Indexing Individual List Items on a Portal and Returning them in Search Results

Have you ever done a search, in a SharePoint Portal site, for a list item (announcement, contact, task, etc.) and been annoyed when the search results only bring back a link to the list and not the individual list item? By default this is the way SharePoint works.

For example, lets say I was looking for a contact called "Lion" (Ok, I know I need to work on my sample data) the below screen illustrates the search results from SharePoint:  
Note: Despite the search engine returning a hit on your specific contact, the results only include a link to the list, and not the individual list item.

The reason the product works like this is because of the expectation that a portal site will have many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of list items. If these were all included in the search results they could "cloud" the results, making information harder to find, not easier.

The good news is that the product can be configured to return results for list items at almost any granularity you like. For example, below are the results returned for the exact same query, only this time we have told SharePoint to return individual list items:

Note: The results link directly to the item containing my search term.

So, the scene has now been set, exactly how do I do this?

Well follow the below example.

1. Open your portal in the browser
2. Click "Site Settings"
3. Click "Configure Search and Indexing"

Here the instructions will branch based on whether or not you have enabled "Advanced Search Mode". If you haven't follow below:
4. Click "Other Content" on the line that starts with "Exclude and Include"

If you have enabled "Advanced Search Mode":
4. Click on the "Portal Content" link in the "Content Indexes" section
4a. Click on "Manage Rules to Include and Exclude Content"

This should now leave us on the same page:
5. We first need to delete the default Portal rule, as this intentionally prevents indexing “Individial SharePoint List Items”. Click on “Delete” in the dropdown on the entry for “http://<portal> – Included”
** Note this wont stop any content being indexed as there is a duplicate rule above.
6. Click on the "New Rule" link
7. Enter in the path to the Area that contains the list whose list items you would like to index individually followed by "/*", for example: http://<portal>/<area>/*
** Note in my testing this is the granularity for indexing individual items, unfortunately it looks like you can’t do this on a list by list basis.
8. This is the important bit, make sure you check both the below boxes:

9. Click "OK" to save the rule
10. Then kick off an Incremental Crawl.

You should see additional documents creep in, these are the new List items, and you search results will now included individual list items.

Updated: 17/12/04 – Based on feedback in comments that identified some errors.
 – Corrected problem with Blog HTML that inserted an incorrect “"//Lists//” in the example path. (Step 7)
 – Updated to work correctly on sub-areas in the portal (Step 5)
 – Updated to include detail on rules only working at the “Area” level not the List level (Step 7)

Comments (23)
  1. Colin Walker says:

    Excellent stuff – this has always been a big annoyance for me so as soon as I have done a reinstall (as searching/indexing is currently broken) this is going to be the first thing on my to do list.

  2. Roger Dickey says:

    This is a great post, but when I went through this process my lists are not returning the individual items. I didn’t notice the document count go up at all after setting this up and starting an incremental crawl.

    Did I miss something?


  3. ariel shavit says:

    I also tried it but it didn’t worked out, any thoughts?


  4. R says:

    same here….does the ordering of the rules affect results?

  5. Rohan Cragg says:

    Hmmm, having posted enthusiastically on this I find that it doesnt work for me either!

    I notice that the URL you give is preceded by "//Lists//" is this important? I tried that too but it doesnt seem to make any difference.

    I was trying it with a URL with a space in it (i.e. %20) which perhaps SPS doesnt like but I dont get any extra indexing errors?


    p.s. do MS intend to document this anywhere?!

  6. Folks,

    I hear you and I’m investigating, stay tuned.


  7. Colin Walker says:

    Another not working search index here.

    I’ve just reset the indexes and removed/re-added the rules so let’s see if that does the trick.

  8. Folks, I know what part of the problem is. The default Rule for the Portal excludes the ability to index individual list items. If you delete this, and replace it with one that does allow it you will be ok.

    I’m working on nailing down the scenarios a little more to update this article.

    Sorry, it’s a little more complicated that I first thought, my apologies.


  9. OK folks, got to the bottom of this, my apologies. Let me know if you still have no luck and I will be right onto it.

  10. OK folks, got to the bottom of this, my apologies. Let me know if you still have no luck and I will be right onto it.

  11. Colin Walker says:

    Just in case you’re still having problems, it might be an idea to clear the your content indexes and perform a full update – after this it’s working a treat.

    Thanks again Dan.

  12. Chris says:

    I have also tried to get a specific search item to show in the search results of a plain, out-of-the-box portal (using advanced admin mode), and cannot get the item to show in the results individually (just shows the area->list name). My documents indexed does increase as list items are added, so they are getting indexed, and the rule for the url seems valid…yet I still can’t get the results I need. Very frustrating!!!

  13. Hey Chris, Did you see that I have update these instructions? Colin followed them and found they worked out ok.

    What is the area/List name?

  14. Chris says:

    Ok, I think I might have it straight now…these rules are very picky. I had to delete all the rules and recreate them with that exclusion checkbox unchecked (the one that’s grayed out even when not selected), then reset the content index. That seemed to do it for me. Now I have to figure out why crawling has been so slow (external content). Anyone an expert on that?

    Thanks for your help guys!


  15. Point2Share says:

    Well, it’s been 2 years of Point2Share!

    I’m a little late with the Anniversary, but it seems I started…

  16. pascal answered: re:how do i make serch in item list on sharepoint contact list ?

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