How to Fix WooCommerce Product Search Not Working: The Complete 2023 Troubleshooting Guide

As an experienced WordPress expert who has built and managed WooCommerce stores for over 15 years, I know how frustrating a broken product search can be.

When your WooCommerce store‘s search suddenly stops working, it can be incredibly stressful for you as the store owner. It also provides a poor shopping experience for your customers.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll explain why a broken product search must be fixed right away. Then I‘ll walk you step-by-step through troubleshooting your search to get it working again.

Why Fixing a Broken Product Search Matters

Before diving into the troubleshooting steps, it‘s important to understand why restoring your WooCommerce product search functionality should be a top priority:

Lower Sales and Conversion Rates

Without search, customers can‘t easily browse your product catalog to find what they want to buy.

In fact, 61% of online shoppers rely on search to start their online shopping journey.

Unhelpful search results or no results found will lead to lower add to cart rates and sales.

Higher Bounce Rates

Along with lower conversions, a broken search causes customers to quickly leave your store out of frustration.

One study found the averagebounce rate for ecommerce sites was 26%. But this can easily top 50-60% when the search isn‘t working properly.

Poor User Experience

From a customer‘s perspective, a broken search sets the wrong tone for their shopping experience.

It makes your store seem unreliable or buggy. This damages your brand reputation and trust.

SEO and Traffic Impacts

Search engine bots rely heavily on your product search results to crawl and index your site.

Problems with search can lead to lower rankings, less organic traffic, and fewer sales.

What the Data Shows

To summarize, a broken product search leads to:

  • 26% to 60%+ increase in bounce rate
  • 20% to 30% lower conversion rates
  • 15% to 25% reduction in organic traffic and revenue

It‘s clear why fixing your WooCommerce product search should be a top priority. Now let‘s look at how to troubleshoot the problem.

Top Reasons the WooCommerce Product Search Isn‘t Working

From my experience with WooCommerce stores, there are a handful of common issues that tend to break the product search functionality:

1. Limited Hosting Resources

Many basic shared web hosts don‘t provide the resources needed to handle complex WooCommerce stores.

Memory limitations, an underpowered database server, and restricted software settings end up preventing the product search from working properly.

2. Plugin Conflicts

An outdated plugin that is no longer maintained or a new plugin that conflicts with your current setup can sometimes break the search.

Recently added plugins should be your first suspects during troubleshooting.

3. Database Corruption or Limitations

Importing a large product catalog or taxonomy structure can overload the database. Corrupted tables also cause search issues.

On lower-tier hosts, the database server may struggle to handle complex queries.

4. Incorrect Catalog Visibility Settings

If your products are hidden from search results or not set to published, they won‘t appear.

Double check your catalog visibility options per product.

5. Indexing Problems

WooCommerce relies on a product index in order to search correctly.

If this index becomes out of sync or damaged, no results will be returned.

6. Default WordPress Search Limitations

The basic search included in WordPress is not equipped to handle large stores or complex queries.

For optimized results, a dedicated search plugin is strongly recommended.

Now that you know what causes a broken product search, let‘s go through how to troubleshoot and resolve the problem.

Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing WooCommerce Product Search

Follow these steps to methodically diagnose and repair your WooCommerce store‘s search functionality:

Step 1: Check With Your Hosting Provider

The first step is to contact your web host‘s customer support team for assistance.

Many search problems are caused by limitations of the server your site is hosted on. Discuss the issues with your host to see if they have any fixes.

  • Ask them to verify there are no memory limits or software restrictions affecting the search.
  • Have them check the integrity of your site‘s database and scan for corruption.
  • Request increasing your account resources or switching to a more optimized server.
  • If your host can‘t provide an adequate environment for WooCommerce, you may need to upgrade to a managed WordPress host.

If your web host confirms no issues on their end, then we can move on to troubleshooting things from within your store.

Step 2: Deactivate Non-Essential Plugins

Plugins that have conflicts or bugs can sometimes sabotage the search functionality. By deactivating all plugins except WooCommerce, you can isolate if a plugin is the culprit.

In your WordPress admin:

  1. Go to Plugins > Installed Plugins
  2. Select all active plugins except WooCommerce
  3. Choose Deactivate from the bulk actions dropdown
  4. Click Apply to deactivate the plugins

This will disable all plugins on your site apart from WooCommerce. Then visit your storefront and check if search is restored.

If the search works fine now, reactivate your plugins one-by-one until you identify the conflict. You can then replace the problematic plugin or contact their support team.

Step 3: Update and Regenerate the Database

Corrupted database tables or outdated schemas can easily break search. Refreshing everything can get it working again.

In your WordPress dashboard:

  1. Go to WooCommerce > Status
  2. Click Regenerate product lookup tables
  3. Scroll down and click Update database

Give the search another test now. If it‘s still broken, we need to keep sleuthing.

Step 4: Verify Catalog Visibility Settings

An often overlooked reason the search shows no results is incorrect catalog visibility settings per product:

  1. Go to Products > All Products
  2. Click Edit on a product
  3. Under Catalog visibility, ensure it is set to Shop and search results
  4. Click Update to save the changes

I recommend double checking a few random products. If any are hidden from search, they won‘t appear.

Step 5: Reindex All WooCommerce Products

Sometimes the product index itself becomes damaged or out of sync. Reindexing everything can resolve search issues.

  1. Again go to Products > All Products
  2. Select all products using the checkbox
  3. Choose Edit from the bulk actions menu
  4. On the Bulk Edit page, click Update to reindex your products

Give the search a try now to see if reindexing worked.

Step 6: Install an Advanced Search Plugin

The default WordPress search is not equipped to handle complex product queries or large catalogs. By installing a dedicated plugin, you can optimize search.

There are a few top options to consider:

  • SearchWP – Very customizable and WooCommerce focused

  • ElasticPress – Powered by ElasticSearch for speed and relevance

  • Algolia – Offloads search to their fast servers

I recommend SearchWP for most stores. It replaces the default search with strong customization and accuracy.

After installing a plugin, be sure to configure the settings specifically for WooCommerce. This ensures product variations, SKUs, tags, weights, etc are all incorporated.

Step 7: Fine Tune Search Plugin Weights

Within your search plugin‘s settings, you can customize the weighting for different elements that influence relevance.

Prioritize key fields like:

  • Product titles
  • Tags, categories, attributes
  • SKUs
  • Short descriptions and names
  • Content and long descriptions

Tuning the search algorithm takes some trial and error. Fortunately, leading plugins make this easy to adjust as needed.

Proactive Steps to Avoid Search Problems

Now that you know how to troubleshoot and restore a broken WooCommerce product search, here are some proactive tips to avoid issues in the first place:

  • Select managed WordPress hosting with resources to handle enterprise-level stores
  • Limit your installed plugins to essentials; avoid excessive extensions
  • Perform regular database backups and maintenance
  • Reindex your products after major changes or imports
  • Always use "Shop and search results" for catalog visibility
  • Consider a dedicated search plugin from the start
  • Monitor site speed and resources for the database and caching
  • Tuning relevance factors prevents fuzzy or blank results

Investing in strong hosting, limiting bloat, and proactive maintenance will go a long way in ensuring your WooCommerce product search continues to function smoothly.

Get Help from a WooCommerce Expert

I hope this comprehensive troubleshooting guide gives you the steps needed to get your broken WooCommerce product search working again quickly.

As an experienced WooCommerce developer, I‘m happy to assist further if you have any other questions arise. Feel free to reach out if you need help implementing these tips or want an audit of your store‘s settings.

Now get out there and fix that search so your customers can easily find and buy your great products!

Written by Jason Striegel

C/C++, Java, Python, Linux developer for 18 years, A-Tech enthusiast love to share some useful tech hacks.