My Users Don’t Like SharePoint because they can’t find what they’re looking for! Part 1

This is Part 5 of my series on ‘My Users Don’t Like SharePoint…

I’ve actually heard, at a customer site, while the speaker was unaware their SharePoint consultant was in the next cube, the following:

Don’t put it in SharePoint, you’ll never find it again.

It broke my heart… A fairy somewhere lost its wings… The clausometer dropped…

Clausometer

Credit Elf, the movie. (3rd best Christmas movie ever!)

I wasn’t saddened because my solution for the company failed, nay, we were there to fix these issues. Instead, I was saddened because SharePoint was being thrown under the bus due to a poor implementation.

The older I get, the more I forget. I use to use bookmarks a lot, tracking everything I could. This worked great for a while, until I started to forget that I bookmarked something, so I’d go searching for it anyway. Nowadays, I only bookmark something if I want to reference it, say for a blog post, otherwise I rely on the search engines to find it for me. This has bit me in the butt a couple of times, as the item I’m searching for was difficult to find the first time, and proved to be even more so a few months later. Otherwise, this method of tracking my stuff via searching has worked well for me.

I even do it with Windows, I rarely use shortcuts, I just hit the Windows key and start typing to get my app. This is even more prevalent with Windows 8. Search is a big piece of Windows 8, and is by far the fastest method of finding apps. So obviously Microsoft is onto something…

Set it and forget itSharePoint Search: Set it and Forget It

Search within SharePoint is often a feature that’s turned on, and forgotten about. Unfortunately, this will work. As long as services continue to run, search will function: it will crawl and index your data and return search results. But there is so much more you can do with search to greatly improve your user’s experience (and drive up adoption).

In addition to search, users find their data in a few other ways:

  • Healthy navigation and taxonomy is crucial. We covered this some in a previous posts (a complete mess), and we won’t revisit it here. If you taxonomy is a mess, users will rely on search even more.
  • Paired with search is the concept of good old data, or rather good old CLEAN data. I’ve split this post into two parts, the latter will cover making sure your data is clean for search. Maybe I should cover that first… naah.

We’re going to jump into Central Administration now. If you don’t have access to Central Admin, that’s okay, read on, there’s more down below. Send this to your IT dept to get the info you need.

One more important note. Improving search will require a search center site, based on the search site template. This template includes the best bet functionality which we’ll leverage.

Search Administration

Within Central Admin, go to your Search Service Application (Application Management > Manage service applications > Search Service Application).

SharePoint Search Service Admin

First, let’s start with what we can see on the first page, Search Administration. Under Crawl History, note the start time and duration of your jobs. Make sure these are running optimally. If the duration is under 5 minutes, and the start time is every hour, then I’d say you can set your start time to run more frequently. Maybe every 15 minutes. If the duration is 15 minutes, and start time is every 15 minutes, then I’d say you should set the start time to run less frequently.  There may be some performance considerations when the crawl is running, so make sure you monitor performance across your servers if you do modify the start time.

What’s a crawl? Crawling is when the search service looks at your sites, one page at a time, and reads each page and loads the content into the index for searching. There’s a full crawl, which will index everything, and then an incremental crawl which will only index what’s changed since the last crawl.

Also under Crawl History, look at the Errors column. If you see anything over zero, 0, take a look and resolve the issues. Errors can impede performance and could be related to user data. Click that row’s Content Source link to find out more.

What are your users searching for?

Next, let’s click on Web Analytics Reports in the left quick launch, near the bottom. (Click here for info on the Administration Reports). These reports will provide some insight into what your users are searching for, and how successful they are. Going down the list on the left:

These reports are by default showing the last 30 days. Click the Change Settings link in the status bar above the report to change the date range. I’d recommend looking at the preceding 90 days, depending on the amount of data and searching in your farm.

  • Summary. This report shows a basic summary of what’s going on, and how much search is being used.
  • Number of Queries. This report shows the number of searches performed. Use this to identify trends and when search is used the most and least. This may not directly benefit your users, but with this information you can know when users are in SharePoint, and actively searching.
  • Top Queries. This report shows the most popular words searched within your farm. Write down what is most frequently searched for, we’ll use this info a little later.
  • No Results Queries. This report shows searches that returned no results. Write down the top handful of search terms, we’ll use this info a little later.

Now armed with your Top Queries and No Results Queries results, let’s improve your users’ experience with search. Let’s make it a tool they can use to find everything they want. Yes, let them find what they want, which may be what’s not available  on your sites (ala the No Results Queries report).

Search Result Analysis.

Don’t let the word analysis scare you, this is really simple. Taking the list you collected from the search analytic reports, figure out what results you want users to see. Analyze your results and determine what users are really searching for. This might require you to chat with a few users to understand the terms and how they fit into your organization, ok, that might be the scary part.

A few examples:

  • The word ‘review’ was used a lot, usually regarding employee performance, but didn’t return any results. The ideal target for ‘review’ is the HR site.
  • The phrase ‘telephone numbers’ was searched for but returned no results. This is kind of an old phrase, nowadays it’s called ‘contacts’, so we’ll want to search for ‘contacts’ whenever ‘telephone numbers’ are searched for. Also, we want to target them to the customer contact list.
  • Searching for product name (if you’re a product company) or a service offering can be improved by specifying where to target the result. Maybe to the product site, if there is one, or to a marketing site.
  • You may find that a target location doesn’t exist. Encourage users in those departments to create the content, maybe HR should make a FAQs page that can answer when reviews occur, and marketing should move the product information into SharePoint so users can find it.

Update Search.

Plain SharePoint Search Results

The above illustrates a typical search result page. Searching for the word review returned a PowerPoint file and some other files, but nothing about employee or performance reviews.

Now that we know: what users are searching for; when they’ve been successful or not; where they should go; let’s spruce up the search results to get something a little more useful.

Go to your SharePoint site, specifically the home site, the root site in the site collection. Go to Site Actions > Site Settings.

Under Site Collection Administration, if you see Go to top level site settings, click that, then continue.

Click Search keywords under Site Collection Administration. Click Add Keyword.

SharePoint Search Keywords

  • Keyword Information – enter in the keyword or phrase users have searched for (from the reports above). If you want to offer an alternative keyword, like searching for ‘telephone numbers’ offer up ‘contacts’, specify these values in the Synonyms box, separating your keywords with a semicolon. These will appear under Related Searches.
  • Best Bets – click Add Best Bet to target they keyword to specific pages in your site. You’ll specify the target URL, title and a description. This information will be available to users in the search results.
  • Keyword Definition – Optionally, you can specify additional information to help the users make an informed decision by defining what the keyword means to the company. Also, you can add a contact and some dates to publishing, expiring and reviewing this keyword.

Click OK. That’s it! Go and search for the keyword and your search center should show your best bets, like:

SharePoint Search Results with Best Bets and Keywords

Pretty neat, eh? You should notice two big changes: First, at the top of the search results is your keyword and best bet. Secondly, on the right is related searches. Click a related search to perform another search.

Want More?

Check out TechNet’s article on how to Manage settings to improve search results. There’s a lot more tuning you can play with like custom dictionaries, thesaurus and stop words.

Stay tuned for the next post as we’ll discuss ensuring your data is ready to be searched.

Til next week, Happy SharePointing!

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4 thoughts on “My Users Don’t Like SharePoint because they can’t find what they’re looking for! Part 1

  1. Pingback: My Users Don’t Like SharePoint…New Series! | David Lozzi's Blog

  2. Pingback: My Users Don’t Like SharePoint because they can’t find what they’re looking for! Part 2 | David Lozzi's Blog

  3. SPeditor

    Wait, I have a question — I thought that synonyms were used to return results for A (“contacts”) when you searched for B (“telephone numbers”). Are you saying that they (a) don’t do this, and/or (b) appear as Related Search terms? That’s terrible if I want to include misspellings – e.g., I want “stationary” to be a synonym for “stationery” because I know people frequently misspell it. But I don’t want to encourage people to then search for “stationary” as a Related Search. What’s the solution??

    Reply

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