A well placed and visible search bar is essential for your website or blog, a visitor who cant see what they are looking for is going to look for where they can search for the page or content they need, if they have to spend more than a few seconds looking for the search bar the chances are that they will lose interest and leave. Multiple this by hundreds or thousands of visitors all leaving your site and this could do serious damage to your website or business! Your search bar is also a treasure trove of user data which can be used to see what your audience is looking for on your site, this information can then be used to refine your content and keep readers engaged and staying on your site all of which result in positives from better time on site signals to Google that can improve your rankings in the SERPs.
WordPress comes with its own search function built in and it does a good job of bringing back search keyword information however its only been since the 3.7 update less than 18 months ago that ranks by relevancy were fixed and also cannot perform searches for specifics such as comments or tags.
Luckily there are many excellent alternatives out there for WordPress both paid and free, here’s a run down of 4 of the best:
OK some people might be turned away by the fact that this is a paid plugin and there are plenty of good free alternatives out there but SearchWP has some fantastic features and at only $29 USD its well worth the money.
Unlimited Search Engines – integrates fully with native WordPress search and other search plugins
Multisite Support – If you want to share search results from multiple sites then this is a must.
Search Statistics – Remember what I said about tracking your users searches and data? SearchWP keeps and tracks all those useful stats so you can see exactly which search queries are coming up empty and then getting working on content for those searches!
Speed – This plugin is fast! Expect to be able to pull results from thousands of pages and posts in less than half a second
This is probably the most week know search plugin out there and the top result when searching for them in the WordPress plugins database. It comes in a free and premium version with two price ranges, the free one is probably fine if you only have one site or are looking for something for a personal blog but for professional developers and people working on multiple sites then the premium version is definitely they way to go as it allows multi site installs and even on sites which you dont own.
Partial search term matching and also phrase searches
Options to exclude certain post, pages or tags from results
Highlighting of users search term in the results
Swiftype runs a variety of options from free personal usage to pro level at $19 a month all the way up to business and enterprise licenses and support.
Drag and drop options so you can decide and set how results are displayed, changes are instant
A robust mobile SDK so if you have an app that shares content and data from your WordPress site that can be queried by your mobile users too.
Results can easily be filtered by things like date, tag, author and more
For those of you with lightweight ecommerce sites then this might be a plugin to try out, it allows users to search the entire product database of your site along with other features such as live search which works by querying the database and presenting the results as the users types, something many people expect these days with predictive text and results.
Live & predictive text search
Results displayed in the widget drop-down with Product Thumbnail, Title and description text.
Be warned that there are some bad reviews for it though!
Author: David Jones
David is lead digital marketer at Performancing, he also blogs at Bloggingtips.com and Bloggingpro.com.