Disclaimer: This post was written to generate some discussion about this topic.  If you have an idea for something you’d like to see added or integrated into WordPress, you can always contribute ideas and vote on other ideas over at WordPress Ideas.    If you look through the most popular ideas (historically), you’ll see that many are eventually integrated into the core WordPress software.  Some past examples are the current tagging system, automatic plugin updates, etc.    In other words, WordPress users often dictate which features are integrated into WordPress!

Over the next couple weeks, I plan on writing a few posts and get a couple discussions going about potential features I’d like to see built into the core WordPress installation.   We’ve talked about this in general a little bit before and many of these features are already available as WordPress plugins, but I feel they are important enough to bloggers that they should be built directly into WordPress.    Doing this also helps minimize the number of plugins used by WordPress.org bloggers, which can in turn minimize security risks or huge drains on system resources which can come from plugins.

This week I’ve decided to talk about the current WordPress search feature.  In its current state, the WordPress search feature is very basic.   You type in your keyword(s) and it will display all posts which contain that keyword in the reverse order of how they were posted (newest posts first).   This obviously does not make it easy for a reader of your blog to find the more relevant posts without a little luck.  The post they are looking for might be 3 pages deep!

As a result, many WordPress users have turned to building a Google Custom Search Engine (GCSE) into their WordPress blog.   This allows Google AdSense ads (it is optional), but much more importantly, it uses Google’s algorithm to display the most relevant posts first, allowing readers to find what they are looking for!

In a future version of WordPress, I’d like to see some attention put into building an improved search feature within WordPress.   Having an improved search algorithm would also be beneficial when searching within the WordPress dashboard as that search works the same way.  When trying to find a post to edit, I sometimes have to flip through several pages looking for it (if it is an older post).

What do you think?  Would you like to see improved search within WordPress?   How high of a priority is it to you?

Kyle Eslick is WordPress enthusiast who took his passion for WordPress to the next level in 2007 by launching WPHacks.com as a place to share hacks, tutorials, etc. Connect with Kyle on Twitter or Google+!

  1. Andrew says:

    I hate to sound like a broken record, but I honestly think Search is one area that should be an optional, but core, plugin. There are lots of ways of making search better but I think having one of those as core is holding plugin authors back because they wrangle with the hooks instead of just writing something awesome that stands alone.

    I am using Google on my site because it lets me integrate search across multiple sites.

  2. Kyle Eslick says:

    @ Andrew – No, your input is very much appreciated!

    I’m more or less just trying to get a discussion going and see what people think. The default search has always really bothered me, so that is why I brought it up.

    I suppose I wouldn’t mind if Automattic or the WordPress team managed an improved search plugin. I also think there are interesting possibilities with search, such as linking search to the Popularity Contest plugin and have it return results based off their popularity (helping the algorithm to find the most relevant results possibly).

    All the possibilities are what makes WordPress so great!

  3. TC says:

    ITA that the search feature on WordPress needs to be improved (desperately). The problem though with integrating something like Google into your blog is that it is a traffic sucking vortex AWAY from your site.

    –Google makes it too easy (and tempting) for your searchers to move over to the google website or to other websites.
    –Google will only show results that it has indexed and I know too there were problems with pages it deemed as a “supplemental” result. That meant many of your posts wouldn’t show up in the search results unless google determined it to be worthy enough (even if the content of post was bang on).

    Things may have changed since I last looked at integrating google into my WordPress blog, but those were the two big no-nos that stopped me cold from proceeding further. I work hard for my traffic, why on earth would I let google sweep it away?

    I truly hope the WordPress team isn’t spending any resources on integrating google with wp.

  4. I couldn’t agree more! I’ve become more and more reliant on search to find the information I need, instead of filing, tagging, etc. It’s important for blogs to have categories and tags, but a great search function would be even better.

  5. Chris says:

    I have found that the default search in every CMS out there just plain sucks. The core Joomla sucks. The core Drupal search sucks, WordPress sucks, etc. Heck, I often comment out the default search because it’s so bad.

    I personally think that search is very important to a site as WordPress is being expanded and stretched into more of a robust CMS. A Google CSE works, but why should I have to go to Google for a decent search engine on my own site?

  6. Kyle Eslick says:

    @ TC – I think that depends on how you have it setup. You can build the search results into your site so they never leave (like we have done here), making it a good way to keep traffic on your website. You can also choose to remove the advertisements to keep people on your website.

    As far as supplemental results, I think I eluded to that in the original post. Some may not show up at all and others there are a delay on before they show up.

    So far the best part about GCSE, though, is being able to integrate a whole network of websites into it. That is where it has truly shined for me!

    With all that said, I think for some sites I would still prefer to have a use a better WordPress search feature, whether it is a plugin or built into the WordPress software itself.

  7. Stefan Vervoort says:

    I agree, search needs to improve. I have upgraded my search functionality through some plugins, but I think that if search functionality is added in the core, the user experience will improve!

  8. Simon says:

    I completely agree. There are many ways they could improve the search functionality out of the box without making it too specialised (and therefore alienating users). I tend to set up a Google Custom Site search on the blogs I run. Not only does it provide much better results but you can monetise it through Google Adsense.

    It’s not just the WordPress search itself either. The WordPress Codex search is absolutely useless as well.

  9. Monika says:

    I wouldn’t like to have google search on my blog or on any other website.

    I would like to have a simple search in the core and plugins to improve the search function.

    I need different search functions on different projects and this freedom is beautiful.

    I agree with Otto:”…..”but I think having one of those as core is holding plugin authors back because they wrangle with the hooks instead of just writing something awesome that stands alone.”


  10. Shirley says:

    Yes, the default WordPress search is pathetic, especially on large blogs with lots of posts that share keywords. However, I am in favor of keeping the search simple.

    There are lots of plugins which can accomplish any kind of search: relevancy search, weighted search with newest getting slightly more importance, alphabetic results, etc….

    If WP improves the core search functionality, I think that there would still be a lot of people who are dissatisfied with it because we all have different ideas on what would make a good website search engine.

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