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What's new in search in SharePoint Server 2013

Published: September 25, 2012

Summary: Learn about new search capabilities in SharePoint Server 2013, including ways to configure and monitor the system and improve search results.

Applies to:  SharePoint Server 2013 

In this article:

Search user interface improvements

Without having to open each search result, users can quickly identify useful results in ways such as the following:

  • Users can rest the pointer over a search result to preview the document content in the hover panel to the right of the result.

  • Users can quickly distinguish search results based on their type. For example, Microsoft Office documents display the application icon in front of the title of the search result. Newsfeed conversation results display the number of replies and the number of likes to the right. Site results list the top links that users often click on the site. People in results show the picture and the Lync availability status to the left.

  • By default, certain types of related results are displayed in groups called result blocks. A result block contains a small subset of results that are related in a particular way. For example, results that are PowerPoint documents appear in a result block when the word "presentation" is one of the search terms. Administrators and site owners can also create result blocks to group other results. Like individual search results, you can promote result blocks or rank them with other results.

Search helps users quickly return to important sites and documents by remembering what they have previously searched and clicked. The results of previously searched and clicked items are displayed as query suggestions at the top of the results page.

In addition to the default manner in which search results are differentiated, site collection administrators and site owners can create and use result types to customize how results are displayed for important documents. A result type is a rule that identifies a type of result and a way to display it.

Site collection administrators and site owners can use display templates to customize the appearance of search results by using an HTML editor, and they can customize the behavior of search results by using JavaScript. They can specify display templates that determine how result types appear.

Relevance improvements

A search result, suggestion, or recommendation is more relevant when it better satisfies the intent of the person who issues the query. SharePoint Server 2013 improves relevance in areas such as freshness of search results, linguistics, and document parsing. It also improves relevance in the following areas:

  • New ranking models

  • Analysis of content and user interaction

  • Query rules

  • Result sources

New ranking models

SharePoint Server 2013 provides new ranking models for people search, intranet sites, and Internet sites. A ranking model determines recall (which items are displayed in the search results) and rank (the order in which search results are displayed).

Analysis of content and user interaction

The search system determines the relevance of search results in part by how content is connected, how often an item appears in search results, and which search results people click. The search system also determines which items users most commonly click in SharePoint. The new analytics component in SharePoint Server 2013 tracks and analyzes this information and uses it to continuously improve relevance.

Based on analytics information, site collection administrators and site owners can customize the user experience by adding Web Parts to display recommendations and popular items, or to display deep links, which link directly to sub-sections of a main page that are frequently visited.

The search service also uses analytics to compute data for search usage reports. Administrators can get these reports in a timely manner, even on large deployments.

Query rules

Without any custom code, Search service administrators, site collection administrators, and site owners can help searches respond to the intent of users by creating query rules. In a query rule, you specify conditions and correlated actions. When a query meets the conditions in a query rule, the search system performs the specified actions to improve the relevance of the search results. For example, you might specify a condition that checks whether the query matches a term in a SharePoint term set, or another condition that checks whether the query is frequently performed on a particular search vertical in your search system, such as Videos.

A query rule can specify the following types of actions:

  • Add Promoted Results (formerly called Best Bets) that appear above ranked results. For example, for the query "sick leave," a query rule could specify a particular Promoted Result, such as a link to a site that has a statement of company policy regarding time off work. These items were previously referred to as Best Bets in SharePoint 2010.

  • Add one or more result blocks. For example, for a query that contains "Fabrikam sales report," a query rule might use a taxonomy dictionary to recognize Fabrikam as a customer, and then display a result block with pertinent results about Fabrikam from a customer relationship management (CRM) system.

  • Change ranked results, such as by modifying their relevance. For example, for a query that contains "download toolbox," a query rule could recognize the word "download" as an action term and boost results from a particular download site on your intranet.

Result sources

In SharePoint Server 2010, scopes and federated locations provided ways to limit searches to a certain set of content or subset of search results. In SharePoint Server 2013, result sources replace scopes and federated locations.

You create and use a result source to specify a location from which to get search results and to specify a protocol for getting those results. In SharePoint Server 2010, you specified a location and a protocol by creating a federated location. In SharePoint Server 2010, you could specify the protocol as local SharePoint index, FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint index, or OpenSearch. In SharePoint Server 2013, you can specify the Source Type as local SharePoint index, remote SharePoint index, OpenSearch, or Microsoft Exchange Server index. If you specify remote SharePoint index as the Source Type, you do not have to supply any custom code to handle authentication, unlike in SharePoint Server 2010.

In a result source, you can also restrict queries to a subset of content by using a query transform. For example, the pre-defined "Local Video Results" result source uses a query transform to return only video results from the local SharePoint index. In SharePoint Server 2010, you configured this kind of query restriction by using search scopes.

On a search results page, you can expose results for queries on a particular result source in several ways, such as in a result block or in a dedicated Web Part.

In SharePoint Server 2010, only a Search service application administrator was able to create and configure federated locations. In SharePoint Server 2013, site collection administrators, site owners, and site designers can also create and configure result sources to meet their specific requirements.

Changes in crawling

SharePoint Server 2013 includes many changes and improvements related to crawling content.

Continuous crawl

In SharePoint Server 2013, you can configure crawl schedules for SharePoint content sources so that crawls are performed continuously. Setting this option eliminates the need to schedule incremental crawls and automatically starts crawls as necessary to keep the search index fresh. Administrators should still configure full crawls as necessary. For more information, see Manage continuous crawls in SharePoint Server 2013.

Host distribution rules removed

In SharePoint Server 2010, host distribution rules are used to associate a host with a specific crawl database. Because of changes in the search system architecture, SharePoint Server 2013 does not use host distribution rules. Instead, Search service application administrators can determine whether the crawl database should be rebalanced by monitoring the Databases view in the crawl log.

Removing items from the search index

In SharePoint Server 2010, Search service application administrators could remove items from the search index by using Search Result Removal. In SharePoint Server 2013, you can remove items from the search index only by using the crawl logs.

Discovering structure and entities in unstructured content

You can configure the crawler to look for "entities" in unstructured content, such as in the body text or the title of a document. These entities can be words or phrases, such as product names. To specify which entities to look for in the content, you can create and deploy your own dictionaries. For companies, you can use the pre-populated company extraction dictionary that SharePoint Server 2013 provides.

You can store these entities in your search index as separate managed properties and use those properties later — for example, in search refiners.

To improve search relevance, the document parsing functionality in the content processing component analyzes both the structure and content of documents. Document parsers extract useful metadata and remove redundant information. For example, parsers extract headings and subheadings from Word documents, and titles, dates, and authors from slides in PowerPoint presentations. For HTML content, redundant generic information such as menus, headers, and footers are classified as such and removed from document summaries in the search results.

More flexible search schema

By defining crawled properties, managed properties, and the mappings between them, the search schema determines how the properties of crawled content are saved to the search index. Crawled properties and how these are mapped to managed properties define how to transform crawled content into managed properties. The search index stores the contents of the managed properties. The attributes of the managed properties determine the search index structure.

SharePoint Server 2013 introduces new attributes that you can apply to managed properties, such as sortable and refinable. The sortable attribute reduces the time that is required to return large search result sets by sorting results before they are returned. The refinable attribute enables you to create a refiner based on a particular managed property.

In SharePoint Server 2013, you can have multiple search schemas. The main search schema is defined at the Search service application level. Site collection administrators can create customized search schemas for different site collections.

For more information, see Manage the search schema in SharePoint Server 2013.

Search health reports

SharePoint Server 2013 provides many query health reports and crawl health reports. In SharePoint Server 2010 and FAST Search Server 2010 for SharePoint, similar reports were called Search Administration Reports. For more information, see View search diagnostics in SharePoint Server 2013.

New search architecture

SharePoint Server 2013 introduces a new search architecture that includes significant changes and additions to the search components and databases. For examples and more information, see the Search technical diagrams in Technical diagrams for SharePoint 2013.

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