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A Smarter Way to Search, For All Things ACF

WordPress’ default search functionality has long been a sticking point for developers, especially when building dynamic, content-rich websites. 

The issues are multifaceted, but the antiquated nature of WordPress’s search algorithm, which prioritizes date over relevance, means users often receive inaccurate or irrelevant search results and, ultimately, a less-than-ideal user experience. 

Advanced Custom Fields uses WP Engine’s AI-powered Smart Search for an instantly improved search experience across its website

Enter WP Engine Smart Search 

To enhance WordPress search with a focus on site speed and performance, WP Engine created Smart Search, an advanced search optimization tool built specifically for WordPress sites. Smart Search is an easy-to-use, highly customizable answer to the search conundrum many WordPress users face, and it’s already generating impressive results, most notably on

Advanced Custom Fields (ACF) is the most widely used custom fields plugin in the WordPress ecosystem. With more than 5 million active installations, hundreds of thousands of monthly site visitors, and a content archive spanning thousands of helpful resources, presented a perfect use case for applying Smart Search’s capabilities. 

Given ACF’s broad functionality and wide range of use cases, finding relevant tutorials, documentation, and support articles is often crucial for its many users.

Now, with Smart Search up and running, finding those resources has become faster, more precise, and more comprehensive than ever before. 

Since Smart Search was launched on the site last month, aggregate searches have increased daily. With more than 100,000 searches on the site over the last 30 days, is currently one of the most searched websites on WP Engine’s platform. 

“We know users rely on our website as a trusted source of information, whether they’re experimenting with ACF and testing out a new concept, or it’s the 11th hour for a critical project and they’re trying to answer a specific question,” said ACF Senior Product Manager Iain 


“In either case, Smart Search significantly improves their experience, helping them navigate our expansive collection of resources and empowering them to use ACF more effectively.”

A smarter way to search WordPress sites

Harnessing the Power of AI

ACF’s new search capabilities also leverage the new AI-powered Hybrid Search for Smart Search, which is currently in beta testing. This natural language search feature provides a GPT-like experience combining traditional keyword-based and semantic search to produce more relevant search results.

“What we’re doing on the backend is running your data through a Machine Learning model that’s specially tuned for Natural Language retrieval,” said WP Engine’s Product Manager for Search and AI,  Luke Patterson. 

“What this means for you, is that you can now type full sentences or questions into the search bar, and have that return really exceptional search results. And because Smart Search is one of the only products out there that indexes all of your ACF fields and Custom Post Types with just a click of a button, you get all those included in those results as well.”

In addition to improving the search experience on your site, Smart Search also enhances the speed of site searches by transferring the indexing and search processes away from your WordPress MySQL database to a specialized search server. This approach significantly reduces the load on your WordPress site, making searches quicker and more efficient. 

“Smart Search has given our users the ability to quickly find needed content on our site, even if they don’t know the exact ACF function they’re looking for, rather than relying on third-party searches,” said ACF Senior Staff Software Engineer Liam Gladdy, 

“And activating Smart Search was as simple as hitting a few buttons in the control panel—a no-code solution that’s significantly improving the experience for ACF’s users.”

WP Engine Smart Search is an advanced search optimization tool built specifically for WordPress sites

Find a Smarter Way to Search

The WordPress ecosystem offers a variety of tools for enhancing search, each with its pros and cons.

While there are several popular plugins used for improving WordPress search, many of these solutions struggle to scale as they depend on WordPress’s server to process queries. Other, more advanced solutions often require a significant investment of time and money.

Historically, these alternatives have left a noticeable gap for a solution that combines scalability, cost-effectiveness, and a comprehensive feature set. WP Engine has stepped in with Smart Search to address this need. 

Smart Search is both scalable and efficient, supporting websites as they expand. It offers customizable content prioritization, ensuring that search results favor the most relevant content, and it automatically indexes all content types, including custom post types from ACF. 

It’s also easy to set up and start using, improving search across your site while providing critical insights into how your users search.

Learn more about Smart Search here, and download this ebook to find out why WordPress search might be hurting your conversions—and how to fix it!

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