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Improving SharePoint Online Search with Bookmarks

 

Today I thought it would be helpful to walk through a really fantastic but underutilized feature called Bookmarks. If you aren’t familiar, Bookmarks are a way for you to create shortcuts for the most important things your employees need access to. Often, the number one complaint in an organization is that their SharePoint search results return a bunch of outdated and unimportant information along with the important forms and information they need. How can anyone find what they are looking for with so much noise in their search results? I thought we could take some time to talk about Bookmarks and how they help the SharePoint search experience, the improvements being made, and then touch on how Bookmarks reach more than just your SharePoint sites.

The Basics

If Bookmarks have been configured in your tenant, you can type a keyword into your SharePoint search bar and hit enter. When the full search results page loads, you’ll see the bookmark show at the top of the list. In my screenshot below, my keyword is “time off”, which returns the bookmarked PTO Calendar. I could’ve also searched by the other keywords I configured – “PTO”, “Vacation”, etc. and still surfaced the same bookmark.

This may not seem like such a big deal, but if you consider how a new employee feels when they search for something for the first time, or how you feel when you know what you are looking for but can’t remember *exactly* what it was called, then presenting a bookmark helps us feel more confident we have found the right link to proceed with. Small improvements can drastically improve a user’s confidence and reduce frustration while moving throughout a site.

Real-World Scenarios

What typically happens without bookmarks, is that I search for something like “Vacation calendar”, unaware or forgetful that our calendar is named “PTO Calendar”. Frustration sets in quickly when the search results don’t return what I’m looking for and then, once I convince someone else to send me the link, I’m thinking….”WHY would ANYONE name that calendar PTO instead of vacation?! It’s no wonder I couldn’t find it!” Very quickly, SharePoint earns a bad rap for having poor search results, when it’s technically functioning exactly as it should.

Taking a few small steps to configure these bookmarks is what we call “Low hanging fruit” or an “easy win” for your employees and their improved SharePoint experience.

How-To Configure Bookmarks

If you are a SharePoint Online Admin and this is the first you are hearing of Bookmarks, it may be due to the fact that these SharePoint Search features are actually considered “Microsoft Search” features and they not found in the SharePoint Admin center! I’ll touch on the future of Microsoft Search at the end of this article, but I’m going to step you through the configuration first.

Note: To configure bookmarks, you must have Microsoft Search Admin or Search Editor rights.

You’ll navigate to your Office 365 admin center and go to Settings >> Microsoft Search. If you click on the “Answers” tab, then Bookmarks on the left-side navigation, you’ll be presented with this screen.

Click Add and then fill in the appropriate information, including title, URL, and keywords. Note that you can edit this entry later if needed. It’s important to note that keywords CAN be reused, but that you also have the option to reserve keywords if you do not want them reused for other links.

 

You may also notice there is a “Categories” field. This is a great way to group and organize your bookmarks. This will help you filter your bookmarks more effectively in the admin center. One of the new features for bookmarks, is that Microsoft Search will display a new category field as a dynamic dropdown when someone is adding or editing the bookmark. Only Microsoft Search administrations can create new categories.

Targeting your Bookmarks

If you scrolled down on the “Add” form after filling out your new bookmark fields, you may have also noticed that there are multiple settings you can configure including when and where you publish the bookmark, including the ability to target a particular group (yes, that group attached to your Microsoft Team), country or region, or device. You can also target a PowerApp! You simply add the App ID.

Consider the scenario where you have FrontLine workers utilizing a PowerApp on a mobile device and you can now return different PTO Calendars or Policies based on the Location the user belongs to! Nice!

At this point, you can hit “Publish” and you’re all set! As with anything in Microsoft 365, sometimes it does take some time before you see the updated feature in SharePoint Search – be patient! I promise it will be there soon, I’ve seen updates almost immediately in many cases, but not all.

The future of Microsoft Search

As you may have suspected earlier in the article, the future of Microsoft Search is to provide a way to bring intelligent search and discovery to you across Office 365. This means, when you configure a Microsoft Bookmark, it doesn’t just become available within SharePoint Search. At the time this article was written, Microsoft Search can bring back results from SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, and even Microsoft Exchange. Right now, those results are surfaced in SharePoint, OneDrive, and Bing search, but we expect results to be available in other places in the future as well. Here’s a quick screenshot of what that looks like when I’m logged into Bing with my Office 365 account (No worries – Its still security trimmed!)

Other Tips and Tricks

So that’s it! Setting up Bookmarks is an easy way to dramatically improve your search results without a ton of work. Here are a few other tips for you:

• If your organization has Promoted Results set up in SharePoint, you can import the Promoted Results into Microsoft Search and make the imported content available to your users.

• To bulk add or import bookmarks, see the steps here:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftsearch/manage-bookmarks

• To learn more about Microsoft Search set up and administration, see this link:
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftsearch/overview-microsoft-search

• While you’re in the Microsoft Search settings, make sure to poke around and see some of the other great features like acronym lists, Q&A, Floor plans, and Locations!

It’s been a long time coming, but the future is looking bright for improved Search results in Microsoft 365! With a few simple steps, you can dramatically improve your employee’s search experience without a lot of effort. Keep your eye on Microsoft Search, the best is yet to come!

Related Topics:

  • SharePoint Online
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    Co-founder and President @PAITgroup | Microsoft Regional Director & MVP | Passionate about #technology and #innovation | Avid boater & sun seeker