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5 Tips for Improving Document Findability in SharePoint

Strategies that "end users" can use to improve search results - without code!

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One of the best features about SharePoint is search – but did you know that there are several ways you can improve search results without touching a line of code? These five tips can help your users find what they are looking for more effectively.

  1. Every document deserves a Title. Encourage content contributors to add meaningful Titles to their documents. Display the Title in views to encourage use. The Title is the field that is displayed first in search results so if you have a lot of documents with the same title, it’s really difficult to scan results to find what you are looking for. Give your documents a Title and make sure it accurately describes the document.
  2. Check the Title when you create new documents from existing documents. Be careful when you re-use documents, especially PowerPoint presentations where your title may say Title 1. Take a look at the document properties and make sure that the Title applies to your document – not the one you borrowed as a starter.
  3. Metadata is your friend. Use it if you’ve got it. Encourage tagging documents with optional attributes, especially if you are using these attributes as refiners. See tip 4.
  4. Use “Column Value Default” settings to automatically set default metadata.You really don’t have to harm any humans in order to add metadata to documents. Take advantage of column value defaults that can be set at the library or folder level so that when you add documents to a folder or library, they can inherit metadata auto-magically! Note that when you move documents from one folder or library to another, the default values are not applied to the new document. They are only used to set the values when the attribute is blank. (The exception is a document set, where you can force metadata into the document from the “parent” document set.)
  5. Ensure that you are securing content that needs to be secured. Virtually every upgrade to SharePoint 2013 or Office 365 is going to expose content in search that was previously hidden using “security by obscurity.” If you don’t want search (or Delve) to expose content to unauthorized users, make sure that the library or folder where the document lives has appropriate permissions. If you don’t want a library to be included in search results – for example, content you have migrated from an old system and just want available as an archive – you can use the library setting found in Advance settings that allows you to hide the library from search results.
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