…I'm trying to limit what the search engine SEES. I don't want the search to see the STORE ONLY category at all…
Then excluding the STORE ONLY category is the solution on the panel I mentioned earlier, in my opinion. Anything in the STORE ONLY category will be excluded from the results, the plugin won't be able to 'see' it in other words.
This will not affect the search phrases, the pages or anything at all, it will only make sure that the search query done via the ajax search pro does not take anything from within that category into consideration when looking for results. Have you tried that? Or am I missunderstanding something?
I see that you wrote that the items you want to exclude does not follow any particular taxonomy, but then again you mentioned that the STORE ONLY is a category, and the items are placed there. If that is a category, then it is a taxonomy term, therefore if should be possible to use it as an exclusion. I'm sorry if I missunderstood you here.
Another possibility is to exclude products (or any other custom post type), it's on the same options panel. If you know which products you don't want as results, you can do that as well: https://i.imgur.com/kKS6ajk.png
..or it's also possible the other way around (telling which products allow to search), but it's a bit more complicated, as it needs a bit of custom code, and knowing the product IDs: https://wp-dreams.com/knowledge-base/limit-results-to-specific-post-ids-only/
If the items to be excluded are not tagged or categorized in any way, I would probably create a custom taxonomy with one term 'excluded', and place the ones to hide from the search there, then exclude that category on the search back-end. Then when adding new products, I can just simply decide to move them to that taxonomy term if I want to exclude it.
Even better, WooCommerce already has a product visibility option for each product that could be used for that, and also possible to tell the plugin to exclude those.
The plugin does not see the site from the 'front' side as web search engines like Google or Bing do – but it queries the database tables instead. It's greatly more efficient in a sense that it does not need any external servers to run on, it does the job directly on the server it's installed on. This is why it's not possible to feed pages and URLs for the plugin to follow and index, as it works from the server side.Best,
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