Relevanssi is a free WordPress plugin that helps improve the default search engine in a number of different ways. For example, it highlights the search term that was searched, it searches comments and comment authors and it caches results to improve performance.
To help explain exactly what it can do for you, I would like to walk you through the settings area for the plugin. As you will see, it not only gives you a lot of new search features, it also gives you a lot of control over how searches on your site are performed.
The first thing you need to do after activating the plugin is build the index. This builds an index of all the content on your website and, amongst other things, makes it quicker for visitors to search your website.
In the basic options area you can adjust the relevance given to titles, tags and comments when someone performs a search. By default the title of an article is rightfully given more weight than tags and comments though you can adjust these figures to suit your needs. You can also set whether all search terms have to be matched in results and whether results are ordered by relevance or post date.
Logs can be kept for all searches that have been made and you can restrict searches to certain categories or tags or exclude categories, tags, posts and pages from your search results.
The length of the search excerpt can be adjusted easily. You can limit the excerpt to a set number of characters or words. One of my favourite features is the ability to adjust the way that search terms are displayed in results. By default the searched term is simply highlighted in bold however via the settings area you can define background colours and style the search term using CSS to give it more prominence on your page.
Relevanssi gives you a lot of control over how the search index is built. You can include everything or just posts and pages. If you have a lot of private content you can choose to only index content that has been publicly published.
If you want more control over what is indexed, you can customise it even more. For example, you can set the custom post types you want to include, whether tags and comments are indexed and even include custom fields and taxonomies.
Relevanssi advises against using caching however the option is there for those who want it. The cache time can be modified easily by changing the cache expiry time.
Another useful feature is stopwords. This allows you to remove common words from your index such as ‘a’, ‘been’. ‘with’ etc. Stopwords can easily be added and removed though I’m sure most WordPress users will be have with the large stopword list that is set by default.
To help you improve the stopword list, Relevanssi shows you the 25 most common words in the index. It allows you to easily remove these words from the index so that searches are more relevant i.e. if a certain search term is in every single post, it’s best to add it to the stopwords.
Relevanssi is one of the best ways of improving the default search engine. It’s easy to set up and is highly customisable. A premium version of the plugin is available for only $9.95 per year. It boasts additional features such as WordPress multi-site support, export and import options and the ability to order results by category first and relevance second.
I recommend trying it out as it’s greatly improves the default search functionality that WordPress provides. Recommended :)