This is the fifth article in this series “What is This SharePoint Thing All About Anyway?” In previous articles we have discussed all of the great ways that you can add content to SharePoint and now we are going to highlight the powerful Search features available to help you access and locate the data once it exists within the site.
Search is everywhere, and SharePoint is no exception. By providing your users with a way to easily find their content you are able to greatly increase the usability and user adoption within your organization. This article will highlight the specific ways that SharePoint search enhances your environment.
Finding Just What You Need
One of the primary objectives within SharePoint Search is the ability to quickly and easily find what you need. This is done through relevance. The more relevant the item is to the search term, the higher it is displayed in the search results. In addition to relevance, the Search Center contains what is referred to as a Refinement panel. Users can select links in the panel that further restrict the Search results displayed. Common examples of the items displayed in the Refinement panel include:
- Location of the Content
- Date Modified
- Managed Metadata
The options within the Refinement panel are unique based on the content that is returned when the search is completed. This means that the items in the refinement panel are only relevant to the items on the current page. This allows users to quickly narrow down the information that they are looking to access.
In addition to the Refinement panel, SharePoint also supports the creation of Keywords and Best Bets. By configuring these, you are able to help promote the most common expected results to your users when they conduct searches. When SharePoint Analytics have been enabled in your environment, suggestions will be provided for Best Bets based on the searches completed by your users. Once a Best Bet has been created it will be displayed as the first item in the Search results whenever a user searches on the related term.
Another powerful aspect of SharePoint search is People search. People search allows you to find other users in the organization based on their contributions and expertise. Using this will allow your users to quickly and easily connect with others within your organization. People search includes the functionality that allows users to enter a phonetic spelling of the name of the person they want to locate. This is a great benefit since often times many names can be difficult to spell.
What About Fast Search?
Just like many things within SharePoint, the level of search functionality available to you is based on the type of licensing you have. With each level of licensing, different features become available for use.
In addition to what is available within SharePoint, you also have the option to implement Fast Search. Fast Search allows you to further customize and develop your overall Search strategy by providing additional functionality as well as additional processing and development capabilities. Some of the additional functionality includes:
- Document Preview and Thumbnails
- Metadata Extraction from Content
- Additional Customizations for Relevance Tuning
- Deep Results Refinement
Organizations that are looking for advanced search solutions often implement Fast Search so that they can take advantage of the additional features and management tools. Here is a link to a detailed resource that should help you do a comparison of the specific features available. If you want to dig deeper into the difference in each of the versions of search, this chart would be a great resource to start exploring the options.
How it Works
Search has multiple components running that make it all come together into one single solution. Content Sources are created that can be crawled and the results from the crawl are added to the index.
Content Sources can be based on content within SharePoint, external web sites or file servers. Users can then access a page and use Web Parts to enter a Search query and see the results. Scopes can also be built to group certain content together to allow for filtered search. An example of a scope would be to search all content from the File Share content source.
Custom solutions can also be built that utilize the search capabilities so that users can execute searches using a custom approach.
In most organizations a Search strategy is developed that includes information on what content sources need to be created as well as what scopes should be implemented. A good practice is to also have a primary resource that is responsible for reviewing the Search Analytics reports and taking steps to provide continuous improvements to the overall search experience.
Search is an area in SharePoint that can potentially cross many teams and require multiple resources so it is a good idea to spend some time planning to ensure that your environment is scoped appropriately.
Editor's Note: To read more by Jennifer Mason:
About the Author
Jennifer Mason is a SharePoint Server MVP that has spent the last several years providing consulting services around SharePoint Technologies. She is currently working with the team at SharePoint911. Her focus has been on strategy, planning, governance and best practices for implementing business solutions using SharePoint Technologies.
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