It doesn’t take long of using WordPress to get tired of its search capabilities. The search functionality is archaic and hasn’t changed in years.
SearchWP is a relatively new plugin that changes all of that. For the uninitiated, WordPress’ search capability is truly basic: it searches for your search term in the post title and content and returns all results in reverse chronological order. That’s it. Forget about sorting by relevancy or popularity.
That’s why plugins like SearchWP are worth their weight in gold (see also Relevanssi). Simply activating SearchWP will massively improve the relevance of your search results, by ordering them by relevance and weighting the search according to where the search term is found (giving more preference to the post title than the tags for example).
SearchWP is well coded and beautifully executed: no mass of unnecessary settings – just the essential configuration options to get search working how you want. For example, you have the ability to exclude certain items based on their category, tag or custom taxonomy. You can also assign different weightings to different content parts depending on which post type they belong to (for example, giving pages a higher ranking for a matching title than posts).
Where SearchWP gets really cool (and a bit geeky) is its ability to create supplemental search engines. That is to say that you can have your normal WordPress search, but you might want a different search function that returns results on a different set of parameters. I had this need lately when a client needed to have their standard site search, but then a separate search engine for returning posts with a sponsor’s name in the title only.
The implementation was a little tricky, and I needed the help of Jonathan (the plugin developer), but he was readily accessible and very willing to help.
There’s also a swathe of extensions for your every need including bbPress integration, fuzzy matches (think of Google’s “Did you mean…”) and boolean search which allows users to be more definitive with their searching (similar to how you can exclude search terms in Google by using a minus sign).
SearchWP is elegant, lean, and powerful. I’ve been using it here on Do It With WordPress for quite a while, and I love how much more relevant my search results are now. I can actually find the articles I’m looking for myself!