How to Improve WordPress Search using Amazon CloudSearch with Lift

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It is no secret that the built in WordPress search feature is not that great. People have tried to improve their site search by using options like Google Custom Search, or one of the many existing plugins that claim to improve the search functionality. In this article, we will show you how to install and setup Lift: Search for WordPress plugin to improve your default WordPress search feature by leveraging the search power of Amazon CloudSearch. Don’t worry, it is not as hard as it sounds. You won’t need to write a single line of code.

Features

  • Lift: Search is powered by Amazon CloudSearch, which actively maintains an index of documents on your website and provides more relevant results.
  • It can search your blog, as well as images and other media uploaded using Media uploader.
  • The plugin comes with a search widget to replace default WordPress search widget.
  • Works with any WordPress theme and seamlessly integrates itself with default search template.
  • For advance users, there are template tags available which they can use to create their own customized templates.

Minimum Requirements

Lift: Search uses Amazon Web Services’ CloudSearch App to create an index of your website. To use this plugin you will need an Amazon Web Services account with CloudSearch enabled. You can sign up for Amazon Web Services account. During the signup, you will be asked to provide credit card information. AWS has several billing and pricing plans, but there is no signup fee.

In other requirements, you will need PHP version 5.3 and WordPress verson 3.4.2 or later. Without latest versions the plugin will fail to activate with a fatal error message.

How To Install and Setup Lift: Search for WordPress

Install and activate the Lift: Search for WordPress plugin. Once activated, the plugin will take you through a step by step wizard to setup and integrate Lift: Search with your Amazon Web Services Account. You will have to provide AWS Account Access and Account Secret keys. Go to your AWS account and click on Security Credentials under My Account/Console tab on top.

On Security Credentials page your will find your Account Access and Secret Keys.

Copy and paste those keys in Lift: Search configuration wizard and click Save configuration.

In the next step you will be asked to provide the domain you want to use with CloudSearch. If the domain is not listed on your CloudSearch, then Lift: Search will attempt to create and list it. Once the set up is finish you can visit Lift: Search dashboard where you can manage settings.

Configuring Lift: Search Settings

Lift: Search provides a very simple and clean interface where you can monitor the indexing of your documents. It shows a green “All Clear” flag when everything is working fine, orange flag if something is stopping Lift: Search from connecting or syncing documents with CloudSearch, and red flag when it has some critical problem. There is a message log at the end where you can see a detailed description of the error and resolve it.

You can also set the time interval for syncing. For larger and busier websites with frequent updates this interval should be minimum, but for websites with less frequent updates this interval could be adjusted accordingly. While adjusting these settings, remember that CloudSearch is a pay as you go service so you should optimize your usage to reduce the cost.

You will also find an ON/OFF button on the settings page. Use this button when you want to stop the plugin without deactivating it for debugging purposes.

Overall, Lift: Search greatly improves performance for busier sites by using an external service to index content and making search more relevant. The question is, would you use external options such as Lift: Search or Google Custom search, or you would rather want WordPress search to be improved?

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