I would like to know how to use the built in wordpress search to return results from all content on my site. Specifically, I want to search;

  • posts
  • pages
  • tags
  • custom post type (portfolio)
  • custom taxonomy used in custom post type (skill, client)
  • metaboxes used in custom post type (portfolio_caption, portfolio_excerpt, portfolio_credits, portfolio_links)

I would like one search form and don't need to limit the search to certain post types or categories. Just enter the search term > click search > see matches from all content on my site. Simple ;)

Update: Preferably, I would achieve this through a function or custom database query rather than using a plugin. This is because I'm developing a theme and want this functionality included out of the box rather than requiring a user to download a plugin. (title changed)

  • 4
    What is the fascination with "without a Plugin"? Downvote for this restriction, since it is essentially impossible to extend WordPress functionality without using the Plugin API. Feb 9, 2012 at 23:53
  • Apologies for not explaining myself better. Rather than saying without a plugin, I should have said, that I'd like to achieve this through a function or custom database query. The "fascination" of not using a plugin is simply that I'm developing a theme and want to include this functionality out of the box without the need for a user to download a plugin. Thanks for taking a look at my question though.
    – robflate
    Feb 10, 2012 at 1:12
  • 4
    There are ways to include plugins with theme installation, for example, github.com/thomasgriffin/TGM-Plugin-Activation
    – Wyck
    Feb 10, 2012 at 6:31
  • More importantly: anything you can do with a plugin, you can do out of functions.php...so it's really 6 of one or half a dozen of another.
    – mor7ifer
    Feb 10, 2012 at 14:37
  • Thanks for the info. I feel this question has become a plugin vs no plugin debate. That's my fault for making the original stipulation, sorry. Does anyone have any insight into how I can actually achieve the search outlined in the question? Thanks again.
    – robflate
    Feb 10, 2012 at 19:41

3 Answers 3


DeluxeBlogTips.com 1) has an article on how to do combined searches in both posts and meta data. Basically, it involves two queries via the $wpdb object; one to search the meta table to get a list of post_ids and the other is a query of posts to get post_ids. You then merge the arrays and use that to do a query with a WP_Query using the posts__in argument.

Using tags may be a bit tricky because 1. tags are meant to group posts together and 2. tags and taxonomies involve 3 different tables.

1) The linked article is not completely right. It should be $keyword = "%".like_escape( $keyword )."%";.

  • 1
    +1, but an additional note: Every time you try to involve taxonomy taxons (or even their meta), you are adding one additional (and slow) JOIN to the SQL query. This can be very time consuming.
    – kaiser
    Nov 26, 2012 at 2:48
  • Didn't know about like_escape. I'll need to remember that. Nov 26, 2012 at 5:19

Using the link @Wyck posted, check out http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/search-everything/. Given the complexity of the task, a plugin really is your best bet to get 'er done.

  • I tried Search Everything, and it did not find search content written into a Wordpress page.
    – Steve
    May 15, 2017 at 3:31

If you are truly opposed to a plugin, and know some SQL, you can do this with the $wpdb global variable.

For example, to query all posts that contain "sample_text" in the title, you would do something like:

global $wpdb;    
$post = $wpdb->get_results("SELECT * FROM $wpdb->wp_posts WHERE post_title LIKE '%sample_text%' ");

Then you would do similar things for each of the other tables.

  • Always use prepare(), never use a fixed table prefix.
    – fuxia
    Nov 26, 2012 at 1:41
  • LIKE queries need to use like_escape().
    – kaiser
    Nov 26, 2012 at 2:44

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