You’ve created lots of content, only to realize that a search WordPress site for text is sluggish. It frustrates customers trying to find the desired product. Also, it is a pain for users seeking your content that you spent effort researching. 

What should you do to achieve faster search results?

Let’s see some options to search WordPress sites for text with performance, how WordPress search works, what slows it down, and actions to solve the issue.

How WordPress search works

The blog posts, e-commerce products, and other custom post types live in the database, inside the posts table. The filesystem keeps the media files and the database stores metadata of the files.

When a user requests a search query on a WordPress website, the engine looks after the text in the database table’s rows.

Different from Google, the internal search only looks for the content available on your website. 

Even with a smaller quantity of content to search, it may be challenging to beat Google’s performance. So why bother having an internal one?

Why do we need an internal search on your site?

The internal search could improve the usability even for a well-designed website.

It could be especially useful for users searching for specific products or posts after landing on your website. 

They can skip the menu navigation that grows after you create more and more content. It could become difficult to find the right submenu or subcategory.

Of course, there still have room for related links which keep the user flowing from one page to another, but searching is an essential tool.

Full-text search WordPress

When a user submits a search query, the internal search engine does a full-text search in every WordPress content, looking for the term. 

If the website has a vast amount of content, the results may take some time to show up, because the engine needs to compare word by word. The longer the content text, the slower the results.

WordPress search slow is bad – The importance of search in conversion

Recent studies show that a slow website makes users give up and try another website after waiting for no more than 3 seconds! User patience for slow results is becoming less and less.

So imagine a user trying to find the perfect shoes and requests lots of product search terms to succeed. If every request takes forever to return, the user gets frustrated and won’t buy what they are looking for. According to the study, forever could be only 8 seconds, after when the user gives up.

WordPress search very slow problem

The default search engine is appropriate for most websites, with dozens to hundreds of posts or products. When content starts to grow, the search results could become very slow and impact conversion goals.

Let’s discuss some of the solutions for a WordPress slow search problem.

Search WordPress site for text with Performance

The following are technical solutions that may need a developer’s help to implement in your WordPress website, but I will keep it as simple as possible for non-techs.

If you need a developer’s help, mail me.

Use caching solutions on your web server

The database is usually the bottleneck of the search performance because there will be lots of content reads to find the desired word(s).

Then, the first attempt is to install a cache system to avoid the same queries executing again in a pre-configured time window. 

After executing a query, the caching solution stores the results in memory, allowing fast later access. 

In other words, for the same query, it skips the database and picks the results up directly from the cache.

Redis and Memcached

These two are solutions to cache database queries in key-value pairs or even the entire Html page.

You need to install one or the other in the server and also a WordPress plugin to take advantage of the caching.

The Redis WordPress plugin is a simple to use client for the Redis server and the W3TC plugin is one of the most complete, including Opcache and CDNs.

MySQL full-text index

Another alternative is to use the built-in MySQL capabilities of full-text index content. 

In this direct-to-point tutorial, we can find an easy way to add the full-text index to the WordPress posts table.

Despite needing some programming knowledge, it is a simple and fast way of increasing the performance of your search results. And without installing any WordPress plugin.

Inverted Index 

For more advanced and relevant searches, we can use the same structure of search engines like Google called Inverted Index. It trades disk space and pre-processing in favor of speeding up full-text searches later on.

The usual way of storing content is a list of words in a document, also called a forward index. In contrast, the inverted index lists words mapping to their locations in a document. A simpler example would be the end of any book with a list of words and the page on which they occur. 

Create an inverted index in WordPress

Fortunately, there are ready-to-use WordPress plugins to take advantage of inverted index structure to increase the search results performance on your website.

One of the best solutions in the WordPress world is the free Ivory Search Plugin, which can create and use the inverted index structure after a few clicks. After initially creating the index, the plugin automatically indexes new content right after creation.

Conclusion

As we could see, thousands of contents could slow down your website, turning down the conversion rates.

Cache systems, MySQL full-text index, and inverted indexes are some of the best options to solve the performance hit issue.