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Back in December I swapped from using the regular WordPress search to using Google Custom Search. The change was very easy to make and Diogo Iglésias wrote up an easy tutorial for it here.

The reason for the change was simple; Google is a great search engine. I realized that every time I wanted to search my own site, I was going to Google and typing in “site:problogdesign.com” and then searching there. If I don’t want to use my own site search, who does?

The Test – Number of Searches

If one type of search encourages more people to search, then it’s doing a better job.

Google automatically tracks stats on your search engines (Go to google.com/cse > Manage Existing Search Engines > Statistics). To track WordPress’ search, I used the excelled Search Meter plugin from Bennett McElwee.

One thing to note first is that the search box on this design is very unobtrusive and hard to spot (Purposefully, I have other content that’s more important), so the number of searches is very low. It makes the results less reliable statistically, but as you’ll see, there’s a clear trend regardless.

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WordPress Search:

  • August – 102
  • September – 92
  • October – 82
  • November – 109

Google Custom Search:

  • January – 131
  • February – 140
  • March – 136
  • April – 142
  • May – 131

The average number of searches for WordPress was 96, and for Google 136. That is 40 extra searches per month just because people saw the Google logo. It doesn’t sound like much there, but on these small numbers, that’s a 42% increase over the WordPress average.

Reasons To Stick With WordPress

You would need to do a lot more testing with more sites and more users, but even so, the numbers above are quite damning for WordPress. For that reason I’m going to list a few of the reasons to stick with WordPress search:

  • No adverts – Google plaster your results page in adverts. Have a look at it on my site, it’s over the top.

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  • Control over the layout – By creating a search.php file in your theme, you can lay out your results in any way you like. You can create a bullet list of results, show thumbnails, give excerpts, or anything else you like.
  • Special Effects – Things like highlighting the search terms, pagination, dynamic search text and any other trick you can think of are possible on WordPress because you really do have complete control.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I would love to take advantage of the design of my search page with all the power of WordPress. However, the quality of the results comes first and foremost and for the minute at least, WordPress search just doesn’t cut it.

Someday that will change though, and when it does, I’ll swap right back.

What about you? Have you considered leaving WordPress search for a different system?

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