Galen Gidman Web Developer

Custom Post Type Search Results Templates in WordPress

Jun 9, 2014

As I was building out the the knowledge base section of the marketing site for my new WordPress church themes project, I came across the need to have a custom search results template for my knowledge base articles (custom post types called kb_article).

I figured that WordPress would have something build-in by default for this like they do with archive-{post_type}.php or single-{post_type}.php, but it turns out that’s not the case. The search results template WordPress looks for is search.php. If that’s not there they revert to archive.php and if that’s absent, index.php.

Limiting Search to a Particular Post Type

Before I go on, I want to quickly cover how to limit your search results to a particular custom post type. Add a hidden input to your search form with a name of post_type and the value attribute set to the name of whatever post type you want to search. In my case, my post type was called kb_article, so my form code looked like this:

Display Custom Results

We’ll name our custom search results templates using the WordPress filename conventions of {template}-{post_type}.php. In our case, that would result in search-kb_article.php. We could just check to see if that post_type=kb_article is set in the URL string and use get_template_part to load it if it is, but let’s go a step further. We’ll check to see if post_type is set in the URL string, and if it is, also check to see if custom search template exists for that post type using the {template}-{post_type}.php naming pattern. If it does, we’ll load it. If not, we’ll continue with the default search template.

So far this has worked well for me. If you have any ideas on how it could be improved, let me know in the comments.