Retain Visitors by Fixing the Weak WordPress Search

Retain Visitors by Fixing the Weak WordPress Search

A good portion of your visitors probably found their way to your site via a search engine such as Google, so it makes sense to learn that internal site search is also a popular form of navigating websites as well as the internet in general.

Unfortunately WordPress isn’t renowned for having the best search functionality. Thankfully there are a few good options out there to make it easier for your readers to find exactly what they are looking for on your website.

By installing one of these WordPress search plugins, you can make your site much more user friendly and increase the chances of your readers sticking around and unearthing some of the great content that is buried deep on your site.

WordPress Search Plugins

But which plugin is the best one for the job? Find out by reading our run down of the top search plugins for WordPress.


This is a free plugin with an optional upgrade to a premium version available. However, the free version is packed with features and brings a much needed improvement to the WordPress search functionality.


Unlike the standard search in WP, results are listed in order of relevance rather than date. This means your readers will find what they are looking for from all of your content, rather than being shown more recent posts that are only slightly relevant.

Just like Google, Relevanssi can search for strings of text using the “” quotes and it can handle AND and OR queries. Search terms can also be highlighted to aid the reader in finding the most relevant part of the article.

Those are just some of the key features of the free version. Other advanced features of the free version include:

  • Adjust the weighting for titles, tags and comments
  • View the logs and find out what people have been searching for
  • Index custom post types and taxonomies
  • Index the content of shortcodes
  • Show Google-style “did you mean?” suggestions

To view the full list of features and compare the different versions, visit the Relevanssi feature comparison page.

For those that want even more power in their sites search functionality the premium version includes the ability to:

  • Improved spelling for “did you mean?” suggestions
  • Multisite support
  • Search and index user profiles
  • Assign extra weight to new posts
  • Guaranteed support
  • Instant access to any new features that are added

With the cost of the premium version starting from $39.95 per year and with so many great features in the free version, only those who have outgrown the free version or require guaranteed support should consider going pro.

Download this plugin

Google Custom Search Engine

Creating a Google CSE for your site is a good idea as your readers should already be familiar with this search engine. Seeing as it’s the most popular search engine out there, employing its functionality to enhance the WordPress search functionality of your site looks like a solid option.


However, there is a one downside to using the GCSE on your site and that is that it displays Google AdSense adverts on the search engine results page. While this can help you earn money (when users click on those ads), it can be a sure-fire way to leak visitors as they are tempted away from your site by the relevant ads that are displayed.

Of course there is a way around this, and that is to sign up for the premium service. However, with prices starting from $100 a year, it can be an expensive option for non-income generating blogs.

While this service undoubtedly enhances your site’s search functionality, it does so at a cost, either in terms of risking a loss of visitors, or requiring a financial outlay that might be too great for some webmasters.

Find out more about this service

Other Search Engine Plugins for WordPress

While the free version of Relevanssi gets my vote for best WordPress search plugin, there are a few other well regarded options out there. To help you weigh up the different services available here are some more to consider:

Search Everything

With over half a million downloads and a 3.8 star rating, this is a popular choice amongst the WordPress search engine plugins. It will search pretty much everything on your site including every page, category and tag as well as any custom taxonomies in use.

It’s easy to setup and has enough configuration settings to help you get what you want.

Download this plugin

Dave’s WordPress Live Search

This free plugin adds live search, or autocomplete to your WP site. This is popular search functionality that your users will be familiar with from sites like Google, Amazon and eBay to name but a few.

There are a good set of options for this plugin which allow you to limit the number of results displayed, determine what is shown in the results page and select a colour for the plugin.

As this plugin doesn’t affect the results that are shown, it is best combined with a plugin that does improve the search results that are shown such as Relevanssi.

Download this plugin


If you don’t want to experiment with the free options and are happy to pay out for a premium option from the outset then Search WP looks like a great choice. This plugin allows you to weight the results as you see fit. It can also index PDF content so it your site contains documents in this format then it’s a good option.

You can also get a range of search statistics thanks to the logging feature of Search WP.

Download this plugin


Relevanssi is the standout option here. It’s free and lots of great features that should satisfy most site owners. The premium options are there should you need them at some point which is reassuring but the free version has more than enough functionality to instantly improve your site’s searchability.

However, by combining it with Dave’s WordPress Live Search plugin you can make it an even more powerful tool by showing your readers the most relevant results as they type in their query.