5 Best WordPress Search Plugins 2019

There are a lot of great things about WordPress, but most people would agree that the default WordPress search functionality is not one of them. Thankfully, with the best WordPress search plugins from this list, you can give your search system a much-needed upgrade that makes it more user-friendly and gives your visitors more options to find content.

In total, I've collected 5 great WordPress search plugins, plus a little bonus:

  1. SearchWP
  2. Relevanssi
  3. Ajax Search Pro
  4. Ivory Search
  5. FacetWP

For each plugin, I'll tell you all about the new functionality that you get, as well as what you can expect to pay for it.

Then, at the end, I'll recommend some specific plugins based on your needs.

Let's get started so that you can end your search for the best WordPress search plugin.

SearchWP

SearchWP

SearchWP is one of the most well-known WordPress search plugins.

Unfortunately, it only comes in a premium version, but the upside of that is that you get a ton of great functionality for improving all aspects of your search.

Key Features

  • Works with the native WordPress search functionality
  • Search everything, including custom fields and the output from shortcodes
  • Ajax live search to show results instantly without a page reload – the live search functionality is actually free at WordPress.org, and you don't need SearchWP to use it
  • Keyword stemming to come up with better search results
  • Option to highlight the search query in search results, much like how Google does things
  • Customize the weighting of your search algorithm
  • Integrations with other popular plugins, including WooCommerce, bbPress, Easy Digital Downloads, WP Job Manager, and lots more
  • Create separate search engines, each with their own unique settings. For example, you could have one search for blog posts, and another for WooCommerce products
  • Index the content from PDFs, .docs, and other text documents in your Media Library
  • Use SearchWP to power related content suggestions
  • Automatically redirect certain search phrases to a specific page
  • Search analytics so that you can see what people are searching for (tip – you can use Google Analytics to track search queries without the need for a plugin, so this isn't a huge selling point in my opinion)

How it Works

SearchWP integrates into the native WordPress search system, so you won't need to do anything special to set it up. For example, you can use the regular Search widget. Or, if your theme already includes a dedicated search feature, SearchWP will start working with that automatically.

From there, SearchWP utilizes a modular approach, which means you can pick and choose which extensions you want to use.

After you've uploaded the extensions, you can use a well-designed interface to configure your search functionality's weighting, as well as the other functionality:

SearchWP settings

Price

Again, SearchWP only comes in a premium version.

The cheapest plan starts at $99 for use on a single site. However, for access to every single premium feature, you'll need at least the $149 Pro plan, which lets you use it on up to 5 sites.

More Info / Download

Relevanssi

Relevanssi

Relevanssi is a popular WordPress search plugin that comes in both a limited free version, as well as a full-featured premium version.

It will let you offer more comprehensive and relevant search results, as well as nice features like Google-style “did you mean?” search suggestions.

Key Features

  • Works with the native WordPress search functionality
  • Builds its own search index
  • Search more types of content, including comments, tags, custom fields, and more
  • Adjust the weighting of titles, tags, and comments to change what content is considered “relevant”
  • “Did you mean?” suggestions, just like Google
  • Highlight the search query in the search results (like how Google does it)
  • Better content indexing, including an option to index the contents of shortcodes and attachments (like a Word document, though attachment indexing is a premium feature)
  • Search across multiple sites in WordPress Multisite (premium)
  • Let searchers use OR and AND type queries
  • Automatically redirect certain keyword searches to a specific page (premium)

How it Works

Like SearchWP, Relevanssi works with the normal WordPress search, so you won't need to add any special search box.

To configure everything, you'll get a detailed backend settings area:

Relevanssi settings

There are a lot of settings to go through, but it's still pretty simple to set up.

Any Important Considerations?

One important thing to consider with Relevansi is performance. The developers are quite open with the fact that Relevanssi uses lots of data, especially for a large site. They say you can expect to triple the size of your wp_posts database table. On low-powered hosting, that might cause issues.

Price

Relevanssi has a free version at WordPress.org. Then, the premium version starts at $99 for a one-year license or $299 for a lifetime license. Both premium licenses let you use Relevanssi on unlimited sites.

More Info / Download

Ajax Search Pro

Ajax Search Pro

As the name suggests, the core value of Ajax Search Pro is the ability to add Ajax live search to WordPress. That is, as soon as visitors start typing their search terms, up pops a list of search results – no page reloads or waiting around.

You also get some nice templates for displaying those search results, like an option to include the featured image from each piece of content in the results list.

So overall, that's the main reason to choose this plugin, and why it's active on over 40,000 sites according to WordPress.org.

However, it can also add some other helpful options, like filters and the ability to search in custom post types (including WooCommerce products).

Ajax Search Pro has both a free and premium version.

Key Features

  • Adds Ajax live search to WordPress
  • Unique search results templates (for example, you can show images like the example above)
  • Lots of customization options
  • Index and search media attachments, including PDF, CSV, DOC, and more
  • Search any post type, including WooCommerce products and bbPress forums
  • Search in custom field information, including an option to choose exactly which custom fields to index
  • Autocomplete and search suggestions
  • Add search filters in addition to keyword search
  • Option to generate your own search index

How it Works

There are two ways to add the Ajax Search Pro search form to your site.

First, you can have it try to replace your theme's default theme search, which should work. It's important to note that this will change the styling of the search form, which is different from how SearchWP and Relevanssi work. With those two plugins, there's no effect on the frontend appearance of your search form.

Or, you can also use dedicated shortcodes/widgets to display the plugin's search form anywhere on your site.

From there, you can use the detailed settings area to control how everything works, including the styling of the search form:

Ajax Search Pro settings

Price

There's a limited free version of this plugin at WordPress.org called Ajax Search Lite. Then, the Pro version is available for $36 at CodeCanyon with standard Envato licensing. That is:

  • Lifetime updates for one site
  • 6 months of support

More Info / Download Demo

Ivory Search

Ivory Search

Ivory Search is a freemium WordPress search plugin that makes a great option for improving the native WordPress search. It's one of the best free WordPress search plugins, and the premium version is still much more affordable than most of the competition.

That helps explain why it has a 4.9-star rating on over 160 reviews at WordPress.org.

However, it also doesn't have quite as long a feature list as something like SearchWP. So…trade-offs!

Key Features

  • Works with the native WordPress search functionality
  • Create unlimited search forms, each with their own unique settings
  • Search WooCommerce products or bbPress forums (free)
  • Lots of options to only search specific content. E.g. only search password protected posts or posts with a specific number of comments (plus more)
  • Expand what you can search for, with options to search for file attachments, WooCommerce product variations, excerpts, plus a lot more
  • Options to exclude certain content from showing up in the search results. For example, you can exclude out of stock WooCommerce products
  • Highlight search terms in the results
  • Fuzzy matching and keyword stemming

How it Works

Ivory Search automatically creates a default search form for your native WordPress search. That is, this default search form controls the functionality of the regular Search widget and/or your theme's built-in search.

From there, you can create as many new search forms as you'd like, and configure their functionality in a simple settings area:

Ivory Search settings

For additional search forms (beyond the default one that Ivory Search creates), you can embed them using a shortcode.

Price

Ivory Search has a free version at WordPress.org.

After that, the premium versions are still quite affordable. Single-site plans start at $19.99 for one year of support/updates (or $99.99 for lifetime).

The full-featured plan starts at $49.99 for use on a single site, or $189.99 for a lifetime license.

Prices go up if you want to use Ivory Search on multiple sites. For example, you'll pay $39.99 to use the basic Pro version on up to 5 sites.

More Info / Download

FacetWP

FacetWP

FacetWP helps you add faceted search functionality to your WordPress site.

If you're not familiar with what I mean by faceted search, it's a lot like filters, and it's something you'll commonly see at eCommerce stores and directories.

Here's an example – see how you're not just searching by keyword, but you can also filter by fuel type or region?

FacetWP example

FacetWP doesn't have to be a standalone plugin, either. You can actually integrate it with the SearchWP plugin from above to get the best of both worlds.

Key Features

  • Add faceted search functionality to WordPress
  • Ajax-based, which means no page reloads as users make their search choices
  • Creates its own search index for better performance
  • 13 different filter types, including date/number ranges, maps, search, proximity, and more
  • Filter post types or users (the latter lets you create detailed user listing search)
  • Integrates with page builders to design the results page. Works with both Elementor Pro and Beaver Builder
  • Create facets based on custom fields, taxonomies, and regular post data
  • Works with WooCommerce to help you create really detailed faceted WooCommerce menus

How it Works

Like SearchWP, FacetWP comes in a modular set of extensions that let you pick and choose exactly which features you want.

Once you install the relevant extensions, you can create your first facet using a simple interface:

FacetWP settings

You can also use the template builder to design the layout for individual results:

FacetWP templates

Any Important Considerations?

FacetWP doesn't change how the regular WordPress search box works. That's why you might want to consider integrating it with SearchWP to really put your WordPress search on steroids.

Price

FacetWP only comes in a premium version. Plans start at $99 per year for use on up to 3 sites and the option to filter post types.

Then, there's a $249 per year plan that lets you use it on up to 20 sites and filter both post types and users.

More Info / Download Demo

Bonus: ElasticPress

ElasticPress

I'm throwing in ElasticPress as a bonus because it's a little more technical than the other plugins. But if you have a lot of content, it's a great option because it helps you leverage the power of Elasticsearch on WordPress.

If you're not familiar, Elasticsearch is an alternate way of querying data. Instead of querying your WordPress site's database whenever someone searches, Elasticsearch builds its own indexes that are much more efficient and help turn up better results. To be honest, I'm not 100% sure how it works – I just know it's a lot more performance friendly 🙂

In order to use Elasticsearch, you'll need to actually install the open-source Elasticsearch software on your WordPress site's server, which is why I say that this one is a little less user-friendly.

Additionally, not all hosts will let you use Elasticsearch, especially cheap shared ones. However, popular high-quality managed hosts like Kinsta and WP Engine do let you use it.

Once you have Elasticsearch installed on your site's server, ElasticPress helps you make it work with WordPress and also offers tons of nice features like:

  • Faceted search
  • Autosuggest
  • Related posts

So if you're a little more technical minded, check out this one. If you're a casual user, stick to one of the other options as they're easier to set up.

More Info / Download

Which is the Best WordPress Search Plugin for You?

Now for the important question, which is the best WordPress search plugin for you?

As is normally the case with these plugin roundups, there's not a single plugin that's right for 100% of users, so let's run through a few different situations.

If you want the best overall search plugin, I'd say go with SearchWP. It does a little bit of everything. Custom weighting, improved relevancy, Ajax live search, related content, text document indexing…it has the best overall feature list of any plugin on this list.

On the other hand, if you want to specifically add faceted search to your WordPress site, then you'll probably want a specialized option like FacetWP.

If all you want is to add live Ajax search to your site, you can go with Ajax Search Lite or Ajax Search Pro for an affordable option. The overall feature list isn't as good as SearchWP (which also offers live search), but it has a free version and is just plain cheaper.

If you specifically want a free WordPress search plugin, I think Ivory Search is the most generous, with Relevanssi also being a solid option. Ajax Search Lite is also good if you specifically want live search functionality for free.

Finally, if you're an advanced user, consider going with ElasticPress and Elasticsearch, if your host allows it.

Any questions about these search plugins for WordPress? Ask away in the comments!

Colin Newcomer

Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer for hire with a background in SEO and affiliate marketing. He helps clients grow their web visibility by writing primarily about digital marketing and WordPress. You can hire him to write for your website.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click on one of the links and purchase an item, we may receive a commission. All opinions however are our own and we do not accept payments for positive reviews.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *