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Optimise Sharepoint Content for Search - End User Guidance

I was recently asked to write some documentation for an end user to explain how best to produce Sharepoint content to compliment Search. With kind permission of the client I share that guidance here;

Optimise Sharepoint Content for Search

 

Introduction

As the amount of content within Sharepoint grows, it inevitably gets harder to find individual items of interest. Fortunately Sharepoint includes a very powerful search engine which indexes all content on a regular basis. For search to work effectively there are some basic guidelines that should be followed when preparing the content that will be uploaded to Sharepoint and these are described below.

 

Content is King

The content of any document or page is the main (but not only) influence as to its search ranking and relevance. The items that out of the box have the greatest weighting in Sharepoint are Title, Author, and Filename. So, it's essential that these have the most meaningful values available when documents or pages are created. The words in them should also be separated by spaces so that they can be parsed correctly.

So, imagine two identical files with these names;

Resume.doc

Joe Bloggs 2009 Resume.doc

The second one would be much easier to find than the first!

Other fields to improve Search Ranking can also be added through configuration, such as Content Type or Brand. That said, all meta data fields on a document or page will be used in Ranking (the ones mentioned before simply have more weighting). So specifying good meta data on your (e.g.) Word Documents will always be helpful. Even more helpful should a given document not contain a lot of textual content in itself such as a spreadsheet.

Language is also important. During search indexing the language of content is determined, and the language you're searching in takes higher preference than content in other languages.

 

Hyperlinks

All the guidance thus far applies to pages and documents. Another point is that pages and documents often have hyperlinks in them. Sharepoint looks at the text in Anchor links and gives that a level of relevance. So, if you had a link in your page where the link text was 'Click Here' in a sentence like

"For the latest financial statement Click Here"

that wouldn't be as good as setting your link to be

"Click here for the Northridge Financial Statement 2009"

where "Northridge Financial Statement 2009" was the anchor text.

File Location has a Bearing

The deeper down in the hierarchy of the site an item is, the less relevant to search the item is. Sharepoint looks at how many forward slashes are in the url to the item, and demotes it if there are many.

 

What about Content that shouldn’t be searchable?

It’s possible to exclude content from the search crawl. This can aid confidentiality, and reduce noise in search results.

 

To exclude your list from Search go to List Settings -> Advanced Settings -> set ‘Allow items from this document library to appear in search results?’ to No.

 

To exclude individual columns in your site from search go to Site Settings -> Look and Feel -> Searchable Columns and tick the No Crawl box for items that shouldn’t appear in search.

More Involved Optimisation

There are other Search Configuration changes which can be performed in conjunction with IT to make search even more effective.

You can specify Noise Words in order to exclude junk that would get in the way of decent results. Typical noise words such as ‘the’, ‘again’, ‘now’ are covered, but businesses may have specific terms that clutter their search results.

You can specify Thesaurus files for your business terms, so for example searching for ‘Resume’ would also find documents called ‘Curriculum Vitae’.

Best Bets are a limited tool for giving very high confidence results locations for a given search term. If someone always should be directed to the Personal homepage if searching for "Disciplinary proceedings", you can set that up. This wouldn’t be done for too many terms as it's a lot of configuration for a single search term, hence it is described as limited!

Key Points Summary

The key points to take away from this document are; 
  • Sharepoint has a very powerful Search Engine which works better if you
    • Using meaningful file names with words separated by spaces
    • Specify extra properties on your MS Office documents, especially Title, Author, and preferably Description
    • Fill out extra information in the Content Type Columns for the item
    • Define Hyperlinks with meaningful text rather than just ‘Click Here
  • Lists and columns can be excluded from search to reduce noise in search results
  • More involved search optimisation using our knowledge of the Kellogg business and its content is possible in conjunction with IT.
 
Optimise Sharepoint Content for Search - End User Guidance
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