Tuning SharePoint Search

Some customers I visit mention that they just install SharePoint and point the search engine at a few content sources for indexing.  I feel that the ease of web search engines to find content everywhere gives people high expectations for how it should work, and expect a really great solution based on that.

But, Enterprise Search is different than Web Search.  For instance, in web search the major way relevance works is determining how many other pieces of content link to that content.  If lots of other pages/documents feel a page is important, it will raise it in relevance ranking.

But, in Enterprise Search the most relevant result to a search term may not have any links to it. and can't rely on a rich linking model.  SharePoint includes other things for relevancy ranking - including that the higher in the portal the content is, the higher relevance it has.  Word and PowerPoint documents tend to be more relevant than Spreadsheets or Access Databases etc.

SharePoint offers some very easily configured parameters to enhance the Search experience for users and administrators.

I normally recommend that customers download and read the Search Evaluation Guide to learn about the tuning features, and how to configure them.  Check out the Administration section starting on Page 55 of the Evaluation Guide.

Search Evaluation Guide

The download for the “SharePoint Search Evaluation Guide” is http://office.microsoft.com/download/afile.aspx?AssetID=AM102140171033    This guide gives a good overview of the MOSS Search features, and how to customise and tune the experience including how to use Best Bets, Keywords, Thesaurus, Authoritative Sites, Synonyms and usage reporting.  There is some simple things you can do to greatly increase the search experience for the people using it.

Some key things I recommend to configure in your Search environment are:

  1. Authoritative Sites - This allows administrators to specify particular sites as more authoritative (such as the portal home page, HR and IT sites) to indicate that these pages are more relevant.
  2. Keywords - This allows adminstrators to define Best Bets for a specific keyword.  For instance if somebody uses the search term "Leave" - then a best bet result that will be the top relevant one is the Leave Form.  Keywords can also have Synonyms associated - so that Leave, Vacation, Holiday and Annual Leave all mean the same thing for search results.
  3. Search Scopes - Include 3 to 5 Search Scopes that make sense for your organisation to narrow down the content for users.  At Microsoft we use the following scopes:  Everything, People, Customers, Business Intelligence, and WebCasts.
  4. Search Reports - SharePoint includes a number of reports that give insight to what is happening on the site.
    • Top Search Query - this shows the top search terms people are using
    • Top Search Query with Zero Results - this shows the top terms people are using that has no content on the site.  You should create some content for this because people are interested but it doesn't exist.
    • Top Search Query with Low Click Through - this means that content exists for search terms, but it is not relevant content.  This should be fixed or new content created.
    • Queries with Zero Best Bets - This is the top terms that have no Best Bets.  As an administrator, you should create those Best Bets.

So you can see, that over time you can continue to modify and enhance the search experience based on what users have searched for and clicked on.

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