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How to Improve WordPress Search with SearchWP (Quick & Easy)

Do you want to improve your WordPress search with SearchWP?

By improving the built-in WordPress search, you can help users find what they’re looking for. This will keep them on your website for longer, improve the visitor experience, and get you more conversions.

In this article, we’ll show you how to improve your WordPress search with SearchWP easily.

How to improve WordPress search with SearchWP (quick & easy)

Why Improve WordPress Search with SearchWP?

WordPress has a built-in search feature, but it doesn’t always show the most accurate results. You also can’t customize this feature so that it prioritizes your site’s most important content.

This means that visitors may struggle to find what they’re looking for using your site’s built-in WordPress search.

That’s why we recommend using SearchWP.


SearchWP is the best custom search plugin for WordPress, used by over 30,000 websites. It lets you improve your WordPress site search to deliver more relevant results to your visitors.

With SearchWP, you can make sure you’re showing accurate results by creating a custom relevance scale and adjusting the search algorithm.

SearchWP also lets you make any part of your site searchable, including PDF files, custom tables, text files, WordPress custom fields, WooCommerce products, and much more.

SearchWP engines example

You also get access to detailed search metrics so you can see what visitors are searching for and the types of content they’re finding. This allows you to continuously improve your site’s search to deliver the most accurate results.

You can even use this data to come up with new content ideas, by seeing the kind of content visitors are looking for.

SearchWP metrics example

Plus, SearchWP automatically integrates with all major WordPress plugins like WooCommerce, bbPress, Meta box, Easy Digital Downloads, and more.

Beyond improving the default WordPress search, SearchWP has advanced features that allow you to exclude specific pages from WordPress search results, automatically redirect users after a search is performed, create a custom list of synonyms and stopwords, and more.

With that said, let’s show you how to set up SearchWP to improve your WordPress search.

How to Install and Set Up SearchWP

The first thing you need to do is activate and install the SearchWP plugin. For more details, see our step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Upon activation, you need to visit the Settings » SearchWP page and then click on the ‘License’ menu option.

Here, enter your license key in the ‘License’ box and then click the ‘Activate’ button.

Enter SearchWP license key

You can find the license key by logging into your SearchWP account.

Once you’ve done that, click on the ‘Engines’ tab.

SearchWP engines settings

This brings you to a screen where you can customize the search engine settings. Think of it like creating your own Google search algorithm for a WordPress blog or website.

With SearchWP, you need to create a site-wide search engine before you can customize your website’s search feature.

You can adjust the search engine settings for the different content types by scrolling to the ‘Posts’, ‘Pages’, or ‘Media’ sections.

Every section has an ‘Attribute Relevance’ slider that changes how your site’s search engine values and ranks that content. For example, if you want the post title to carry more weight than the post content, then you can drag to adjust the sliders accordingly.

Adjust SearchWP slider settings

When you’re happy with the settings, click the ‘Save Engines’ button to create your first search engine.

If you see a message asking you to rebuild the index, then click on the ‘Rebuild Index’ button.

Saving the SearchWP settings

Once it’s created the initial index, SearchWP will replace the default WordPress search with your new and improved search.

If your WordPress theme already has a search box, then you don’t need to make any further changes. If your theme doesn’t have a search box, then it’s easy to add one.

Simply head over to Appearance » Widgets and find the section where you want to add a search bar, such as the Right Sidebar section.

Inside this section, click the ‘+’ icon to open the widget block menu.

Add new widget block for search

After that, type ’Search’ into the widget search box.

When it appears, click on the ‘Search’ block.

Add new search block

This will add a search form to the sidebar or similar section.

You can now customize the block’s title and add optional placeholder text.

Update and save search form widget

When you’re finished, make sure you click the ‘Update’ button to save your changes.

Now your website will be using the new and improved SearchWP search.

SearchWP search widget

Adding a Search Bar Using the Full-Site Editor

If you’re using a block-based theme such as ThemeIsle Hestia Pro or Twenty Twenty-Three, then the process of adding a search bar to WordPress is slightly different.

Go to Themes » Editor in the WordPress dashboard to open the full-site editor.

Adding a search bar using the full-site editor (FSE)

To add the search bar to your theme, go ahead and click on the ‘+’ icon.

In the panel that appears, type in ‘Search.’

The WordPress full-site editor (FSE)

When the ‘Search’ block shows up, drag it to the area where you want to show the field.

To customize the block title or placeholder text, simply type the new messaging into the search block.

Adding a search field to WordPress using the full-site editor (FSE)

When you’re happy with how the block looks, click on ‘Save’ to make the search bar live.

More Ways to Improve WordPress Search with SearchWP

This is a great start, but there are lots of other ways to improve the search experience with SearchWP. Let’s look at a few of them below.

How to Make PDF Files Searchable in WordPress

By default WordPress doesn’t search any PDF files that you upload to your website. If you use PDFs, then visitors may be missing out on lots of great content.

SearchWP can search the text inside your PDF files and then show those files in its search results. To make your PDFs searchable, go to SearchWP » Settings.

In the ‘Media’ section, look for a slider called ‘Document Content’.

Media engine slider SearchWP

For some users, the slider won’t be enabled yet.

To activate the slider, click on the ‘Add/Remove Attributes’ button.

Add new attribute to media search

This brings up a popup where you can control the content that SearchWP looks at when searching your site’s media.

To make your PDF files searchable, simply check the ‘Document Content’ box and then click on the ‘Done’ button.

Select document content search box

Now, you can adjust the ‘Document Content’ slider to give more, or less weight to your PDF content when creating the search results page.

After that, go ahead and click on the ’Save Engines’ button. Now, SearchWP will include relevant PDFs in its search results.

PDF search results example

The visitor can simply click any PDF result to view that entire file.

Add a Search By Category Feature to WordPress

If you have multiple categories of content on your WordPress website, then you might want to let users restrict their search to a specific category. For example, if you have an online store then customers may want to search within a particular product category.

You can do this by adding a category dropdown to your search forms.

Category select drop down example

For more details, see our guide on how to search by category in WordPress.

Add a Live Ajax Search Function to WordPress

Another feature you’ve probably seen is live Ajax search, also called instant search. This adds a dropdown autocomplete feature that’s common in search engines like Google.

Instant search helps your visitors find what they’re looking for more quickly, which can keep them on your website longer.

SearchWP makes it easy to add this feature to your website.

Live Ajax search widget example

For more details, see our guide on how to add live Ajax search to your WordPress site.

Add a Smart Product Search to Your Online Store

If you run an online marketplace, then you’ll want to help visitors find the products they’re looking for.

SearchWP WooCommerce search results

SearchWP makes it easy to improve your product search and get more sales.

You can fully customize your WooCommerce search engine and give weight to the product attributes that matter most.

Add WooCommerce search product attributes

For more details, see our guide on how to make a smart WooCommerce product search.

Create a Custom Post Type Search Form in WordPress

With SearchWP, you can create all kinds of advanced search forms, like a custom post type search form.

To do this, you’ll create a separate search engine that only searches a single post type. For example, here’s a form that only searches your site’s coupon codes.

Custom post type search form example

For more details, see our guide on how to create advanced search forms for custom post types in WordPress.

We hope this article helped you learn how to improve WordPress search with SearchWP. You may also want to see our picks of the best live chat software for small businesses and our guide on how to get a free business email address.

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8 CommentsLeave a Reply

  1. I do not add PDFs through the Media library. Instead, I upload my files through the content Upload folder. I have to do it this way because these documents are frequently changed and it is easier to manage and update this way. Is there a way to make SearchWP index PDFs using this method, or does it have to be done through the media library?

  2. Will this tool also index other filetypes? Like a word document? I’m looking for something to search/index text, word, pdf documents (resumes) that are uploaded.

  3. I’ve started using SearchWP on my own site and have to say the results are phenomenal.

  4. I would love to see a tutorial on how to replace WP’s search with a Google Custom search so as to garner a bit of AdSense cash from the search. Have I just overlooked a plugin for that, or is there an easy way to do this without a plugin.

    Thanks, learning lots from your site and I have used WP since 2006!

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