Are you trying to fix issues with WordPress search not working on your website?

Troubleshooting WordPress search issues can be quite challenging. This is because there are lots of reasons why your site search may not be working. But if you know where to look, you can fix these issues faster.

In this post, we’ll look at some common examples of WordPress search not working. We’ll then show you how to fix these issues.

You can complete most of these fixes in few minutes. You don’t need to be a WordPress expert to do this as well.

Let’s dive in!

4 Common Examples of WordPress Search Not Working

WordPress is a powerful website-building platform. But its search capabilities are limited.

By default, WordPress only searches specific content types like posts, products, and pages. This means your users won’t be able to find matches in comments, reviews, or product descriptions.

Even worse, you may be experiencing certain issues with WordPress search not working at all. And these issues can show up in different ways. This can make it difficult to fix them.

Search functionality is a very important part of every website. If your WordPress site search is not working, it’s almost impossible for users to find what they’re looking for. This can make them leave your site faster. It can also lead to a poor brand reputation and low customer satisfaction.

There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for WordPress search issues. If you want to fix WordPress search not working, you can start by finding out the cause of the error.

Below, let’s talk about some of the most common WordPress search errors.

WordPress Search Box Doesn’t Appear

This is a common search issue WordPress users experience on their site. In this case, your site visitors can’t see any search bar and can’t search your website.

WordPress search box not showing

There are a number of reasons why WordPress may not be displaying the search form on your site. Here are 2 possible causes:

  • Your theme doesn’t have a search bar by default. Some WordPress themes add a search form to your site header or sidebar by default. If you change to a new theme, you may find that your old search box doesn’t appear anymore.
  • Compatibility issues with your theme or plugins. Even when you add a search widget to your site manually, you may still experience some issues. Any changes to your theme or plugins can easily affect the search function. This can cause the search form to stop working properly or even disappear completely.

We’ll show you how to troubleshoot this issue later. Or, you can click here to skip ahead to the fix for WordPress search not appearing.

WordPress Search Doesn’t Give Relevant Results

You may have noticed that your site isn’t returning expected content when you search for keywords.

WordPress not giving relevant search results

Here are the two major reasons why this is happening:

  • The default WordPress search isn’t powerful enough. The default search functionality doesn’t index everything on your website and isn’t always accurate. This means your site users may not always find relevant results when they search your site. In this case, you can use a WordPress search plugin like SearchWP to improve WordPress search.
  • Your WordPress theme is performing a redundant search. This means your theme has a search.php file that is performing its own search. So, your site displays a default search results page instead of WordPress-provided search results.

To fix this issue, edit the search.php file in your theme folder. We’ll show you what to look out for when you want to fix this error. Or, you can click here to skip ahead to the fix for WordPress search not giving relevant results.

WordPress Search Is Slow

If you’ve been using WordPress for a while now, you may have noticed that your site search is slow. It can be even worse when you have a large website with over a thousand posts, pages, and products.

WordPress uses SQL only to search for content on your website. But this database language is not ideal for full-text searches. This means your site might struggle to return results when you have a large database.

The easiest way to fix this is to use dedicated search engine software. This software will search your database faster and can be added with a plugin.

WordPress Search Shows a 404 Error

Another example of WordPress search not working is that you’re seeing a 404 error or “Page Not Found” page. 404 errors are a common WordPress issue. When WordPress returns this error, it simply means the system cannot find the page you’re requesting.

WordPress search 404 error page

When it comes to WordPress search, these are the 2 possible reasons you’re seeing the 404 error:

  • Your theme is missing the search.php file or using the wrong template. The search.php file is the template for displaying your search results page. If WordPress can’t find this file, it’ll display the 404 error.
  • Your site is experiencing a permalink redirect error. A permalink is the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) WordPress uses to find a specific post or page on your site. Every time you try to access your search results, WordPress redirects you to a new permalink. If something is wrong with your site’s rewrite rules, what you get is the 404 error.

The good news is that you can resolve most of the issues listed above without writing any code. All you need to do is install a powerful WordPress plugin or change a few settings in your WordPress dashboard.

Let’s show you how to go about it.

How to Fix WordPress Search Not Working

Most WordPress search issues are related to the limitations of the platform’s default search. You can easily fix these issues by installing a search plugin like SearchWP.

SearchWP best WordPress search plugin

SearchWP is the best WordPress search plugin. You can use the tool to enhance your site search and avoid lots of search issues. Over 30,000 sites already use it to better their search experience.

For example, SearchWP can make your site search faster. No matter how large your database is, your users don’t have to wait several seconds to see their search results. This way, you can increase customer satisfaction and get more sales.

Other features SearchWP offers include:

  • Ability to search everything on your site. SearchWP doesn’t limit your search to posts, pages, and products only. Users can also find matches in categories, tags, and even custom fields.
  • Keyword stemming. Site visitors can also match for related keywords when they search your site. For example, searching for ‘buy’ will show results for ‘bought’ and ‘buyer’ too. You can customize how you want this to work.
  • Visitor insights and statistics. Learn more about what your site users are looking for. You can use these insights to improve your content or inventory.

Now that you know how SearchWP improves WordPress site search, let’s install the plugin.

How to Install and Set Up SearchWP

To fix WordPress search not working, we’ll first add SearchWP to your site. You can get your own copy of the SearchWP plugin here.

Once you’ve grabbed your copy. you’ll get the option to download 2 versions of the plugin.

Click one of the links available to download the plugin. For the best performance possible, we recommend the latest version.

SearchWP plugin download links

At this point, you must have received an email from SearchWP. The email contains your product license key. Save the key to a notepad so you can enter it in your WordPress dashboard later.

Next, it’s time to log into your WordPress dashboard. Once you’re in, upload the plugin to your site.

For more details, you can check this step-by-step guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Once you’re done installing and activating the plugin, the next step is to activate the product license.

SearchWP has added a new navigation button to the top panel of your WordPress dashboard. Click this SearchWP button to go to the settings page.

go to SearchWP settings page

Navigate to the License tab and enter the license key you received in your email earlier. Make sure that the key you entered is correct and click Activate.

Activate SearchWP license

Congratulations! You’ve now installed and activated SearchWP. The plugin integrates with your native WordPress search automatically. This will fix some of the search issues and your site users can now enjoy a better search experience.

Now, let’s talk about the specific cases when WordPress search is still not working. Here’s how you can fix those common WordPress search errors.

How to Fix WordPress Search Box Not Appearing

After installing SearchWP, it automatically replaces all your native WordPress search forms. The plugin integrates well with other third-party themes and plugins. This generally resolves most issues with the search box not appearing.

You can also manually add a new search widget to your site.

To do this, go to Appearance » Widgets within your WordPress dashboard.

WordPress widgets settings

Select the location where you want to add the search widget. For example, you can add the widget to the sidebar. Select the Sidebar, then click the + icon.

Add WordPress sidebar widget

Type search into the search bar and select the Search icon.

add customized search widget to WordPress sidebar

Now you should see a new search widget in your site sidebar.

WordPress search widget in sidebar

If the search box is still not showing, consider installing a new theme or reactivating an old theme. For more details, follow this guide on how to install a WordPress theme.

A plugin you recently installed may also be the cause. You can deactivate or delete some plugins to see if the error continues. Follow this guide to learn how to properly uninstall a WordPress plugin.

How to Fix WordPress Search Not Giving Relevant Results

With SearchWP, your site checks all your site content for search results. This means your users will now see relevant results that match their search intent always.

SearchWP also allows you to rank your site content attributes, based on your needs. Attributes like title, excerpt, and product variations store important information about your content. WordPress, search engines, and your site users can then use this information to find your content easily.

For example, you can choose to rank a post’s excerpts higher than its title. This means when users search, your site will look for matches in excerpts before checking titles.

SearchWP search engine attribute relevance

You can also choose to restrict your product search to the product title only. All you need to do is set up a SearchWP search engine. A search engine is like Google’s algorithm for controlling your site search.

If you’re still receiving unwanted search results, then your theme may be performing a redundant search. To confirm this, you need to check the theme’s search.php file.

You can find the file by going to the /wp-content/themes/ directory of your WordPress installation. Then open your present theme’s folder. You’ll need to log into your WordPress hosting client area to access this folder. We’re using a local WordPress installation for this tutorial.

WordPress theme folder local installation

Next, find the search.php file and open it.

Search.php file in WordPress installation theme folder

A typical search results page template should look like this.

WordPress search results page template

If the code contains calls like query_posts, new WP_Query, or get_posts, then WordPress is performing a redundant search.

In this case, we recommend that you install a new theme with the right search results page template. Otherwise, hire a WordPress developer to write a new template from scratch.

How to Fix Slow WordPress Search

Installing SearchWP automatically speeds up your WordPress site search. The plugin builds your search index and returns search results faster than the default WordPress search. Check out this initial performance benchmark for SearchWP 4.0 to see how the tool has improved over time.

Other ways you can make WordPress search faster include:

  • Add live autofill search to your site. SearchWP has a free version called Live Ajax Search plugin. You can use it to show instant results as users type in the search bar.
  • Increase your hosting server resources. This may be necessary if you have a large site with lots of traffic. When your search form is getting a lot of action, it may take some time for the hosting server to handle these requests. You can buy more server RAM and bandwidth to improve this. For more details, check out this guide on how to choose the best WordPress hosting.

After following these tips, you can expect your site users to enjoy faster search.

How to Fix WordPress Search Showing 404 Error

To troubleshoot this issue, you can start by checking if the problem is a permalink error. You can do this by updating your permalink settings. For more details, check this simple guide on how to fix WordPress returning 404 error.

If WordPress search is still showing a 404 error, then the search results page template is missing. To fix this, you can install a new theme or hire a WordPress developer to write a new search results page template.

In this article, you’ve learned how to fix WordPress search not working.

Troubleshooting your WordPress site search issues may appear challenging. But fixing these issues will boost your site’s user experience and help you retain your customers.

Ready to fix WordPress search not working? Get started by grabbing your copy of SearchWP here.

You can also check out our detailed guide on how to add search by category to WordPress.

Want to make your search awesome right now?

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