How to Search Smart in SharePoint Online

How to Search Smart in SharePoint Online in Projects and Project Management

During our work in business, we are constantly looking for information. This is also the case with projects. Projects are communication and information driven and are supported in most companies nowadays by SharePoint Online. Searching for information in SharePoint was in the past often not so successful.
In recent years, SharePoint’s search engine has improved tremendously. I experienced that the search functionality of SharePoint is not well known by many users or admins and so a great potential of SharePoint not used. This article is about how SharePoint search works and how you can improve your search query—the text you put in the search box—to get significantly better search results. Curious? Then read on immediately.

We Are Looking for Things and Information Every Day

We Are Looking for Things and Information Every Day.– at home and in business. We are searching for the misplaced house keys, a new job, a new recipe, some details about the latest iPhone, etc. And if what we are looking for is information, we use search engines like Google or Windows Search when we search for something on our computer.

In the recent past, during an average eight-hour workday, project team members spend about 45 minutes looking for information on the network share, in the email inbox, in project folder or the file cabinet. This search for information could have been spent better for more productive project work. More time is lost by project team members due to poor document management practices, inefficient project communication standards and ineffective project collaboration tools.
Because of this dissatisfied situation, many companies implemented SharePoint as an essential tool to fight this inefficiency, to be more productive in teams in the line business and in projects. And a great help with this is SharePoint search. But searching smart in SharePoint must be learned.

We live in a world that is search-driven. We can’t imagine our life without Google Search. Same logic applies to Project Management. In the past, to find a certain project document you created 3 years ago or all information about deliverable no. 4123 was a difficult task—especially in the deep folder structure on your shared drive. In the last years, this changed significantly. SharePoint nowadays has a powerful search engine.

Don’t search a long time in SharePoint, find immediately. This is not wishful thinking, it can be learned!

How SharePoint Searches

SharePoint always searches in the location where you are currently. If you are on the site home page, then SharePoint searches the whole site, that means all pages, wikis, lists, libraries, folders, and files in your site. If you are in a library, then SharePoint searches only in the corresponding library.
Recently the search field has been advanced by Microsoft. Now when you are in a library, SharePoint searches in the library by default as usual, but now you can also choose here to search directly across the whole site. This shows the following figure in a library.

Choose where to search

First, it’s important to know what SharePoint even looks at. SharePoint searches the full text of documents as well as their metadata. Metadata includes the file name, title, author, and any keywords or category systems you’ve put in place. Metadata ranks higher than full text to the search engine, according to Microsoft. Important to know is, that search results only display the content you have access to.

SharePoint only returns results that are indexed. “Indexing” means that the search engine creates a record (an index) of everything it finds in the system. As a rule, most if not all SharePoint content is indexed.. Generally, most if not all SharePoint content is indexed. But if you’re not getting the results you expect (i.e. a file you think should show up in your results doesn’t appear at all), indexing could be the problem. In that situation, you should raise the issue with your IT department.

How to Use the Search Field at the Top of Each Page, List or Library

A normal user writes his search word in the search field and hopes to find his result immediately. Often, however, they are disappointed with many non-relevant search results. this can be greatly optimized. SharePoint search comes with a ton of additional features that allow you to enhance the quality of your search query and garner significantly better search results. In the search field at the top of each page you can enter different search criteria. here are the most important:

  • Use one or several words: vacation policy The search result contains these words. This is similar to searching with AND
  • Exact these this phrase ” “: vacation policy”
  • Exclusion “-“: Search with exclusion of terms. If the “-” sign is used, no results are displayed, that contain this term. House -Boston
  • Managed properties: schedule filetype:pdf (searches for schedule, but only for pdf-files. There are many other managed properties you can use like: title, LastModifiedTime, author, created etc
  • Boolean Operators, AND OR NOT: release AND schedule (the document must contain the words “release” AND “schedule”)
  • Wildcard feature asterisk (*): hyperson* *sonic hyper*nic Use the asterisk* character as a wildcard at the start, end or between of any word in your query
  • Comparison = > < <= : created>07/06/2021

Here is a somewhat unusual example that shows the capabilities of SharePoint search. You will probably never use such a search query!

Search smart in SharePoint

In the search result interface the results are sorted by relevance. This means that they’re sorted by usage but also frequency. You also have a few built-in filters so you can click on All just the Files, the Site and even just the News that contains your keyword. At the top right corner you have an additional specific filter where you can choose e.g. your file type. 

Why Search is Better and Faster Than Folders

Some users think if they make folders in SharePoint, they will find their documents faster. This is a misconception. The effort to maintain a folder structure and store documents in it is not insignificant. Another problem is that only the creator knows the concept of the deep folder structure and their colleagues despair of it. In this article you will learn Why you should stay away from folders in SharePoint.

The following additional information shows you again in detail the powerful search capabilities of SharePoint Online and also how to search with managed properties. However, this is rather content for advanced SharePoint users.

What is Keyword Query Language and how to use it in SharePoint Online

Keyword Query Language (KQL) syntax reference (Microsoft)

4 Levels of Search in SharePoint Online

Here You Can Find More Knowledge

This was an overview of how to make your project management more efficient with SharePoint search. What is your experience with SharePoint search n Projects? Do you agree with my statements or do you have a different opinion? Share your experience with the readers with a commentary so that we all get to know another view. Thank you!

Would you like to learn more about how to make your projects more successful with SharePoint? Save time and money and get firsthand experience with my book “SharePoint Online for Project Management“. It takes you an important step further!

Do you know somebody who might be interested in this article? Then simply forward it or share it. Thank you! 

SharePoint Online for Project Management
Posted in SharePoint.

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