to date:

Make WordPress’ search function suck Less

4 Powerful Ways to Improve WordPress Search so it doesn’t suck

Wpsolr search engine


I imagine there can be at least three approaches to improve WordPress Search:

  • a WordPress plugin;
  • a third party service with a plugin;
  • an integration with some software outside the scope of WordPress.

Plugins tested

To start I have tested the following plugins:

Better Search

Better Search – this is the search plugin I tested actively on this website.  It is definitely better than native WordPress search although still quite basic. Here are some screenshots form it’s options and the results page;


  • Automatic: Once activated, Better Search will automatically replace your default WordPress search with more relevant search results
  • Seamless integration: Search results are perfectly integrated into your theme without the need for custom search templates
  • Relevance: Search results are automatically sorted by relevance. You can also turn off relevancy based searching, in which case, results are sorted by date
  • Control the results: Fine tune the results by changing the weighting of post title and post content. Turn on BOOLEAN search to override the default NATURAL LANGUAGE search of mySQL
  • Popular searches: Find out what visitors are searching for on your blog. Display a list of popular search terms (daily and overall) on your blog in the form of a heatmap. Widget support for easy integration in your theme as well as a shortcode [[bsearch_heatmap]]
  • Customisation: Support for a template file for perfect integration into your blog template. Alternatively, just input your own CSS styles in the Custom Styles tab in the Settings Page. Check the FAQ for more information
  • Supports cache plugins: Works with caching plugins like WP-Super-Cache and W3 Total Cache
  • Profanity filter: Customise the list of stop words that will automatically be filtered out of search queries
  • Translation ready: Better Search is translation ready


Relevanssi – A Better Search – this plugin is currently active on this website. Respect to Better Search it creates an index rather than scanning content at runtime. It has many options available in the free version. For example it allows to establish the weight of elements so you can decide how much a hit in a title counts weighs more than than hist elsewhere. You can even decide not to index titles at all.

Relevanssi WordPress Search plugin option


  • Search results sorted in the order of relevance, not by date.
  • Fuzzy matching: match partial words, if complete words don’t match.
  • Find documents matching either just one search term (OR query) or require all words to appear (AND query).
  • Search for phrases with quotes, for example “search phrase”.
  • Create custom excerpts that show where the hit was made, with the search terms highlighted.
  • Highlight search terms in the documents when user clicks through search results.
  • Search comments, tags, categories and custom fields.


  • Adjust the weighting for titles, tags and comments.
  • Log queries, show most popular queries and recent queries with no hits.
  • Restrict searches to categories and tags using a hidden variable or plugin settings.
  • Index custom post types and custom taxonomies.
  • Index the contents of shortcodes.
  • Google-style “Did you mean?” suggestions based on successful user searches.
  • Automatic support for WPML multi-language plugin.
  • Automatic support for s2member membership plugin.
  • Advanced filtering to help hacking the search results the way you want.
  • Search result throttling to improve performance on large databases.
  • Disable indexing of post content and post titles with a simple filter hook.

The paid version adds:

  • Improved spelling correction in “Did you mean?” suggestions.
  • Multisite support.
  • Search and index user profiles.
  • Search and index taxonomy term pages (categories, tags, custom taxonomies).
  • Search and index arbitrary columns in wp_posts MySQL table.
  • Assign weights to any post types and taxonomies.
  • Assign extra weight to new posts.
  • Let the user choose between AND and OR searches, use + and – operator (AND and NOT).
  • Highlighting search terms for visitors from external search engines.
  • Export and import settings.
  • WP CLI commands.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.