Wednesday, May 25, 2011

SharePoint Configuring Keywords and Best Bets

Keywords and Best Bets can be easily configured by a site collection owner. As always, you start with the Site Actions menu, and select Site Settings. Since Search is configured at the site collection level, if you are in a sub-site you will need to click through to "top level site settings" in order to get the page below.

Click the "Search Keywords" link. This will bring you to the Manage Keywords page.

The Manage Keywords page looks and operates much like a SharePoint list. You have the toolbar with its Add button, for example. Notice though, that it has a somewhat different search bar. Search can be very important here because you could end up generating a lot of keywords. The "where" drop down gives you the ability to look up keywords various ways.

In addition, there are some predefined views listed in the Quick Launch area. These provided an appropriately reduced list based on information entered into the keyword definition. When you click Add Keyword, you are presented with this form, which is also used to edit existing keyword definitions.

Again, it looks a lot like any other list form in SharePoint.

There is only one required field - the keyword itself. Of course, a keyword alone doesn't do much to help your users. The Synonyms field allows you to register other terms your users might enter which should bring up the same results. For example, if your company president's name is "Selma Superior" you might have that as a keyword, with synonyms of CEO, Managing Director, President, or even Big Cheese. From that point on, any of these terms will return the entry associated with the keyword.

Note: Remember that the keyword/best bets system is independent of the primary search service. Synonyms you enter here will not affect regular results. To achieve a similar effect there, you need to edit the Thesaurus files on the SharePoint Servers.

Once you have used a term as a keyword or synonym, the system knows it has already been used, prevents you from using it again in another keyword definition. This can help you avoid creating ambiguous results.

The best bets are links to the actual pages or documents you want your users to find when they enter the keyword or its synonyms. When you click "Add Best Bet," you will see the form listed below.

In addition to the link itself, you can provide some descriptive text. You can have multiple best bets on a keyword. You can also associate the same best bet with multiple keywords. Using the earlier example, one of the Best Bets for the CEO might be the Executive Committee's Newsletter/Blog. That location could be equally valid for the CFO and CIO.

You can enter some descriptive text, which will be shown along with any matching results. You can also use the keyword feature for time-sensitive information by entering a start and end date for the keyword's display, and review date to ensure the content is still valid. The contact information allows you to distribute ownership of different keyword entries, as well as automatically notify people when entries are due for review.

The results from keywords and best bets are displayed on the default SharePoint results page above the results from the standard search.

The keyword search system has its own web parts for displaying results. If you are creating your own results page, you will need to add either a "Search Best Bets" or "High Confidence Results" web part to that page.

More Ways to use SharePoint Keywords and Best Bets

Earlier I pointed out that most of the fields in a keyword configuration are optional. While it is true that a keyword "by itself" isn't very useful, there are a lot of ways you can use keywords that go beyond highlighting particular pages and files in your corpus. This is one of the big benefits of the system being independent of the primary search. Here are just a few examples:

Policy Flags

You can bring critical company information to the users' attention before they even click into a document:

  • Description text for obscene keywords might bring up the actual text of the company's profanity or abuse policy, without showing the offensive word itself.
  • Searches for "financials" might display a warning that any public release of financial information must go through the PR department.
DisambiguationIn the case where a word could have several meanings, you can describe each definition, and provide appropriate detail links.
AnnouncementsUse the time-stamp to ensure that searches for the Phoenix Office note that it is closed for remodeling.
"Sponsored" linksEveryone wants "their" content listed first in search results. If it fits in with your resource charge-back model and information management policy, let them pay for premium placement.
Direct InformationThe real purpose of search is to help people find what they need. If the information can be shown directly in the result set, why make them click through to a document? This could be useful for a glossary of your industry's buzzwords, for example.
External LinksEven when you do enter a link, there is no requirement that it be within your intranet corpus, or even within your company. This can be handy for such things as industry association web sites, or maybe an index of clients or competitors

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