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Is SearchWP The Best WordPress Search Plugin?

best wordpress search plugin: search-wp-promoOne of the most consistent annoyances some of our customers report is the lack of power behind the WordPress search function, so we’re constantly on the lookout for the best WordPress Search plugin. When you have a large number of posts and pages, it can be maddening to try and track down a small bit of content that you published a few years ago.

And indexing the content of pdfs or other file uploads? Forget it. It’s not even in the realm of possibility.

“Searching” for the Best WordPress Search Plugin

While there are several things we can do to improve WordPress search, the solutions have always varied and often depend on the need of each individual customer. We’ve never come to a consensus on the best way to improve the WordPress search.

One thing we’ve done in the past is setup an externally-powered search, like a Custom Google Search – but there are typically caveats with that approach ( Some, like Google, will show advertisements on your site search results, subscriptions for customized versions are $100/yr+, etc).

Of course, in addition to SearchWP, there are some other enhanced WordPress search plugins available. Here’s a basic feature comparison between SearchWP and some other WordPress search plugins (please let us know if we’ve missed any you’d like to see here).

best wordpress search plugin: Search Plugins Features

If you want to check out the individual plugins in this table you can use the links below:

SearchWP Plugin

Relevanssi plugin

Better Search plugin

Omnisearch by Jetpack

In it’s bare bones form, the default WordPress search is severely limited. A common gripe among users is the lack of indexing custom post types, for example. If your website has any custom post types (say, a custom post type for your portfolio content, or product reviews, etc) – WordPress will not show these in your search results by default.

But, like anything in WordPress, a developer can customize the search functionality to their heart’s content.

Spoiler: Jonathan Christopher, the developer behind SearchWP, has done a brilliant job here.

Getting started with SearchWP, the best WordPress search plugin

Out of the box, you see a list of all post types on your site. On my example site used for this review, I created a few thousand posts and pages. For the content, I used a script to generate example content with the Scrabble database to randomize words in the titles and some of the content:

best wordpress search plugin: List of posts

The large quantity was added to see how this would affect the speed of SearchWP when making search queries. Technical jargon aside, it had little effect on the speed (once the plugin indexed the site, which is performed after activating the plugin).

Nerd bonus: The initial build of the index of ~5k posts and pages took about 6 minutes.

Performing a search was a breeze, and of course, just like default WordPress, if I’m searching for an exact term or phrase that’s contained in the title or the content of a post or page, it shows up fine:

Searching for the keyword "Carmen"

Where’s Carmen SanDiego?

There she is!

Where in the World?

To test the functionality of searching within custom post types, the post type of “Missing Things” was then added. To turn on searching within custom post types, I simply checked the post types’ name in the SearchWP settings:

Include the custom post type in search results

Now, upon searching, the custom post type is included:

Found her!

Customizing the Search Engine that powers your site

What if you could customize the search engine on your site? When you first install SearchWP, the settings page gives you a good deal of additional options for every post type on your site:

best wordpress search plugin: The SearchWP settings page

From here, you can customize how important each area of the site is, regarding your search results – including custom fields.

Example: I’ve added the words “Carmen Sandiego” as a post title in one post, and as part of the post content in another. If I have the post title weight number in SearchWP set higher than the post content‘s weight number, the post title search results will show before the post content search results.

If I change this, the search results will be re-ordered accordingly.

Fuzzy Matches

What if you can’t remember the exact name or phrase for what you’re looking for? With the default WordPress search, you’re out of luck.

With the SearchWP fuzzy matches extension, the functionality of broadening the search parameters to approximate results is possible.

I’m looking for a post I wrote about someone that starts with the letter ‘W’. What was it? Will? Walter? Wimbledon? Ah! Now I remember. But I only recall four of the letters.


Without the extension, if I search for ‘Wald’ the results are nil:

Nothing to see here :(

But if I activate the fuzzy matches extension, and run the search again, I’ll get a result:

There he is!

Beyond post types

What if you have a site that contains, say, hundreds of PDF files? How do you search the text within those? Typically, you’d have to manually go through the media manager, looking over every PDF you uploaded, one by one, until you find the content.

With SearchWP, PDF content is indexed as well. I added a PDF file containing the word “Waldo” in the title, and behold! It found the content just as easily as a post/page/custom post type:

Waldo-related PDF

The title of the PDF:



Wrapping Up

I could have gone much much more in depth with this plugin review, but even while staying pretty close to the surface, it’s clear that SearchWP is currently the best WordPress search plugin. It completely changes finding the content that you’re looking for in your WordPress site. Compared to other solutions we’ve used, the comparison isn’t even close. SearchWP is far and away the best WordPress search plugin we’ve used to date.

And that’s before we even mention all of the extensions available to improve search for more specific use cases. Here’s a list of currently available extensions:

  • bbPress integration (handy for forum administrators)
  • Boolean Search ( handy to use exclusion-based searches, like NOT )
  • Term archive priorities ( for supplemental search engines )
  • Term synonyms ( allows you to define term synonyms )
  • Polylang & WPML integration ( great for multi-lingual sites )

I highly recommend SearchWP for site owners with large amounts of content.

Buy SearchWP


Pippin Williamson did a great video review of the plugin. Make sure to watch it by clicking here.

WP Bacon did an excellent tutorial on how to use SearchWP & Genesis to Create a WordPress Image Search Engine. Give it a read!

Disclaimer: There are affiliate links in this post. HOWEVER, the views are 100% our own and are 100% genuine. We did receive a test copy of SearchWP for free.

Additionally, check out our article on the best wordpress host.

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    1. Ryan Sullivan

      Hey Luigi, we haven’t updated this article in a long time which is why there’s a pricing discrepancy. We hope to update this soon!

  1. David Moore

    This is the first time I heard about SeachWP plugin.
    I will try it on my new website soon. Lets see how it work.

  2. Fred

    I’ve been using Relevanssi on my sites for years and it has always done a great job for me. Plus it’s free! A search plugin would certainly have to be pretty special to justify me spending $25 on it.

  3. Will

    Looks like it’s been three years since I posted a comment about the incorrect Relevannsi information in that table graphic. Considering how high up this post is on the google, it seems a shame to continue to spread the misinformation.

    This stuff is still in the free version of Relevanssi:
    Post meta search, bbpress search, extendable code, you can choose any post type (including custom) and taxonomy to include in the search (plus comments, short codes and excerpts), and it has search statistics. Also, still no sort of PDF search available, even in premium.

    Relevannsi also has really complete set of available hooks in the free version. You don’t need premium to ‘extend’ it at all.

    I’ve since used both Relevannsi and SearchWP. They’re both great products. SearchWP’s ability to index PDFs was essential for one project but when that’s not required, Relevannsi is a great alternative. Both have great support. SearchWPs granular weighting system is also fantastic for a site with lots of custom fields but you have to be ready to invest a fairly considerable amount of time into tweaking it, depending on how you’re using the fields. SearchWP’s documentation is much better organized. Relevannsi has docs but you often find what you’re looking for via a random blog post on his site!

    SearchWP definitely wins out when the amount of indexed content is fairly high.

  4. Sara Leonard

    Another great site search plugin to implement search functionality on a WordPress website is searchIQ ( It is easy to install, highly customizable and free to use. The plugin supports real-time indexing of website pages to deliver fast and accurate search results.

    Key Features:
    Phrase matching for highly relevant results
    Real-time Indexing
    Auto-complete results with toggle image option
    Custom Fields Search
    Synonym aliasing to handle inexact searches
    Weight assignment on title, content, category, tags to prioritize the search results
    Cross Domain Search functionality
    Responsive search results across all devices
    Real-time Analytics
    View & download Weekly/Monthly reports

  5. Rob Carmichael

    Hi – Clues on how to have a search bar which says “I am looking for..
    And then a dropdown menu will give the option for topics in that niche – so say u landed on a skin care site – and it said: I am looking for:|
    And then when you clicked in the search bar a drop down of eye care, acne, anti-aging,… etc would appear?
    Thanks if u can recommend – still on the hunt.

  6. William Garnsey

    I’m looking for a search that will search both my WP content site and my e-commerce site (Volusion). So something that will spider both. In otherwords, content is on WP, products on Volusion. Site visitors may be interested in both results.

  7. imnotminkus

    Relevanssi does not index PDFs in any version. I know of no plugin other than SearchWP that will index PDFs. With xPDF, it should work well. Without, the OCR’d PDFs I’ve tried have random spaces inserted everywhere, so you end up with things like “Th isi s ase ntenc e that it r ead s.”, which is useless in terms of searching. These spaces don’t show up when the same text is copied from SumatraPDF or Adobe Reader.

  8. Will

    Nice overview of SearchWP but in the interest of readers making an informed comparison I think you need to update the table—some of the Relevanssi column is just plain wrong. Perhaps things have changed since this was posted?

    In the free version of Relevanssi:
    Post meta search, bbpress search, extendable code, you can choose any post type (including custom) and taxonomy to include in the search (plus comments, short codes and excerpts), and it has search statistics.

    PDF indexing *isn’t* an option in Relevanssi in free or premium.

    Also, SearchWP starts at $29.99, not $24.99.

    I’m currently evaluating them both so I don’t have a dog in the this fight, so to speak. 🙂

  9. Rohit Sharma

    Wow an awesome article, I was also writing about SearchWP so can I use your comparison image on my blog. i will definitely provide a link to this page and will also write their the comparison is done by you.

  10. Darren

    can you confirm that WPsearch does index PDF files fully so that you can perform a full text search of any PDF attachment? Does it support any other filetypes?

  11. Tom

    Was looking @ Swiftype Search, until I spotted this review and with a site ove 10K posts, decided it wasn’t for me. “This plugin works great for small websites. For large websites with over 10,000 posts, they charge $179 per month. There is no indication of the fee until when you install the plugin. A few weeks later an agent will send you an email telling you to pay up or stop using the plugin. This should have been mentioned during installation.

    Another example of freemium software using misleading tactics to ramp up business. Some sort of mention of the fees should have been included on the page.”

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