6 Best WordPress Search Plugins (2024): Most Are Free

Search PluginKey Features and PricingDirect Link
1. Relevanssi✓ Search custom post types & fields
✓ Search Doc, PDF, ePub, etc. content
✓ User profiles in search results
✓ Premium version: $99/year
Get free version
2. SearchWP✓ Seach custom post types & fields
✓ Index & search PDF and Office documents
✓ WooCommerce, EDD, bbPress Integration
✓ Starting price: $99/year
Get started
3. Ajax Search Lite/Pro✓ Wide content support & multiple search bars
✓ Smart Autocomplete & Suggestions
✓ Adjustable keyword logic feature
✓ Premium version: $39 (one-time payment)
Get free version
4. Elasticsearch✓ Open-source search engine
✓ AI-enabled search experience
✓ Best for high-traffic
✓ Starting price: $95/month
Start free trial
5. Jetpack Search✓ Real-time search suggestions
✓ Instant search with filters
✓ Highlighted search queries in the results
✓ Premium version: $5/month
Start for free
6. Ivory Search✓ Custom post types and fields search
✓ Search through user comments & attachments
✓ Create unlimited search forms
✓ Premium version: $19.99/year
Get free version
Best WordPress Search Plugins
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Searching for the best WordPress search plugin?

By default, the native WordPress search function is quite limited. It doesn’t search all of your content, the search algorithm itself is pretty weak and doesn’t generate good results, and it doesn’t offer user-friendly front-end features like live Ajax search suggestions that appear as soon as a user starts typing.

On high-traffic sites with lots of content, the default WordPress search feature can also cause performance issues because of its database queries.

WordPress search plugins let you change all of that. You can include a lot more content in your search algorithm, adjust the weighting/algorithm, and, depending on the plugin, offer a much more useful search interface with suggestions, filters, and more. With some solutions, you’ll also be able to offload your search feature to a separate server, which is great for performance on high-traffic sites.

In this post, I will share the six best search plugins for WordPress, most of which have a free version that you can use.

Six Best WordPress Search Plugins

1. Relevanssi

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Relevanssi is the most popular free WordPress search plugin at WordPress.org. It’s primarily focused on improving the WordPress search algorithm, not necessarily adding new front-end features.

For example, it lets you include different types of content in your search index including:

  • Custom post types (e.g. events, products, jobs, etc)
  • Custom fields
  • Categories, tags, and custom taxonomies
  • User comments
  • Attachments such as PDFs, Docs, etc. (with the paid version)
  • User profiles (with the paid version)
  • The front-end output of shortcodes

You can also change the weighting of the algorithm. For example, you can add more weight if the user’s keyword appears in the category than in the body of the content. It also adds fuzzy matching, which can help turn up more search results.

On the front-end, Relevanssi automatically integrates with the native WordPress search widget, so you don’t need to change anything.

However, it does still add a few front-end changes:

  • Sort results by relevance, not by date
  • Create custom excerpts that show the content where the search phrase appears
  • Highlight search terms when a user clicks through to the content
  • Add Google-style “Did you mean?” suggestions

You can get many of the features in the free version at WordPress.org. Or, the premium version costs $99 for use on unlimited sites. Click to see a comparison of the free vs premium features.

2. SearchWP

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SearchWP is a popular premium WordPress search plugin. Like Relevanssi, it integrates with the native WordPress search widget and is mostly focused on helping you improve the search results that your site generates.

However, it does include a few front-end enhancements, as well.

The biggest feature is that it lets you include “more” content in your search index, including:

  • Custom post types (e.g. products, jobs, etc.)
  • Custom fields
  • Front-end output of shortcodes
  • Categories, tags, and custom taxonomies
  • Content in PDFs and other documents

You can also adjust the weighting of all those different types of content and SearchWP adds fuzzy matching for improved results.

Some other useful features include:

  • View search analytics
  • Sort results by relevance not by date
  • Use SearchWP to power related content suggestions on your site
  • Automatically redirect certain queries to another page

The same developer also offers a free SearchWP Live Ajax Search plugin at WordPress.org that adds live search results to your site. That is, search results will appear as soon as a user starts typing.

SearchWP only comes in a premium version. Plans start at $99 for use on a single site, but you’ll need the $149 Pro version to access every single feature.

3. Ajax Search Lite/Pro

Ajax Search Lite
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Ajax Search Lite is a popular search plugin that comes in both a free version at WordPress.org as well as a paid version with more features.

As the name suggests, its primary function is to add real-time search results as soon as users start typing. You can even customize the live search results to include thumbnails and other details. For example, if you’re running a WooCommerce store, you can include a product’s price in the live search results.

You can try a demo here to experience what it’s like.

You can also add sort and filter options to help visitors further refine the results and get other user-friendly features such as:

  • Search term highlighting
  • Search suggestions

However, it’s more than just front-end improvements. You can also use Ajax Search Lite to control the backend search function:

  • Control what content can be searched. For example, should it search blog posts or WooCommerce products? Or both?
  • Include custom fields and other information in search
  • Include user comments in search

You can try Ajax Search Lite for free at WordPress.org. For more features, you can purchase Ajax Search Pro for $36 from CodeCanyon, which includes lifetime updates. The premium version is well-rated, with 14,000+ sales and a 4.82-star rating on over 790 reviews.

4. Elasticsearch

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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.

Elasticsearch makes a really good option for high-traffic, high-content WordPress sites because it separates your search index from your WordPress site. This will reduce the number of database queries that your site needs to make, which improves performance. This is a big part of why some managed WordPress hosts, like Kinsta, offer Elasticsearch add-ons.

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.

Once you have your Elasticsearch install, you can integrate it with your WordPress site using the free ElasticPress plugin at WordPress.org.

Jetpack Search
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Jetpack Search is a paid WordPress search service from Automattic, the same team behind WordPress.com, WooCommerce, and the standalone Jetpack plugin.

One of the biggest advantages of Jetpack Search is that it does all of the processing and search indexing on Automattic’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. 

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:

  • Spelling corrections
  • Fuzzy matching
  • Prioritized search results based on site stats – that is, it can rank more popular content higher

You can 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.

Ivory Search
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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
  • Custom fields
  • User comments
  • File attachments
  • 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.

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?

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Authored By
A Blogger, Author and a speaker! Harsh Agrawal is recognized as a leader in digital marketing and FinTech space. Fountainhead of ShoutMeLoud, and a Speaker at ASW, Hero Mindmine, Inorbit, IBM, India blockchain summit. Also, an award-winning blogger.

2 thoughts on “6 Best WordPress Search Plugins (2024): Most Are Free”

  1. Isuamfon Offiong

    I never thought there was a need to install a search plugin because my default theme does the work.

    But with this, I understand why there’s need for it.

    Will look into it when my default can’t function fluently or when there are massive traffic to my blog.

    Thanks for the list.

  2. Before Reading I Was only Relying on the Default Search. Now, I Could Understand A Relevant Search Plugin is Necessary for an Avid Audience Who Want to Explore Topic More. Hence, I Have Decided to Use Relevanssi. Thanks for Sharing the Best WordPress Knowledge.

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