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How to Make the Most of SharePoint Search

I have had a number of clients share with me that SharePoint Search does not work.  I find it interesting, since some clients implement SharePoint specifically for search.  When we dig a little deeper, we typically find the problem is not SharePoint.  The problem is actually the volume and relevancy of content returned in the search results.  From a user’s perspective, search doesn’t work well because it doesn’t deliver the expected results. 
Users have a mental picture of the results they expect.  It works when content is searched on the public internet.  Why is it so difficult searching within my organization?  One reason is that internet search result ranking is based on content quality (through links to content).  While this scenario works well on the internet, it does not translate well on corporate intranets, since user behaviors and site interactions are different.  
What is the problem then?  In many organizations, the problem resides in the flexibility and scalability of SharePoint.  It is extremely easy for users to create and manage content.  It is also easy to index file shares and other corporate sources of information.  So now we come to the heart of the problem.  Users are generating a large amount of information in various silos and most of the information is indexed for search.  When each piece of content is given equal relevance, users are flooded with a large number of returned results to sort through.  
What are the options to reduce the noise and provide results that resonate with users?  While there are a number of ways to improve search, a good starting point is to focus on three areas:  

    1. Define Content Authority Sources – allowing users to concentrate their search
    2. Content Promotion – managing content and where it goes
    3. Content Metadata and Ratings – tools that allow users to refine search results

I plan on covering the three areas in slightly more detail in a future posts.

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