Onsite search is often unduly neglected. Every site owner puts tremendous effort into optimizing their site for external search engines, like Google, but onsite search provision is frequently left to the default WordPress search box, which works adequately, but doesn’t provide users with the experience they’ve come to expect from search.
Google does a great job, so why bother with the complexity and overhead of implementing high-quality search within the site? The strongest reason is that the better search is, the less likely visitors are to head back to Google.
Most searchers don’t use Google and its competitors for site specific searches. They aren’t aware of the “site:” operator. If it’s not clear where to find content on a site, visitors may try the site’s search box, but if it returns a hodgepodge of unclear and confusing information that does not replicate the search experience that users have become used to with Google, then they’ll head straight for their browser’s search bar.
That means you’re pitched right back into the battle of the SERPs. Your site has gone from the privileged position of owning that user’s attention to the less envious circumstance of having to compete with all those other blue links for their eyeballs (and wallet).
Providing the search experience users expect is one of the best ways of keeping them on a site and directing their attention to places that benefit that site rather than its competitors.
Additionally, search data is a very powerful way of tapping into and responding to user’s needs. When users type queries into the search box of a site, they are telling webmasters what they want and need, as well as exactly how they try to find it. That data can be applied to the creation of content that more closely aligns with visitor’s expectations.
Fortunately, there are a number of WordPress search plugins that you can use to provide a powerful and user friendly WordPress search experience.
Swiftype is an excellent WordPress search plugin that offers a variety of features lacking in the default search functionality. It uses a third-party service to decrease load and allows for the deployment of an advanced search box with type-ahead suggestions based on article titles, tags, or author names. Users can customize how searches are answered, including easy drag-and-drop result re-ordering from the dashboard and the addition of filters that weight fields like title or author, so you can ensure that the right results find their way to the top of the results.
Relevanssi replaces the standard WordPress search with a more “Google-like” experience. As with Swiftype, results are highly configurable. Relevanssi search results are ordered by relevance, and not by date, so it’s more likely that searchers will find what they are looking for at the top of the results. It also includes “Did you mean?” suggestions if searchers misspell their queries, which is useful if you’re in a niche that that uses frequently misspelled keywords.
The basic Relevanssi functionality is available for free, but there is a premium version that adds support and extra features like multi site support, weighting of new posts, and search profiles.
If you have a site larger than a few pages, we strongly recommend you take a look at the WordPress search plugins we’ve highlighted here. They will improve the user experience of your site and help keep visitors where you want them.