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Setting up your search centre – part 1

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One of the benefits that SharePoint provides is good indexing and searching capabilities, but in order to get the full benefit of this, you need to do some planning and setting up of your search center in a way that supports your search strategy.

This post will look at a few things that are easy to do and can make a big difference to the search experience.

Getting Started

Out of the box your site collection has a search box in the upper right corner of the page that will search the site.  This is a good start, but there is more we can do to improve the searching experience. SharePoint provides site templates for Enterprise Search and Basic Search, and allows for that search box to use a search site that you or someone else has setup.  The search centre will allow for searches to happen in different contexts, from the current site, all sites, documents only, and will also provide an advanced search where the user can enter a number of search criteria.

Setting up a search site

In order to use a search site as the search mechanism in your site collection you will need to tell it to use an existing search centre by providing the URL in site collection administration.  This search site can be either inside your site collection or in a separate site collection.  At this time we have not set up a central search site for everyone to use, so you will probably want to create your own using the Enterprise Search site template.

Once your search site has been created, go into the site collection administration and open the Search Settings page.  Set the site collection search center to the relative URL you used when you created your search site with “/Pages” appended to the end.  In my example, it is “/search/Pages” as you can see on the screenshot.

The other thing on this page you will want to change now is the dropdown below the URL option to indicate you want to show the scopes dropdown with the search box.  There are a number of options, so feel free to play around with them to see what works best for you.

Use the Documents Only search scope

On both our test and production SharePoint servers, I have created a “Documents Only” search scope as a farm defined scope so that anyone can use it across the farm. In order to use it in your search centre, go to the Search Scopes in the Site Collection Administration section of the site settings.  There you should see a few scopes, some listed as used, and some unused (see image to the right). Above this display you should see a link for Display Scopes that will allow you to select which scopes are available (and default) for the search and advanced search option. You can also create additional display groups if you want to use them on other search pages.

In order to get the Documents Only scope to be added to the dropdowns, simply check the box beside it when editing the appropriate display group.  You can also set the order, and select which item should be the default. If you have chosen to show the dropdown in your site search box, you should see the new values show up there.  Before you will see the scopes show up in the search center, the webparts will have to be edited as described below.

You can create your own search scopes that are only available in your site collection, but that will be a subject of another post.

Show scope dropdown in your search center

Go into your search center site, You should be on your default search page and you will see that there is a search box, but no scopes dropdown in front of it. Under Site Actions, select Edit Page. If you move your mouse over the search box, you should see a little triangle appear to the right, clicking on that you can select Edit Webpart to make the changes required.

The web part editing options should appear on the right side of the browser. Expand the Scopes Dropdown section and select appropriate Dropdown mode.  I have found that the “Show, and default to ‘s’ URL parameter” works well.  You will need to save, check-in and publish the page before other people will see the changes you made.

You will want to go to your search results page and make the same changes there also.

Review your search metrics

After your search has been set up and people have started using it, SharePoint will produce a number of reports that can help you decide if your search strategy is effective.  These reports can be accessed through the Site Collection Web Analytics reports in the Site Actions part of the site administration (see screenshot to the right).

Once in the site analytics reports, you should see a heading for Search, and a number of reports listed below.  For each report you can change what is include in the graph by selecting the Analyze tab at the top of the page where you can select the time period, filter options, export the report to Excel, or schedule the report to run on a regular basis and email the results.

Those reports are:

  • Number of Queries – A graph and list of the number of queries per day for the past 30 days.
  • Top Queries – lists the queries performed most often in past 30 days.
  • Failed Queries – lists search terms that either did not find any results, or where the person did not click through on one of the provided results.  Note that in some cases, the information the person is looking for may be presented on the search results screen so they would not need to click through.
  • Best Bet Usage – which “best bets” have been hit, and which have been followed.  There is more on best bets in the next section of this post.
  • Best Bet Suggestions – SharePoint may provide you with some suggested “best bets” based on the search history.  You can choose to accept or reject the recommendations.
  • Best Bet Suggestion Action History – shows you what you have previously decided about the suggestions SharePoint has provided.
  • Search Keywords – this is not really a report like the others, but takes you to the screen where you can see the best bets that are defined, and define new ones.

Adding “best bets”

A “best bet” is a kind of promoted search result.  When a person searches in the search center for the keyword (or phrase), the best bets will be shown at the top of the search results. This is a good way to direct people to official sources, trendy items, or to sites that would not be found in the search results because it is not indexed by SharePoint.

For example, I am writing this post as Technology Week is taking place, so I figured that if anyone searched our site for Technology Week I wanted to direct people to the official website (which is not in SharePoint). I have set the best bet to expire a week after the event is over.

Conclusion

The settings and options describe in this post are just scratching the surface on what is possible with SharePoint Search. In the next post, I will describe how to setup your own search scope and other search customizations you can make.

Thanks for Reading

Ken

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