Thursday, August 06, 2015

Tips and tricks for using search in SharePoint 2013

As I outlined in About intent, recall, relevance and precision of search solutions building a good search solution is quite difficult. In this post I will focus on on what content publishers and content “searchers”  can do to make search in SharePoint 2013 work more efficient.
Content publishers – I want my content to be found:
  • Use meaningful file names and titles for the documents that you add in SharePoint, by default SharePoint will show the filename (also check out Understanding title information shown in SharePoint 2013 search results and how to make it work better ) – use “_” (underscores) when you want to combine multiple words in the filename.
  • Use Promoted results to push results to the top of your search result page based on specific keywords which are used within your organization. You can use the search logs as a starting point but you can also do a survey amongst your users to see which are documents to look for on a daily basis.
  • Add metadata ( also referred to as document properties or attributes of a document). Metadata allows an author to attach supplemental information to a document without touching the actual contents of the document. When you use a file system you typically also have this kind of “meta-information” available such as Created Date, Modified Date, Author etc… A file system however does not allow you to add extra additional metadata to documents and that is why people will revert to creating a folder hierarchy where the folder names are used to describe the documents. SharePoint provides an alternative by allowing you to add metadata which can be used to sort, group, filter, etc… documents stored in a document library (Take a look at Using folders in SharePoint document libraries : some guidance and tips  about metadata and folders in SharePoint). But the metadata does not only apply to browsing and views of documents but it will also be used in SharePoint search to determine relevancy and push documents higher in search results.
  • Publish documents which are relevant to a lot of people near your root site. Document location, file types, authoritative pages, and content language are things you can manipulate to improve a document’s relevance. The URL depth is quite important – the more slashes “/” (deeper in the site structure) in the URL of a document, the less valuable it is considered to be. The click distance between the document and what is called an authoritative page is also important. By default the home page url of your SharePoint site is considered to be an authoritative page but you can configure this yourself – (See Configure authoritative pages in SharePoint 2013)
Content searchers - I am looking for content using search:
  • Use AND and OR as well as other search operators to limit or expand your search results. Always use capitalizations when using these operators – otherwise they will be ignored.
  • Use wildcards to search for documents – you can add a “*” at the end (but not in the beginning). In SharePoint 2013 you can even search for everything by just entering * in the search box. Next you can use the refiners and sorting to limit the results.
  • Use property searches to search for documents of which you know a name in the title or the filename. If you search for “filename: holiday*” it will search for all documents with holiday in the filename. You can also search for specific types of documents by using filetype – e.g. filetype:docx searches for all word documents
It is also important to keep in mind that it is quite easy to completely tailor the user experience of the SharePoint search center to make it look exactly as the user wants so check out the links below. But sometimes simple things such as the steps recommended -  SharePoint 2013 Search: removing the junk from your search trunk – already yields great results.


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