SharePoint Hosting News: Tips to Make SharePoint Search Work Part 3

SharePoint Hosting News

Organizations use SharePoint to create websites. You can use it as a secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from almost any device. All you need is a web browser, such as Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox.

SharePoint 2013 offers a simplified user experience and added enterprise social media capabilities, which expand upon previously offered capabilities for website management that include shared calendars, blogs, wikis, surveys, document libraries and shared task lists. SharePoint 2013 includes a community forum for users to engage in and categorize discussions, a microblogging capability and enhanced search capabilities.

Tips to Make SharePoint Search Work

SharePoint started in 2001 as a document management system, and that’s still one of its most important features. A key feature of a DMS is to be able to find documents. The SharePoint search engine has improved significantly over the last years. But a common misconception is that SharePoint Search works for every company straight out-of-the-box.

Every day thousands and thousands of Google employees work on improving the search engine and adapt it to the always changing world-wide web. The same is true for Bing, it does not “just work”. The core of the Bing search engine has been implemented in SharePoint 2013. So why does it still not fulfill all needs? Most importantly because of company specific metadata and taxonomies; even company has its own list of content types, metadata, and no site structure is the same. The SharePoint Search engine just needs some help to be able to understand the content better.

Search configuration and tweaking should be part of the project plan, and it must be understood that this takes time up-front, but also ongoing effort. I have compiled a list of 10 tips how you can make SharePoint Search work for you. I’ve added them in random order, there is no best tip as it all depends on your requirements and organisation.

#3 Tip: Use A Neural Network to Improve The Search Ranking

That sounds cool, doesn’t it? The ranking of search results in SharePoint is driven by a neural network. It learns from its users by default. In most cases this will suffice, but sometimes the out-of-the-box ranking does not work for you.

In those cases, it may pay off to create a custom ranking model and feed it with data by classifying search results. Install the Ranking Model Tuning App, ask your users to fire some queries & assign scores to the results. The app will then calculate a new ranking model based on the scores given by the users. This app also uses a neural network to create the new ranking model.

If the standard SharePoint 2013 ranking models don’t satisfy the relevance requirements you have, you can create a custom ranking model. With the Ranking Model Tuning App, you can do this more easily than before. The app provides a user interface for copying an existing ranking model, judge the results for a set of queries, add or remove rank features, and adjust the weight of these features. Finally, you can evaluate the changes, and publish the new ranking model when you’re satisfied with the results.

Why Create A Custom Ranking Model?

In most cases, the ranking models in SharePoint Server 2013 and SharePoint Online provide good search result ranking, and you can also influence the ranking of search results with query rules. However, if you have a particular relevance need for search results that the standard ranking models don’t provide, you can create a custom ranking model.

Here are some typical use cases:

  • You have added a specific managed property that you think should influence ranking of items on your site.
    Example: A food store has added a new managed property “gluten-free” and wants to include this managed property in the ranking calculations of search results.
  • You want to give one or more of the managed properties in a standard ranking model more ranking weight than what it gets by default.
    Example: An accountancy company wants Excel workbooks (file type) to have higher ranking weight than what they get when using the standard ranking model.

    IMPORTANT:  Creating a custom ranking model is rather complex, and you should not take this lightly. For a good result, expect to invest time on tasks such as judging a considerable number of queries.

Get the app for SharePoint Online

  • Install the app by following the steps in Add an app to a site.
  • Use the Download an app from the SharePoint store option.
  • To use the app, you must be a SharePoint Online administrator.

Get the app for SharePoint Server 2013

IMPORTANT:  We recommend that you install the SharePoint Server 2013 cumulative update that will be published in March 2014. If you use the Search Ranking Model with Two Linear Stages(added in the August 2013 cumulative update)as the base model for your custom ranking model, it will be easier to re-tune and customize your ranking model.

  • Install the app and prepare the SharePoint farm to allow apps by using the same standard processes as for all SharePoint Server 2013 apps: Install and manage apps for SharePoint.
  • To use the app, you must be a Search service application administrator.

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