Governance activity: analyze SharePoint search reports and provide synonyms

I have an outstanding group of forward-thinking, hard-working volunteers who gather monthly to discuss ways in which we can improve our implementation and utilization of SharePoint at LMH Health. Tomorrow is our last meeting of the year, and we’ll be spending the majority of our meeting poring over abandoned search queries and “no result” queries provided to us by the out-of-the-box SharePoint usage and popularity reports.

Is it worth the time?

Absolutely. No matter how big your company is, investing time in improving search – even if it will only save a searcher 5 seconds – is the logical action from both a financial and efficiency standpoint. Here are some real-world stats from LMH Health (a relatively small health system) to further convince you:

  • 19% of our annual SharePoint site visits are from someone performing a search query
  • That’s 18,972 searches per year, or about 75 each day
  • If each search takes thirty seconds, we spend 158 hours searching annually
  • If we play with a $20/hr wage, we would be spending $3160/year searching or $0.17 per search
  • If we can improve search so that we reduce that thirty seconds to twenty seconds, we’ll save 52.7 hours and $1054/year
Annual costs and savings scenario of SharePoint search times

So if saving money and time is important to you, this is worth exploring with your governance committee or SharePoint team.

How to get your search analytics/reports

Note: You must be at least a site collection admin to access the search reports.

1. Go to Site Settings –> “Popularity and Search Reports” under Site Collection Administration

2. I recommend the three reports below (all queries by month except “Query rule”) for a high-level overview with which your committee will be able to assist.

Note: You could individually use the Query Rule report to analyze the success (or lack thereof) of any query rules you’ve implemented, but I wouldn’t involve your committee in its analysis.

Available search reports as a site collection admin

3. Once those files are downloaded, I’d combine each of the months (each tab of each report is a different month) using Power BI or some excel magic to determine the queries most frequently searched on your site collection (by summing query text counts across tabs)

Engage your governance committee

Now it’s time to present your findings to your committee members. At our meeting we’ll be splitting into groups and each taking a portion of the top abandoned and “no results” queries to determine:

  1. What the searchers were attempting to discover on our intranet using that query text
  2. What synonyms we can come up with to add to a synonym dictionary or query rules to improve search.
    1. Synonym dictionary is installed via PowerShell for on-prem only
    2. Query rules can be on-prem OR hybrid and are a way of promoting certain results based on rules you establish

For my group, I’m using two files: a search thesaurus worksheet and a search analysis worksheet. 

Search thesaurus

This is the “blank slate” I’ll be sharing with each group, challenging them to fill the rest of the rows with words they use that often don’t bring up the correct result because the actual result is using a variation of the query

Search analysis

The second worksheet is focused on analyzing actual, real search queries you collected from the SharePoint search reports. Pick the highest occurring results from the abandoned and “no result” reports and include them in the tables. Have your committee speculate as to what the desired resource actually was and provide alternative names/words so that you can build rules and/or synonyms around it.

Conclusion and follow-up

Always follow up on governance tasks and finish your part of the work before your next meeting. Then you can share the results/impact with your members, celebrating your collaboration.

Once we’re finished with this activity tomorrow, I’ll collect the results and add appropriate suggestions to our synonym dictionary we deploy via PowerShell. There may also be suggestions made that would make great query rules.

For example, if one of your “top queries” is consistently “Dress code,” maybe you’ll create a query rule that provides the actual (and hopefully only) dress code policy at the top of results in its own promote block.

An effective governance committee is one that is put to use. Leverage your organization’s knowledge and inspire your members to be daily advocates for your digital workplace. It’s as much theirs as yours, and we make it better by building it for and with the users.

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