Elasticsearch isn’t a WordPress search plugin itself – it’s an open-source search engine that you can integrate into any type of website. However, there are multiple plugins that help you integrate Elasticsearch into WordPress to power your WordPress search.
Beyond that, Elasticsearch also helps you generate better, more accurate search results. It lets you include more content in your search results and also customize the algorithm. You’ll also get other useful features such as fuzzy matching, faceted search, and real-time automatic suggestions.
Unfortunately, using Elasticsearch can be a little complicated, so it might not be the best option for beginners.
First, you’ll need to set up the Elasticsearch software yourself, which is kind of like setting up a WordPress install. You can either
self-host it (because it’s open-source) or you can pay ElasticPress to host it for you (which can be a little expensive). If you’re using Cloudways, Cloudways also has a tool to help you install Elasticsearch and some other WordPress hosts (like Kinsta) offer Elasticsearch options.
Jetpack Search is a paid WordPress search service from Automatics, the same team behind WordPress.com, Woo Commerce, and the standalone Jetpack plugin.
One of the biggest advantages of
Search is that it does all of the processing and search indexing on Automatic’s servers. If you have a high-traffic site and/or a site with lots of content, this will greatly reduce the load on your server, which can improve your performance. Jetpack
Beyond that, Jetpack Search completely replaces your site’s native search feature with its own search overlay that supports various user-friendly features:
Real-time search suggestions
Search query highlighting in results
Sort/filter options in the search results
As for the search algorithm itself, Jetpack Search is actually based on Elasticsearch (the same technology that I shared above). It features various improvements like:
Prioritized search results based on site stats – that is, it can rank more popular content higher
learn more about the technology here. And if you want to see Jetpack Search in action, you can use the search function in the top-right corner at CSS-Tricks.
Unfortunately, Jetpack Search only comes in a paid version. You’ll pay a monthly fee based on how much content your site has. The plans start at $5 per month for up to 100 search records (
e.g. 100 blog posts) and go up from there.
Lastly, there’s Ivory Search, which is another popular search plugin at WordPress.org that comes in both a free and paid version.
It used to be known as Add to Search Menu, but the developer changed the name to Ivory Search.
It shares a lot of similarities with SearchWP and Relevanssi. That is, the main feature is that it lets you search in “more” content including:
Custom post types
Categories, tags, and custom taxonomies
You also get more detailed controls. For example, you can exclude certain content from search or only search password-protected posts.
Other useful features include:
Fuzzy matching (helps generate better results)
Keyword stemming (also helps generate better results)
Different options for sorting the search results
Ivory Search also includes a few enhancements to the front-end search form. For example, you can add an Ajax live search to your form. It also includes a search form customizer that lets you customize the colors and text.
The free version of Ivory Search is
available at WordPress.org. The paid version starts at just $20 per year.
Improve WordPress Search Today
By default, the WordPress search feature is very limited. If you want to make it easier for people to search and discover content on your site, you need to use a WordPress search plugin.
So – which plugin is right for you?
Well, if you just want an easy way to make your WordPress search more “complete”, I would recommend starting with Relevanssi (freemium), SearchWP (paid), or
Ivory Search (freemium).
On the other hand, if you want to enhance your front-end search with real-time Ajax search suggestions, you might want to start with
Ajax Search Lite/Pro.
Best WordPress Search Plugins (2020): For Free
Finally, if you have a high-traffic site with lots of content,
Elasticsearch is a great way to reduce the load on your server while also serving up better search results. The easiest way to benefit from Elasticsearch is to use Jetpack Search. Or, if you’re more of a technical person, you can also set up Elasticsearch yourself and use the free ElasticPress plugin.
Do let me know how you have enhanced your WordPress search? Are you also monitoring how users are using search feature of your WordPress website?