WordPress Search Plugins to Improve Results & Performance
Last Updated August 29, 2022
Let’s be honest. The default WordPress search experience is pretty lacking. Many themes add the WordPress search form in a template, slap together a results page, and call it a day. In terms of the actual results, once again WordPress comes up pretty short with a default installation. Results are sometimes confusing in terms of relevancy or order. You often get the wrong kinds of content floating to the top of search terms when you would prefer something else. There’s a lot of room for improvement. Thankfully, the WordPress community has once again stepped up to help. Check out our list of WordPress search plugins that can improve performance and results on your sites.
Popular WordPress Better Search Plugins
All of the WordPress search plugins in the following list are available, for free, from WordPress.org. You can also, as an easier option, install and activate them from inside of the WordPress admin. While all of these plugins are free, several do offer a paid or premium upgraded version. One actually requires a third-party service to work. We’ve done our best to explain the features of the free plugins as well as the pro versions as well. Hopefully, after reviewing this list, you’ll find at least one solution that can improve your existing WordPress site’s search results and performance.
Relevanssi is an advanced and much-needed upgrade from your regular WordPress search. It’s decked out with more features, a better search engine, and customizable settings. Some of its key features include:
- Have results sorted by relevance instead of chronologically
- Matching partial words
- Options to match one term or requiring all the words
- Support for using quotation marks in searches
- Highlighting search terms that were hit and seeing them in the document itself once clicked
- Searching comments, tags, categories, and custom fields.
Relevanssi is also equipped with bbPress support and works with Multisite and Gutenberg.
For more advanced configurations, this plugin can also adjust the weighting for text, log queries, and restrict your searches using hidden variables and settings. The plugin can index custom post types, taxonomies, and shortcodes. It offers Google-style search suggestions, advanced filtering, search result throttling, and disabling indexing with filter hooks. It also includes support for the WPML multi-language plugin, Polylang, and a variety of membership plugins.
This being said, you must take note of the database space within your current hosting. Relevannsi may take up about three times the size of your wp_posts database table. If you have limited space, Relevanssi can cause problems and may not be for you.
This plugin was originally released by its owner in June of 2009. It is actively on version 4.22.1 and last saw a change on February 10th, 2024. The most recent release runs on WordPress 6.3.3 and requires at least PHP 7.0 to function on your server. This plugin is now running on over 100,000 WordPress sites. It has had over 6,344,920 downloads. There have been 50 help requests with a 48% response rate. Relevanssi – A Better Search has below average support from its owner. Reviews for Relevanssi – A Better Search are very positive. Many of the users who left an evaluation found Relevanssi – A Better Search to be useful.
Security Issues and Vulnerabilities
There have been 5 recorded security or vulnerability issues with Relevanssi. All of those security problems have been resolved. Here is a look at the most recent issues:
|Authenticated (Admin+) SQL Injection
This was a high concern issue that was fixed in version 3.6.1.
This was a medium concern issue that was fixed in version 4.0.4.
|Stored Cross-Site Scripting
This was a medium concern issue that was fixed in version 3.5.8.
This was a medium concern issue that was fixed in version 3.3.8.
This was a critical concern issue that was fixed in version 3.3.
Relevanssi Premium is the paid version of this plugin that comes with even more features and support. You can index attachment content, search among a multitude of sites within the same installation, and find and index user profiles. Additional features include:
- Support for taxonomy term pages
- Arbitrary columns in MySQL table
- Assigning weight to posts and taxonomies
- Choosing between AND and OR searches
- Export and import settings.
It also improves on its “Did you mean?” type suggestions with spelling corrections. It has WP CLI commands, redirects for searches, and shows related posts. You may either purchase a yearly license for Relevanssi Premium or go the extra mile and buy a one-time, lifetime upgrade and never have to pay again.
ACF: Better Search
ACF: Better Search is a plugin that works atop your standard WordPress search by bringing a few useful features to the table. You can search by content specifically filtered from the Advanced Custom Fields plugin and even search using whole phrases. This should result in more accurate results. It’s perfect for those who need a simpler plugin as it needs no added code and is completely automatic. This plugin is also unique because instead of creating a search results page, it improves your search engine by altering your SQL database query itself. The developers claim that, depending on the search complexity, a content search can perform up to 75% faster than before.
This product was initially released by its creator in December of 2016. It is actively on version 4.2.0 and last experienced a revision on December 28th, 2023. The most recent release runs on WordPress 6.4.3 and requires at least PHP 7.0 to function on your server. This plugin is presently functioning on over 40,000 WordPress sites. It has had over 533,760 downloads. There have not been many help requests from customers. Reviews for ACF: Better Search are very positive. Many of the end-users who left a review found ACF: Better Search to be excellent.
Security Issues and Vulnerabilities
There has been one recorded security or vulnerability issue with ACF: Better Search. The security problem was fixed and here are the details.
|Cross-Site Request Forgery
This was a high concern issue that was fixed in version 3.3.1.
Better Search is equipped with a powerful search engine, increasing relevancy to your search results based on the title and content of the post. This will end up helping your users find exactly what they need faster than before. The plugin looks through pages and other custom post types. It is filled with options that make it simple to adjust your output. Your results can be tweaked by choosing to focus more on the title or content. Searches can be tracked to show a heatmap of previous popular searches. The plugin offers support for widgets and seamlessly fits into any WordPress theme you choose. Other key features include:
- Immediately replacing the default WordPress search once activated
- A choice between relevancy or date-based sorting
- Customizing templates with your own CSS
- Profanity filter
- Translation support
- Integration with popular WordPress caching plugins.
This product was first published by its creator in March of 2009. It is presently on version 3.3.0 and last underwent an update on January 24th, 2024. The newest edition runs on WordPress 6.4.3 and requires at least PHP 7.4 to operate on your server. This plugin is now working on over 7,000 WordPress websites. It has had over 231,310 downloads. There have been 7 help requests with a 71% response rate. Better Search – Relevant search results for WordPress has ok support from its developer. Reviews for this plugin are very positive. Many of the customers who left an evaluation found this plugin to be useful.
Security Issues and Vulnerabilities
There have been 3 recorded security or vulnerability issues with Better Search. All of those security problems have been fixed. Here are the details:
|Cross-Site Request Forgery to Settings Import
This was a high concern issue that was fixed in version 2.5.3.
This was a critical concern issue that was fixed in version 2.2.3.
|Reflected Cross-Site Scripting
This was a medium concern issue that was fixed in version 1.3.4.
SearchIQ is a plugin that brings your WordPress site’s search engine to a whole new level. This plugin’s main feature is the ability to give you quick and accurate results before you finish typing. SearchIQ is also equipped with a dashboard to track your analytics and user search patterns. The intent is to give you more insight into improving your site and business. Key features of this plugin include:
- Easy setup
- Options to customize your UI
- Prioritization of your relevant and preferred content
- AI that handles little hiccups like typos, synonyms, and fuzzy matches
- Searching against taxonomies and certain fields
SearchIQ is known to be able to handle a wide range of sites. From smaller blogs to large-scale business websites. They have a very dedicated support staff to help you when you need it.
This product was first released by its developer in February of 2016. It is presently on version 4.5 and last saw a revision on November 23rd, 2023. The most recent edition runs on WordPress 6.4.3. This plugin is actively functioning on over 2,000 WordPress websites. It has had over 77,730 downloads. There have been 4 support requests with a 25% response rate. SearchIQ – The Search Solution has below average support from its developer. Reviews for SearchIQ – The Search Solution are very positive. Many of the end-users who left an evaluation found this plugin to be excellent.
Security Issues and Vulnerabilities
There has been one recorded security or vulnerability issue with SearchIQ. The security problem was fixed and here are the details.
|Unauthenticated Stored Cross-Site Scripting
This was a high concern issue that was fixed in version 3.8.
Although SearchIQ is free at its core, affordable paid packages tailored to the magnitude of your needs are available. Paid plans also allow you to squeeze more advanced features and allowances out of your experience. While the free version supports up to 2,000 documents, the Startup, Pro, and Enterprise packages work with 5,000, 100,000, and an unlimited amount respectively. They can also track a longer trend of analytics ranging from 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months, while the base iteration holds only up to 24 hours. All packages support unlimited domains, Facet, and CDN, but only Pro and Enterprise include a direct resource for staff support, PDFs, and 99.9% SLA.
WP Fast Total Search
WP Fast Total Search is a plugin that produces a transparent word-based index, thus expanding the abilities of your WordPress search. Besides searching by title and post content, you can additionally search by meta-fields, custom types of posts, shortcodes, and within attached files. Most importantly, you are able to specify the weights of each. The plugin blends seamlessly as no external indexing software is needed so it should work on shared hosting.
This search plugin simply expands the default WordPress search but does not replace it. Other key features include:
- Phrase search
- A powerful index clustering system
- AND and OR logic
- Multisite capability
- Ordering results by different categories
- Displaying sentences with highlighted queried words in results
- Live Search
- Support for language translations
- Removes HTML tags and comments before indexing
There is an API and documentation available for customization. WP Fast Total Search works with PHP 5.6+ to 7.4, and supports a whole library of available add-ons.
This piece of software was originally published by its creator in October of 2015. It is presently on version 1.59.211 and last saw a revision on October 24th, 2023. The most recent release operates on WordPress 6.3.3. This plugin is currently operating on over 1,000 WordPress sites. It has had over 46,080 downloads. There have not been many help requests from end-users. Reviews for this plugin are very positive. Many of the customers who left an evaluation found WP Fast Total Search – The Power of Indexed Search to be wonderful.
The added features in WP Fast Total Search Pro include file attachments search with support for document types like PDF, DOC, DOCX, and more. The Pro version includes support for MIME-type file searches and smart excerpts to show PDF content in your results. Licenses include tech support from staff for getting started and handling problems, regular updates, and a multitude of add-ons. The add-ons can help you improve WordPress search further by indexing and searching content and files that come from other plugins and themes.
Advanced Search is a plugin that replaced your regular WordPress search with a user-friendly AJAX-powered search form. This allows for a more advanced experience to your site by adding autocomplete, spell correct, PDF search, image search, and voice search. You may also create a number of forms and configure them in ways you never would have prior. Free features you can find in Advanced Search are:
- Searching in all post types
- Searching by titles, post contents, taxonomies, partial or exact words
- Including post meta keys and values in search lookups
This product was originally released by its creator in June of 2020. It is presently on version 1.1.6 and last had a change on May 11th, 2023. The latest version functions on WordPress 6.2.3 and requires at least PHP 5.2.4 to operate on your server. This plugin is presently operating on over 400 WordPress sites. It has had over 6,300 downloads. There have not been many help requests from users. WordPress users are positive and think highly of this piece of software.
Security Issues and Vulnerabilities
There has been one recorded security or vulnerability issue with Advanced Search. The security problem was fixed and here are the details.
|Reflected Cross-Site Scripting
This was a medium concern issue that was fixed in version 1.1.2.
Advanced Search Pro is the premium version of this plugin with more features for a one-time payment. These extra features atop the aforementioned include an unlimited number of search forms, the exclusion of posts from results, and even more attachment types (PDF, Word, Excel, Zip, CSV, audio, and video). Additional features in the paid upgrade are:
- User search by the first name, surname, login name, display name, email, role, and bio
- Excluding users from results completely
- Voice search
- Replacing Woocommerce search
- Styling search forms
- Search statistics
- Widget support
- Custom elements for Visual Composer, Beaver Builder, and Elementor
WP Fastest Site Search
WP Fastest Site Search is a paid plugin by default for WordPress and WooCommerce. It uses a third-party service to replace the original search and spice up your site with autocomplete, spell correct, PDF search, and image search. It prides itself as well on adding a completely free voice search for your page. Its search engine and UI are customizable, and as the name implies, very fast. You can even search through multiple domains and subdomains from just one search bar. In addition, you can effortlessly configure the search interface without code.
Other features included in this plugin are:
- Custom fields search
- Relevant search results
- Filters and facets
- Popular queries in suggestions
- Ranking control
- Advanced word matching
- Natural language search
- Personalized search
Again, this plugin has a paid plan in order to use it. However, you may try it out for 14 days for free and keep using its voice search even after your trial ends.
This piece of software was initially published by its owner in January of 2019. It is actively on version 5.1.29 and last underwent an update on February 16th, 2024. The most recent update runs on WordPress 6.4.3 and requires at least PHP 5.6 to work on your server. This plugin is now operating on over 100 WordPress websites. It has had over 28,960 downloads. There have not been many support requests from customers. Reviews for this plugin are very positive. Many of the end-users who left a review found this plugin to be useful.
QMean is a simple AJAX WordPress search plugin with auto-complete and “did you mean” suggestion capabilities. It is aimed to help you create better and more relevant queries by looking for keywords and fixing any typos along the way. Diving deep into the database, it finds related words and phrases to your search and allows you to control the type of results you want to see. This means you can decide whether your results are based on title, excerpts, contents, taxonomy terms, meta values, or post types.
You may choose to set it to search word by word or through phrases. Adding your search field anywhere to your site is easy and you are able to style it using the plugin’s settings. Other key features to note are its optimized performance, recording of searched queries, keyword analytics and reports, RTL direction, and UTF-8 support.
This plugin was initially released by its developer in April of 2021. It is presently on version 2.0 and last underwent a revision on July 22nd, 2023. The most recent update runs on WordPress 6.2.4. This plugin is currently operating on over 50 WordPress websites. It has had over 2,560 downloads. There have not been many assistance requests from customers. QMean – WordPress Did You Mean and Search Suggestion Like Google does not have any reviews. It’s not easy to tell what the WordPress community thinks about it yet.
Find the Best WordPress Better Search Plugin
That’s the end of our look at some free WordPress search plugins. One of these solutions is surely the right fit for your project or client website. As we mentioned at the top, WordPress search out of the box is just not very good. A third-party plugin, or service, will definitely make the experience better for you and your visitors. While all of these plugins are free, some are available with paid upgrades, so keep in mind what features come with which version before you make your decision. We always recommend trying the free plugin first before blindly paying for a pro edition.
Looking for More Ways to Improve WordPress?
Interested in improving more than just WordPress search? If you are a WordPress developer or work for an agency you may be interested in our White Label plugin. Our plugin is made to help customize the WordPress admin experience for clients. This can be as simple as rebranding WordPress with custom logos, a new color scheme, or a redesigned login page. Or you can use White Label to rename menu items, remove menu choices, or create custom dashboard experiences. The complete list of White Label features is available on our site if you want to learn more.
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