The average website visitor spends 4 minutes and 24 seconds per visit across all industries. If potential customers on your WordPress website cannot find what they’re looking for within a few minutes of their arrival, they might assume you don’t carry that product, service, or information. And inevitably, they may halt browsing and bounce off for a competing site.
Visitors will stay on your site longer if they’re able to find what they want quickly. Unfortunately, the WordPress search form doesn’t come with many customization options. However, you have other ways to customize the search feature. In this post, we help you understand how you can create WordPress custom search results pages in the easiest way possible, even if you don’t have a technical background.
Why customize WordPress search?
When website visitors land on a page and cannot find what they’re looking for, they perform a search. Up to 30% of ecommerce site visitors use internal site search. Allowing visitors to search using different types of information speeds up discovery and provides a better search experience.
However, the default WordPress search form isn’t very good at finding relevant content. Here’s why:
- Lack of Relevance: The default WordPress search lists results chronologically, not based on relevance to the search query. This could lead to less important or relevant results appearing at the top, while more relevant content is buried.
- No Custom Fields Search: By default, WordPress only searches titles and the main content of posts and pages. If you use custom fields to store important information, this data won’t be included in search results.
- No Filter or Sorting Options: WordPress’s default search doesn’t include filtering or sorting options. This can make it difficult for users to narrow down their search or find specific kinds of content.
- No Fuzzy Matching: The default search function lacks fuzzy matching, meaning it can’t handle misspellings or close approximations. This can limit its usefulness, as users won’t get results for near-misses or common typos.
- Limited Customization: There’s little room for customization with the default search feature. You can’t easily adjust how search results are displayed or prioritize certain types of content, for example.
You can work around this limitation by using a plugin that creates and changes WordPress custom search results pages. Doing so will:
- Enhance User Experience
- Increase Site Engagement
- Improve Site Navigation
- Optimize Site Search
- Boost SEO
- Increase Conversions
Creating a custom search results page in WordPress
Changing your WordPress search results pages can greatly enhance the usability of your website. The good news is that there are a few ways you can create a custom search results page in WordPress without a lot of technical knowledge.
Using the site editor
If you’re using a block theme, you can utilize the Full Site Editing (FSE) capabilities of WordPress to customize your search results page. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it:
- From the WordPress dashboard, navigate to Appearance > Editor.
- Then, click ‘Templates’ followed by ‘Search’ on the left-hand side.
- Now, you can add, remove, or customize blocks to design your search page. You might want to include the ‘Post Title’, ‘Post Content’, and ‘Post Date’ blocks for each search result.
- After you’ve made your changes, click ‘Update Design’ to save your template.
Creating a search page template
Another way to create a custom search results page is to use a page template. Many WordPress themes come with a search.php file that you can modify to create a custom search results page. If your theme doesn’t have one, you can create one and add it to your theme’s directory. Here’s how you do it:
- Open your text editor and create a new file.
- Add the following line at the top of the file:
- Then, you can use HTML and PHP to design your search page.
- Save the file as search.php and upload it to your theme’s directory using an FTP client.
This is a more technical option, and it requires some knowledge of PHP and HTML. If you are not comfortable editing theme files, it’s better to use a child theme or seek professional help to avoid breaking your website.
Manually creating a search results page
Manually creating a search results page in WordPress allows you to have complete control over its design and functionality. However, this method requires familiarity with PHP and WordPress’s coding standards.
- In your WordPress theme’s directory, find or create a new file named ‘search.php’.
- Open the ‘search.php’ file in a text editor, and you can customize the HTML and PHP to change the layout and functionality of the search results page.
- For example, you might modify the loop to display a custom message when no results are found or to display results differently based on their post type.
- Remember to test any changes thoroughly before applying them to your live site.
In general, these manual methods are best for those with some coding knowledge. If you’re not comfortable with code, hiring a developer or using a plugin might be a safer and easier option to create a custom search results page on your WordPress site.
Benefits of using plugins for creating WordPress custom search results pages
A plugin is a simple and safe way to tailor WordPress search, and minimal effort is needed to start using one. You have to install and activate it, and then configure it to your requirements. It’s a no-code solution, requiring no development skills.
Furthermore, the plugin’s developer will help maintain the customization features for you. This is assuming that the plugin is regularly updated and actively maintained. You can also get in touch with the developer for more help and support. In the next section, we will explore some of the top plugins that can help you enhance your WordPress search functionality.
Plugins for enhancing WordPress search result page functionality?
There are multiple plugins available to add search boxes and advanced search functionality to your WP site. We’ve rounded up the top plugins to create a WordPress custom search results page.
Search WP and Live Search
SearchWP is a powerful plugin that allows you to customize site search in various ways to help your customers discover what they want, how they want it, faster. Live Search, also from the same developer as SearchWP, enhances your site’s search form and allows your customers to see results within the same view, without redirecting them to a results page.
You can use either or both. Live Search does not require SearchWP. If you have installed and activated SearchWP, Live Search will automatically detect and use it.
Let’s look at how each works to create WordPress custom search results pages.
SearchWP integrates with your existing research results template. It sorts results based on a number of criteria, including:
- Custom fields
- Ecommerce product details and attributes
- Categories, tags, custom taxonomies
- Document content (PDF, .docx, .txt, and more)
- Shortcode output
- Database table content
Custom fields allow for more specialized filtering of search results. With SearchWP, you can add a custom field option to the search algorithm of your posts. You can adjust the weight given to each search attribute, such as title, content, slug or excerpt, during a search.
If you have a WooCommerce store, your sales depend on how easy it is for your customers to find the products they’re looking for. SearchWP delivers better search results to your customers by considering all product details, attributes and taxonomies. You can select which taxonomies you want WordPress to consider while performing a search, such as product type, category, type, and so on.
SearchWP makes more of your content searchable, including PDFs, office, plain/rich text, and other documents that you’ve uploaded to the WordPress media library. The search results show the Media Library title and a link to that media entry. That’s not all. SearchWP also extracts a contextual excerpt that trims around the specific search terms.
In addition, SearchWP makes content from database tables searchable. WordPress’ native search function isn’t great. To cite an example, it isn’t able to work with shortcode output. SearchWP allows you to include shortcode output and taxonomy terms in your search operation.
Live Search in WordPress guesses what users are searching for as they type. It works like the Google Autocomplete feature, helping people find relevant content faster. The Live Search plugin Live Search applies an AJAX search to show search results in the same view and enhances your search forms.
The paid plugin from Expertrec extends the search functionality of your WordPress website in various ways, including:
- PDF search
- Image search
- Free voice search
- Search filters and facets for ecommerce products
Over 128 million people in the US are estimated to use voice assistants at least monthly. The Expertrec plugin is a great way to cater to web users that use voice search during their browsing sessions on Google and within websites.
You can configure the plugin to control how you want to show information in response to visitors’ search queries and create custom WordPress search results pages. Set custom search engine rules, add filters and search results pages, and allow your customers to search multiple websites – your own subdomains and/or other domains – from the same search bar. The plugin also corrects typos and highlights search terms.
Configuring your WordPress site search user interface is easy and requires no coding. A free 14-day demo is available for you to try out the plugin.
The advanced WordPress search plugin allows you to create an unlimited number of search forms and configure each form to perform different types of searches on your site content. It enhances your site’s search function in a number of ways, including:
- Searching by image, file and attachments
- Searching content by post, page, product and forum
- Live search functionality
- Shortcode content
- Excluding specific content from search results
- Enabling multi-lingual search
You can use the search form customizer to change search form colors and its text to align with your brand colors and design standards. Various search forms are available to make it easy to choose a search form style you would like to use for your site.
The premium version of the plugin offers more options to create WordPress custom search results pages. They include searching WooCommerce product variations and SKUs, posts created by specific authors, and media attachments such as images, audio, videos, PDFs, documents, and more.
You can display the search form in the navigation menu and configure it according to your requirements. This includes configuring the number of posts to display in search results and highlighting search terms on the search results page. It also offers fuzzy matching, which is useful when an exact match is not found for a phrase or sentence. Your customers can search posts that include the whole search term or search words that begin or end with the search term.
These are among the several ways in which Ivory Search transforms the WordPress search result page experience. It offers support for up to 25 sites and comes with a 30-day double money-back guarantee.
This plugin is yet another to consider for faster, more accurate searches on your WordPress website. Like other plugins to create WordPress custom search results pages, Relevanssi offers functionality such as:
- Indexing and searching PDF content
- Custom field searches, including WooCommerce SKU and advanced custom field (ACF) content
- Finding users by names and profile descriptions
- Finding content generated by shortcodes
- Searches by categories, tags, and custom taxonomies
- Multisite searches
You can customize the plugin to suit your particular needs. If you have a specialized requirement that the plugin doesn’t offer, you can adapt it to your demands to build a fully custom search plugin.
Choose from a free or premium version. Relevanssi Premium offers more options to create WordPress custom search results pages, guaranteed support and access to new features, which aren’t available for the free version.
Designed for WooCommerce websites, this plugin creates a search experience focused on helping your customers find the product they’re looking for with minimal effort. The functionality it incorporates includes:
- Searching within specific categories or tags, and filtering the results
- Searching products by vendor when used with YITH WooCommmerce Multi Vendor plugin
- Searching by SKU to quickly find products within large catalogs
- Including batches and prices in search results to highlight promotions and ‘on sale/available’ products
- Showing the search form in two different layouts, the default or ‘wide’ that adjusts the form to the width of the page
The free version of the plugin offers fewer search options to create a WordPress custom search results page. It’s better to use the premium version that makes products quick and easy to find, increasing the chances of customers spending more time on your site.
Disclaimer: Codeable is not affiliated with any of the plugins recommended in this article.
How to use a plugin to create WordPress custom search results pages
The exact steps to start using a plugin depend on the product you’ve chosen, but the steps of installing and activating the plugin are mostly the same. If you’re using a free plugin, then it should be available in the WordPress plugin directory, which has only free plugins. From here, it’s a simple matter of installing and activating the plugin. Paid WP plugins are not listed in the WordPress plugin directory. You’ll need to download the plugin from the source, and then upload it to WordPress and activate it to start using it.
Once activated, you can go about choosing from the various options available to customize the search results on your website. Say you want to use ACFs to store a list of insurance types and add a custom field called ‘insurance type’ with values that can be selected, such as ‘life insurance’, ‘motor insurance’, ‘health insurance’, and so on. All posts containing each insurance type need to show alongside any post with that text in it also. For this, you can consider Relevanssi to pre-index post types and custom fields. For more customization, you can get support from the plugin’s developer or engage a WordPress expert from Codeable.
A search form is an excellent solution to improve the UX and reduce the bounce rate of your website. The search bar WordPress includes as default offers limited options in terms of where the search bar can be placed and how it can be tailored. With SearchWP or Ivory Search, you can add multiple search forms anywhere you want in a few easy steps.
If you’d like to enable your customers to search your site more thoroughly, configure your chosen plugin to make various types of content on your site searchable, such as PDFs and tables. You can integrate other platforms so their content can also be searched. For example, Ivory Search integrates with bbPress, which means your website’s users can also search post types by ‘forum’. If you speak to multilingual audiences, integration with Polylang instantly enables multilingual search.
To match search features to a particular design theme, you can customize the colors of your search forms. For faster and more accurate searches, allow users to sort results by popularity, recency, or other factors. Configure the plugin to make the most of the custom search functionality it offers.
Best practices for customizing your search results page
When the goal is to make search better for your audience, adopting the best practices of creating a custom search results page in WordPress goes a long way. Here’s a look at four proven ways to speed up and refine the search process on your site.
- Allow partial searches through the use of keyword stemming
A stemmed search shows variants of the word during a search. For example, searching for ‘run’ matches all posts containing this exact term as well as words with the same stem, such as ‘ran’ and ‘running’. Keyword stemming makes it possible to return search results that otherwise might have been missed.
- Exclude specific content from your searches as relevant
Website visitors want to see results most relevant to their search. You can decide what are the best pages for specific searches. For example, if visitors are performing an ecommerce product search, then the search feature doesn’t need to include your posts.
- Highlight users’ search terms in the search results
This is a simple yet effective way to help website visitors identify relevant results more quickly and make your site more user-friendly.
- Prioritize specific pages in search results
Enhancing the visibility of key pages in search results can be done through weighting, assigning more importance to select content. This ensures relevant pages surface higher in results. Balance is crucial, as over-prioritization can lead to less relevant content being overshadowed. Regularly review your prioritization to align with your site’s evolving content and user needs.
- Include sticky posts in your search results
Sticky posts are the most important and informative posts appearing at the top of search results. For example, if users are searching for the answer to a frequently asked question, you can pin a post with the answer to their question at the top of the search results.
Plugins can simplify the process of customizing WordPress search. That said, for some users, plugins are insufficient to modify the search feature in detail to create WordPress custom search results pages. So, while the plugin you’ve chosen may offer several options to tailor searches on your website, for advanced customization, you might need to make changes to the WordPress code.
If you have HTML, CSS, and/or PHP programming knowledge, creating your own custom search page is quite easy. When making changes to your WordPress website, it is better to do it on the child theme. As the child theme uses everything present in the parent theme, you’re able to change only the parts that need to work a certain way. All modifications to the child theme are kept separate from the parent theme’s files. Building on something that already exists is recommended if you’re making larger changes, such as code changes. This route also speeds up the search customization process.
Making changes to the WordPress code involves using WP_Query, which contains an extensive list of parameters to change the search behavior. The string and integer-based parameters need to be coded on a URL to modify the search behavior as desired. This is pretty straightforward work for WordPress experts, but tough and time-consuming if you have little or no programming knowledge.
Differentiate your business with a great search experience
Fast and relevant internet site searches tie into people’s overall experience of using your website. As WordPress search is quite limited, you can use a plugin or make code changes to create WordPress custom search results pages.
A plugin is a simple and safe route to customizing WordPress search. But it can also be insufficient when you need to make detailed modifications to the search feature. In this case, coding the required search parameters on the URL can deliver the desired results.
Codeable easily meets this need and helps you shape your website’s search experience exactly how you envision it. Why struggle with the heavy lifting or spend time hunting for WordPress developers when you can tap into Codeable’s network of experienced WordPress developers? Advanced customization calls for specialized talent, and our developers have what it takes to help you deliver a simple, fast, and seamless site search experience.
Find a Codeable developer to create WordPress custom search results pages quickly. Start a project or consult an expert now.