WordPress search yields very poor results. There have been some attempts to improve WordPress search, but the results are still far worse than what one can get from a Google search (try “site:yourdomain.com search term” to test). Google offers Custom Search Engines but either you have to allow ads or GCS can be very expensive (for a single site with middle level traffic, about $800/year). Really what Google wants is their ads in your search.
There have been attempts to create advanced search plugins based on open source search engine technology like Solar (i.e. Relevanssi). These attempts haven’t worked well.
- they’ve been far too complex technologically (i.e. even with our full programming team we’d be booking dozens of hours per year maintaining our search custom search engines)
- the out of the box versions don’t work well on large sites (limitations of MySQL Lite)
- wildly inconsistent pricing (at one point Relevannsi would have cost us thousands of dollars per year for a single site).
One solution SearchWP works well for small sites but for our clients’ professional sites with thousands of posts, search would take two to five seconds and spike the CPU of the server.
After deploying every other solution for our large client sites (self-administered open source engines, Solar, Relevanssi, SearchWP), we were no closer to the holy grail of perfect WordPress search:
- fast (even on large databases)
- sensible rankings (not based on date but on relevance
- tweakable (so clients can pull their most important posts to the top)
- low maintenance
Then we found Swiftype.
Swiftype is the best WordPress search plugin available. It’s not just the plugin, it’s also a service, so their powerful server crawl your website and put together a coherent search index which brings great results.
More than that, you get full control over the search results. For example you can specify which pages should show up at the top of the search results. You can adjust importance of various fields and so on.
There’s a free version of Swiftype works for free which suit someone starting a weblog and affordable plans for either active bloggers and professional and even enterprise sites. You can group search across a network of sites to yield results from all of them.
There’s two kinds of Swiftype serach:
- WordPress database (Swiftype offers a plugin)
- External crawler (no plugin available)
We far prefer the external crawler. If you use the WordPress database, there is the risk of member only documents or even unpublished documents appearing in search. With the external crawler you are able to control what shows up in search (only public pages) and even use your Swiftype search as a control your content is properly published and indexed.
With the external crawler, your search can cover the non-Wordpress parts of your site in a single index. For example:
- online store
- help documents
If the document can be read on the web the external plugin can index it.
Our Solution: a WordPress plugin for Swiftype External Crawler
To allow us to quickly and reliably deploy Swiftype we wrote a WordPress plugin which replaces default WordPress search with the Swiftype external crawler search. It’s literally single click upload to start offering first rate results across all the sites and subdomains you want indexed.
And once you have search inside Swiftype you can drag and drop the results to make sure your most relevant or most lucrative page is indexed first.