“Searching in Sharepoint doesn’t work” – I think this is probably the second most popular support task type right after permissions woes and yet seldom few folk actually understand how Sharepoint’s Enterprise Search works.
Let’s look at probably the most common example. Someone uploads a document to Sharepoint. Just drags the file into the document library. They don’t have any publication controls switched on, no versioning, no file check-in check out so there sits their file ready to be used.
They can see the file, they know it’s there, it has a name – but when they enter that name into search they see the all-too-familiar Sharepoint “No Results” search screen.
Of course, there’s a very good reason for this. In order for items to be searchable, they need to be crawled by Sharepoint’s Search Crawl Service first and that’s by no means an instantaneous thing. Although Nexus Sharepoint is set to continuously crawl content, how you search for that content once crawled can offer up varying levels of success.
For your freshly uploaded item, are you searching by name? File name? Title? Another metadata column? By Author? By a keyword?
From the library itself? At the site level? At the site collection level?
As you can see, there are many ways to search and more importantly many ways to REFINE your search that may seem counter-intuitive to just sticking in a search term and hitting the magnifying glass button – but refining searches and ensuring your content has actually been crawled and search-indexed is vitally important.
Back to our example. If you fill in both name AND title fields in your document’s properties you’ve instantly bumped up your item’s search ranking and likely visibility by 50%.
In picture libraries, filling out the Keywords column will also raise your item’s search profile – and also searching by columns specifically (for example, to search the keywords field in a picture library, it’s as simple as putting “keywords:yoursearchterm” in the search box) you are again refining your search and improving your chances of a successful hit. Using wildcards can also help so putting a * before or after a search term will offer up more results.
Above all, bear in mind that everything in Sharepoint’s back end servers happens on a schedule. Search crawling is continuous, but full crawls also happen twice a day (we can’t make them any more frequent than this purely because one full crawl across all our content would not complete before the next one was due) so every 12 hours for a full crawl ensures that items are not missed if changed or added in between shorter incremental crawls.
Searching is just one way to find content, but improving the categorisation and organisation of content can also help your users get to exactly what they need to find. Naming conventions, managed metadata term stores and filtered list views are also powerful tools to consider when thinking about the structure of your site.
As with permissions, file sizes and other perceived “quirks” of Sharepoint, bear in mind that Sharepoint works very differently to your local file system on your PC and if you consider that everything in Sharepoint has to be hauled out of a series of back-end databases, this might go some way to explain why ‘instantaneous’ rarely happens in the world of Sharepoint.