April 16th, 2020
Jetpack has had a search feature for a while. Flip it on, and it replaces your built-in WordPress search (which is functional, but not particularly good) with an Elasticsearch-powered solution that is faster and has better results. I’ve been using that for quite a while here on CSS-Tricks, which was an upgrade from using a Google Custom Search Engine.
Jetpack just upped their game again with a brand new search upgrade. You can use Jetpack search how you were already, or you can flip on Instant Search and take advantage of this all-new search experience (inside and out).
A Full Page Experience
Instant Search provides a full page-covering search experience. I think it’s awesome. When a user is searching, that’s the mindset they are in and giving them all the space they need to accomplish that goal is great. Here’s me searching (video):
Best I can tell, CSS-Tricks gets a couple hundred thousand on-site searches per month, so having a great experience there is very important to me. I don’t even wanna mess around with bad on-site search experiences, or products that are too expensive. I’d rather send people to a site-scoped Google search than a bad on-site search. Fortunately, Instant Search is about as good of on-site search experience as I can imagine, especially for the zero-work it takes to implement.
You have some control over the look of things from the Customizer.
Instant Search is designed to work on any site, so you probably don’t need to do much. I was really surprised how well it worked out-of-the-box for CSS-Tricks. As a CSS control freak, I did ship a handful of design tweaks to it, but that’s just because I love doing that kind of thing.
Tweaks No Longer Needed
With the previous version of Jetpack Search, I had custom code in place to tweak Elasticsearch. I did things like factoring in comment counts as an indicator of popularity so that I could be sure our best content was high in the results. Remember as powerful as this search is, it doesn’t have a model of the entire internet to calculate relevancy from like Google does. Good news though:
To further improve our search algorithm, we started experimenting with adding the percentage of pageviews from the past 30 days into the index. We ended up finding that pageviews are a much better ranking signal because it somewhat combines both popularity and recency. So now most of our result ranking is strongly influenced by the number of pageviews a post or page gets. Conveniently, if you get a lot of Google Search traffic, our search results should be heavily influenced by Google’s ranking algorithm.
Emphasis mine. With Jetpack Instant Search, I was able to rip all that custom code out (removing code always feels great) because the new algorithms are doing a great job with ranking results.
Now Jetpack Search is ala-carte rather than baked into specific plans. Don’t need it, you don’t pay for it? Only need this feature? You can buy it regardless of what plan you are on.
I’m told the pricing is about scope. Jetpack plans are about features, not the scale of the site, but that doesn’t make much sense for search where the scale of the site matters a ton. So it’s a sliding scale based on the “records” you have, which are basically posts and pages.
I would think a lot of sites fall into the $25/month (15% off for annual) category. You probably mostly start caring about on-site search above 1,000 records and 10,000 records is a ton. I pay for the tier one up from that (~$612 a year) only because our (now archived) bbPress forums push the number over 10,000. That’s a perfectly fair price for this for a site like mine.
My #1 thing is that I wish it was easy to remove certain things from search results. We have tons and tons of records from our bbPress forums that I made the (hard) call to close this year. Removing those records would pull me down into a smaller pricing tier, but more importantly, I’d rather just not show those results in search at all.
It’s not just CSS-Tricks being in an unusual situation. I’ve also turned on Jetpack Instant Search on the CodePen Documentation.
In that circumstance, I’d consider turning removing blog posts (believe it or not) from the search results, so instead just the Pages would show up which are our core documentation there. Or perhaps even better, blog posts are just turned off as a filter by default, but users could flip them on to see them in the results.
All in all, this is a huge upgrade to Jetpack and yet another reason I consider it the most important plugin I run on my WordPress sites. If you’re curious about other Jetpack features we use, we made a special page for that.
The original post Jetpack Instant Search!.