In this article, we will see why WordPress search is important, how it works and how it can be improved in easy to follow steps.

What is WordPress search?

WordPress search is a piece of software with which you can search for content within your WordPress website. You can usually find this at the top right-hand corner of your page.

It looks similar to the below image when you use the default WordPress theme. The position of the WordPress search box might change depending on the theme you use (you might not even see a search box in some themes).

wordpress search

How does WordPress search work?

In the initial stages, there was no concept of rank or relevance in WordPress search, it was just a simple LIKE query on the post title and content:

($wpdb->posts.post_title LIKE '{$n}{$term}{$n}') OR ($wpdb->posts.post_content LIKE '{$n}{$term}{$n}')

After a recent update, search relevance was brought into WordPress search results.

Search results are ordered by relevance, rather than by date. The ordering logic priority is as follows:

  1. Full-sentence matches in post titles.
  2. All search terms in post titles.
  3. Any search terms in post titles.
  4. Full-sentence matches in post content.

The update also introduced some filters to remove stop words and order posts by date. (stop words are nothing but frequently used words such as “to”, “for” which don’t add any value in understanding the content of an article).

As you can see, this logic is not enough to offer a great search experience given the advancements in search engine technologies and calls for much-needed improvements.

    Why is WordPress search important?

    A majority of your website users use site search-

    Did you know that around 30% of WordPress site visitors use the internal site search? This means that a significant chunk of your website traffic is using the search bar to find content and not optimizing this could lead to lower customer experience levels on your website.

    More sales and revenue-

    WordPress site visitors who search are more likely to buy a service from your website more than visitors who don’t? Check out this infographic which shows the relation between searches and corresponding revenue on websites. As you can see, the revenue percentage increases as the search percentage increases.


    You can cross verify this using your google analytics data (you must have set up site search and goal tracking). Also, a value must have been set for the goal so that you can measure the revenue.

    wordpress search

    It is a personal page for every website visitor-

    If you really think about it, a search page is a personalized page for every user (it contains content that the site visitor is looking for in his mind and this page must be relevant and optimized). Personalization increases repeat visitor count and more customer satisfaction.

    How to use the WordPress search?

    When the WordPress search box is visible, you can just type in search queries, press enter or the search button and WordPress will retrieve search results for you.

    In certain themes, the search box might be hidden. In the absence of a search bar, you can search for content by adding “?s=your_search_query” at the end of the website URL.

    For example, if your website URL is, you can access search results by going to a URL similar to Where “s” is your search query and q is the category you want to search for. Here replace with your website URL.

    Here is an image of a search query that searches for the search query “WordPress” within the category “voice”

    wordpress search


    What are the features available in the WordPress search?

    1. Basic text matches– WordPress search allows basic text match search (partial or full). Be careful while typing search queries as a small spelling mistake or a missed space bar might not get you relevant search results.
    2. Search by categories– You can search for posts by categories (again: make sure you don’t make spelling errors).

    Features missing in WordPress search

    We are living in 2019 and search has evolved by leaps and bounds and having a sub-standard search is not acceptable by any standards. Hopefully, WordPress adds the following search functionalities in their coming updates.

    1. Typeahead or Autocomplete
    2. Spell correct
    3. Image search
    4. Filtering.
    5. PDF, Xls, and doc search
    6. Voice search

    WordPress Typeahead or autocomplete

    Autocomplete – It is also known as typeahead or autosuggest is a search query prediction tool that many search engines use to reduce the number of characters entered in the search box to find content.

    In general, autocomplete menus drop down below the search bar as users type and change with each keystroke to provide search query predictions. Typical search autocomplete looks similar to the image below.

    wordpress search

    What are the advantages of using the auto-complete search?

    • It speeds up a visitor’s search process.
    • Avoids the need to make spelling errors.
    • It gives more options for the users to choose from.
    • Ability to show recent searches.
    • A medium to get insights into customer behavior.

    Spell correct or Typotolerance

    Spell correct or typo tolerance allows users to make mistakes while typing and still find the correct content they are looking for. This is done by matching words that are close in spelling.

    spell correct wordpress search

    Why typo tolerance is important?

    • Everyone makes spelling mistakes. Avoiding spelling mistakes while typing is almost inevitable especially on mobile devices.
    • A lot of slang and non-dictionary words keep arising which can be handled using typo tolerance even though they are not textually similar. (this is an advanced level application of spell correct where Machine learning algorithms are used to find what a word could mean when there are no nearby textual matches)

    Image search

    All the images that you upload to WordPress have a provision to add a piece of extra information to the image called alt text (also known as alternative text).

    This informs search engines about what an image is all about. Search engines use these alternative texts to retrieve images corresponding to a search query.

    Advanced search engines have the capability to detect objects and content within images and add it to the metadata of the image without relying on the alt text of images.

    Adding image search functionalities helps your website visitors getting images in their search results as well as delivering a complete search experience on your site.


    Filtering is a search tool that lets users restrict their search to certain categories of a website or within specific document types. For example, a reader on an e-commerce website may want to restrict their search for “books” to only return books categorized as fiction as a result.

    wordpress search filters

    WordPress PDF, Xls, and Doc search-

    The default search in WordPress doesn’t index content within excel, word documents, and PDFs that you have uploaded. This means that the content within such documents cannot be discovered using the search bar and is a major drawback and is an area where WordPress can look into improving their search experience.

    pdf excel word- wordpress search

    WordPress Voice search

    Voice search is picking up in 2019 and you can see a lot of voice search enabled devices such as Alexa ruling the market. More and more site visitors are accessing websites from mobile devices and voice search in WordPress can help in making content discovery easy on WordPress sites.

    wordpress voice search

    Does having a sitemap helps in improving your WordPress search?

    A sitemap is a file or page that provides information about pages, posts, images, and other documents on your website.

    Having a sitemap certainly helps in improving the search experience since it gives search engine crawlers information about pages on your site and how they are linked so that these crawlers can follow the links in the sitemap and not miss out on crawling certain pages.

    A sitemap also has a priority field next to every page which tells search engines the importance of the page which can help while ranking search results.

    wordpress search sitemap

    How to monitor your WordPress search?

    wordpress search queries

    Google Analytics provides an easy way to monitor the search queries that people are searching in your WordPress search box. This helps in understanding which content is important on your website. To do this, follow the steps below

    Step1– Install google analytics and login into your account.

    Step2– Click on Admin

    Step 3– Click on view settings.

    Step 4– Enable site search tracking.

    Step 5– Enter the query parameter. Usually, for WordPress sites, the query parameter is “s”. Make a search query and see what your query parameter is. The term between? and = is your query parameter. In the below image “s” is the query parameter.

    Wordpress search - A complete guide

    Step 6– Enable site search categories.  If you have WordPress categories filter on your search results page, you can add the category parameter. It is usually “cat” for WordPress sites. 

    Step 7- Enable “strip query parameter” and “category parameter” from the search tracking query paramter wordpress

    Within a few days, you must be able to see WordPress search queries in your google analytics dashboard.

     Powerful Ways to Improve WordPress

    1. Set up Google Analytics site search tracking

      – You can’t improve something that you cannot measure. As a first step, add google analytics to your site. If you have not added google analytics to your site, use this plugin. By default, Google Analytics doesn’t track your site search metrics. You have to tell Google your site search query parameter. For most wordpress sites, the query parameter is “s”.

      • Go to your Google analytics dashboard->
      • Click Admin->
      • Go to  All website data->
      • Click view settings->
      • Enable Site search tracking on ->
      • Enter your query parameter ( if your search URL is, query parameter is s)
      • Enter your category parameter (if your search URL is, category parameter is cat)
      • Your website could have other custom parameters and based on the above logic you can accordingly enter your query parameters.
        improve wordpress search
    2. Implement a custom search engine

      – Create a custom search engine using Expertrec.

    3. Enable search autocomplete

      The default wordpress search doesn’t come with an auto-complete function. Using expertrec’s custom search you can enable autocomplete. Go to Layout config-> search suggestion-> enable search suggestions.  improve wordpress searchimprove wordpress search

    4. Enables Images in search results- 

      Expertrec’s site search crawler automatically picks up the right image for a search result. You can enable or disable based on your liking by going to Layout config->images-> enable images.improve wordpress search

    5. Enable spell correct

      Expertrec wordpress search plugin adds spell correct features to your wordpress site by default across all plans. improve wordpress search

    6. Enable recent searches-

      Go to Layout config-> Recent searches and enable recent searches.improve wordpress search

    7. Enable facets in WordPress search results

      Facets and filters help users to quickly find the article/product they are looking for in minimal time. Go to search tuning-> Facets-> Enable facetsimprove wordpress search

    8. Assign search weights

      – Expertrec’s WordPress search engine comes up with the best search weights for your site. But if you want to tweak your search relevance, you can do so by going to Search tuning-> Search weights-> Assign weights by dragging and dropping. You can move up the URL above the title if in case you want to give more weight to the URL.improve wordpress search

    9. Enable PDF search and other doc formats- 

      Go to file types->And choose which types of file formats you want to show in your search results.improve wordpress search

    10. Improve the look and feel of your wordpress search –

      • Input Box- Go to Look and feel-> Input box and here you can customize your search box’s look and feel without coding.WordPress search
      • Search results page– Once a user presses enter, your search results page appears you can control this page’s look and feel as well WordPress search
      • WordPress pagination– You can also style wordpress pagination which helps users to toggle between pages. improve wordpress search
    11. Analyze search queries 

      Once you set up search tracking using Google analytics, within a couple of days, you must be able to see top searches on your website. Analyze these searches for top searches. If you use expertrec’s wordpress search engine, your site analytics will be populated by default. You can find this report at  Behavior > Site Search > Search Termsimprove wordpress searchWith Expertrec, you get more fine-grained search analytics such as searches with no results, top search categories, etc. What we are looking for is to find out common spelling errors, searches that don’t have a content match (for example people might be searching for “tech articles”

    12. Add Synonyms 

      Sometimes your website users might be searching for “cryptocurrency” in your search box and if you don’t have any articles having the word “cryptocurrency”, you can add “bitcoin, etherium” as a synonym for cryptocurrency. You can go to search-> synonyms and do thisimprove wordpress search

    Can you build your own WordPress search engine?

    Yes, you can build your own search engine with open source tools such as SOLR and elastic search.

    This is a good option if you do not want to rely on an external service and want to have full control over your WordPress search.

    This would require developer bandwidth and could prove costly depending on the time for implementation and going live.

    You could also choose a reliable search service provider such as expertrec where you could just use drag and drop controls to build your own search engine. Follow the below steps to build your own WordPress search-

    1. Go to
    2. Log in with the social login button (You can use your Gmail id).
    3. Enter your WordPress site URL.
    4. Entering your WordPress sitemap URL will help in improving your website’s being crawled and search results being accurate and relevant.
    5. Now your site crawl should have begun.
    6. Once you have completed the crawl, go to the code section and add it to the head section of the pages on which you want the search box to be added.
    7. You can control every aspect of your search engine such as relevance, look and feel, URLs crawled using the control panel.

    wordpress search look and feelPlease note that this service costs 9 USD per month.

    Plugins that can help in improving your WordPress search

    wordpress search

    Manually tweaking WordPress is not an easy way to improve your search performance. Using plugins might be a good way to easily improve your search quickly.

    The WP fastest site search plugin is a cost-effective plugin that can help in improving your WordPress search that we have tested. It is easy to install and they have a 14-day free trial during which you can try out their search.

    Cost- 9 USD per month.


    • Superfast.
    • Image search.
    • PDF search.
    • Relevant and better search results
    • No Ads.
    • Search Filters and Facets.
    • Custom Search engine rules.
    • Voice search.
    • Synonyms.
    • Full control over the UI (no coding required).
    • Quick and easy configuration.
    • Fast typeahead autocomplete search suggestions.
    • Advanced word matching and typo correction.
    • Learning search algorithm that continuously gets better.
    • Highlighting Search term.
    • Responsive – works across all devices (mobile, tablet, desktop, android app).

    You can install the plugin from here.


    Get the WordPress Plugin


    Muthali loves writing about emerging technologies and easy solutions for complex tech issues. You can reach out to him through chat or by raising a support ticket on the left hand side of the page.

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