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Which Search Widget Should I Use?

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In this session we discuss various search widgets and make a few recommendations for search widgets that are easy to customize. The default search widget has the least amount of customization while the Thesis search widget lets you do things like create a button and a place for the text. Both of those and most other search widgets found in wordpress.org rely on the WordPress search facility.

We also talk about Google Search which provides relevant search results and searches the entire page not just the page content including taxonomy terms, custom post meta, widgets and anything that’s on the page. It uses its own relevance search engine to determine what is and isn’t relevant.

There are plugin extensions that extend the search to custom post meta, images and custom taxonomy terms as well.

Video Transcript

Rick: Now you had another question about search widgets?

Member: Well, I had a question. There are several because if you see what I did on this page you’re looking at because there’s two different size that… yeah, I’ve already got that bit. My question was obviously there’s the Custom Google Search, DIY, Thesis has a search I guess a WordPress search, do you have any recommendations on the benefits of which one is easier to customize. I am just looking for your point of view on that.

Rick: Well, see your default…

Member: Probably the plugins I’m sure there are tons of them.

Rick: The default search widget has the least amount of customization to it right, just a nice simple search widget. The Thesis search widget lets you do things like create a button and you know, place all their text and just search for label and that kind of stuff so you can add more stuff to the Thesis search widget automatically. Both of those and most other search widget things that you’ll find on wordpress.org rely on the WordPress search facility which is essentially useless.

The WordPress search facility is a simple boolean search that searches the content section of the database for the words and it starts with the latest post and works its way down to the oldest post and it displays the post or pages in the order in which they were created with whatever search terms there are in it which means that there’s no question of relevance here. It’s not as relevant search result, it’s just any post or page that has that word in the content section of it and you see the latest published ones first.

If you’re really going to have a content rich site I think you need to be able to provide relevant search results and that’s where the Google Search comes in. That’s what I have in BYOBWebsite is a Google Search and the Google Search will in fact, searches the entire page not just the page content but it will search everything including taxonomy terms and custom post meta, widgets. Anything else on the page is part of the search and uses its own relevance search engine to determine what is relevant and what isn’t so it’s a much more effective search. It essentially is as the same algorithm that they use on google.com except it just searches your site.

Now, there are two versions of that – there is the ad supported version which is free to you but it will have ads in the search results or there is the custom search for business version which is what we have here that does not include search results but it does cost you money. I personally prefer not to show ads so I’m happy to pay. Well, you have a lot of searches on my site and it cost me a couple of hundred bucks here I guess.

Member: So you pay by the amount of the use?

Rick: Yes. For the first 20,000 or 40,000 searches or something like that it’s $100 and the next ones another $100.

Member: Yes, that’s an option but that’s reasonable to look like you don’t have you know…

Rick: Right and so then…

Member: You know, Google’s hard…

Rick: Yeah and then you end up with the searches of all of your content based on that and also all those is a little sophisticated. You can also filter results by things like right, this is searching the entire site but if I wanted to just view the custom templates thing that has to do with the latest version of Thesis I could click that and now it filters out the results down to those. If I just wanted to say well, show me the ones with the latest version of Genesis then it goes to this so you can provide filters to your customers so they can make the search results more relevant.

Member: You can decide what your filters are?

Rick: Yes.

Member: Because something interesting because I was looking and this is on your site. I was trying to find some things that I went through the search but then when I’m in the forums and what I wanted to do was to search on the forums that would just search the forums.

Rick: Oh, there is that I think.

Member: But I can’t see a filter for that.

Rick: It’s not in the Google Custom Search, there is a forum search. The forum search uses the… it’s right here.

Member: But there is the one on the left okay, you got the Google button there on the upper right that’s the one I used, I didn’t see the one on the left.

Rick: If you just wanted to search the forum you could do that but it does unfortunately use exactly the same algorithm as WordPress which is it’ll just show you the latest posts.

Member: Right, right.

Rick: That are… but you know sometimes I’m trying to find a post that somebody wrote you know, and I know who wrote it but I just can’t find it, I’ll search for it by their name and there’s an advanced search that lets you make it a little bit more specific if you wish including searching into the… well, this allows you to look at all the topics you posted or the topics you’ve started and that kind of stuff so if you’re trying to find your own posts.

Member: Right.

Rick: But if you’re just trying to find something on the forum that should work just fine. This does bring up forum search results though.

Member: I know that, you know with everything else.

Rick: Yes.

Member: Well, thank you.

Rick: Okay you’re welcome. So I strongly recommend using the Google search in that case, it’s actually very easy to do. If you search my site for how to use Google Custom Search you’ll find videos on it but it’s just a couple of pieces of…

Member: The Thesis, is it basically just using the same WordPress search, using the search button…

Rick: Yes. Most search widgets that you find simply use the search algorithm of WordPress. You can find plugins that do that, that extend the search to things like custom post meta and images or you know, custom taxonomy terms and that kind of stuff. So you can find extensions to that but it’s still the same damn thing, does the word exist in any of these locations and for every location that the word exists in bring up the latest ones first.

Member: Right and then right there because the search button that you have of the forum page, you have posted the one on the top of the website because one of the top of the website says there’s a Google Custom Search and everything but the one you’re looking at right now it does when you click but you can customize the shape and size and colors of the buttons and all that?

Rick: Yes you can.

Member: Okay cool. Well, thank you.

Rick: You’re welcome

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