Build a search engine for your Hugo website

From Mkdocs to Hugo

I moved this blog from Mkdocs to Hugo just yesterday.

Mkdocs has a great search engine by default but no RSS.

Hugo has RSS but most of the themes do not provide a search engine.

I like simple stuff and decided to go with Etch theme, which doesn’t provide a search engine.

Hugo doesn’t have search engine

I decided to investigate my options and discovered that Lunr could help me on the task.

Lunr is a client side javascript library that can search JSON file.

Basically, I just needed to figure out how to:

  1. generate the JSON file
  2. build a search page
  3. make lunr search in the JSON and display the results

Looking for inspiration

I’m not a javascript or client side expert.

I found two great blogs which explained how they implemented search using lunr, all with examples:

I fetched ideas from both blogs and came up with my own implementation which I think is simpler.


In your Hugo config.toml you must specify this:

  home = ["HTML", "RSS", "JSON"]
  page = ["HTML", "RSS"]

This doesn’t do anything unless you drop a file under ./layouts/_default/index.json:

{{- $.Scratch.Add "index" slice -}}
{{- range .Site.RegularPages -}}
    {{- $.Scratch.Add "index" (dict "title" .Title "tags" .Params.tags "content" .Plain "href" .Permalink "date" ( .Date.Format "Jan 2, 2006" )) -}}
{{- end -}}
{{- $.Scratch.Get "index" | jsonify -}}

With both the config and this JSON template, Hugo will build an index.json file at the root of your site.

In my case the address is

This is what the JSON file looks like.

Now let’s take care of the search page.

Under content/, create a page with the form:

title: Search

<p><input id="search" type="text" placeholder="Enter your query"></p>

<ul id="results"></ul>

<script src="/js/jquery-2.1.3.min.js"></script>
<script src="/js/lunr.js"></script>
  var lunrIndex,

  function initLunr() {
    // retrieve the index file
      .done(function(index) {
          documents = index;

          lunrIndex = lunr(function(){

            this.field("title", {
                boost: 10

            this.field("tags", {
                boost: 5

            documents.forEach(function(doc) {
              try {
                // console.log(doc.href)
              } catch (e) {}
            }, this)
      .fail(function(jqxhr, textStatus, error) {
          var err = textStatus + ", " + error;
          console.error("Error getting Lunr index file:", err);

  function search(query) {
    return {
      return documents.filter(function(page) {
        try {
          // console.log(page)
          return page.href === result.ref;
        } catch (e) {

  function renderResults(results) {
    if (!results.length) {

    results.slice(0, 30).forEach(function(result) {
      var $result = $("<li>");

      $result.append($("<a>", {
        href: result.href,
        text: result.title

      $result.append(" <small><time>" + + "</time></small>");


  function initUI() {
    $results = $("#results");

      // empty previous results

      // trigger search when at least two chars provided.
      var query = $(this).val();
      if (query.length < 2) {

      var results = search(query);




We see the script is calling to javascript libraries:

I host them (in my hugo folder under /static/js/) so your web browser does not have to visit external URLs.

Now you can build your site (just type hugo), and if you visit the search page, you should be granted with a form.

As soon as your start typing in the field, lunr will start querying the content of index.json (that has been retrieved by your browser locally) and display the results.



Thanks for reading this post!

If you found an issue in this article, you can create an issue on Github.

If you have a comment or question, please drop me a line below!