How to search content in your digital workplace to find it

Have you ever felt disappointed in your digital workplace because there is no normal way to find information? It seems that everything just disappears in the universe of the intranet. Why can’t the search in your digital workplace be like “googling”? There are a lot of reasons why the search process is not so easy on your platform. Let us show a little behind the curtain of the searching information.

Every digital workplace platform has its search engine. They all mainly work in the same way, that is, you type your request, the system provides the list of results that are relevant to your request.

This logic is very simple yet tricky. You know what are you looking for but somehow you can’t find it. Why? Let’s talk about search more.

There are three common aspects of the selection of content at your request:

I. Search triggers

This aspect is directly related to every content item itself. Any search engine uses content parts in different order of importance. It means that your search engine will most likely check the title of a content item at first. Of course, you will probably not know what is the exact order of these elements, well, you don’t need it.

Just remember the simple principles

  • Form a search query, starting with individual words or word groups, this will allow the system to generate the most extensive list of results for you. Remember, the search engine can be configured to search for matches as accurately as possible, so even conjunction can sometimes affect your search query so that you can’t find the content you want. So try to search for content by individual phrases (word groups), this will reduce the risk of losing the most relevant results.
  • Remember about the publication date of the content item. Usually, the system shows recent documents before the older ones.
  • Don’t forget about the main SEO triggers: tags, keywords, categories, etc. Investigate these triggers in your digital workplace to know about how they work. Search engine always takes these triggers into account. Also, by knowing the right triggers you can find even more of the needed topic outside the standard search request.
  • Also, to make your content easier to find, you can use these tips, too.
  • Many search engines are set up to hide content items from the deactivated user accounts, so if you are looking for the content item and can’t see it in the list of results, this content item might be hidden. There is a simple way to find it. Try to remember any of the details about this content item: where was it published or who was the author. If you remember any of these details, go to the author’s account or to the group where this item was published. It seems to be too obvious but users tend to forget these simple ways to get the needed content.

II. Personal background

Yes, we are talking about your activity, search history, and connections. The search engine is a smart guy, and it learns from your activity within a digital workplace.

When you interact with your digital workplace, you probably may notice that your search page contains some incoming data even before any search request. It is because it knows what might be interesting for you.

So what are the main sources that provide information about you to form the list of search results you need?

Your groups. The system knows what groups you follow, so you will probably see the results from these groups at the top of the list of results.

Your connections (followings/followers). The system also knows the users you follow, so you will see these people and their content in the first places of the search results list.

Your bookmarks. For the search engine, your bookmarks are your important content items, so the system will pay attention to displaying them at the top of the list. Well, because you care about these items.

Your type of permissions. If you know that somewhere there should be the needed content but you can’t find it, maybe you don’t have permission to see it. The system will show only content you have access to, you won’t even see a preview of this content.

Your search history. Search engine learns to make the best content selection for you. The more activity within your community (including search activity) you have, the better your content selection will be. Most spotlight search windows contain a tab with a small selection of suggestions for you. Take a look at them to understand what your search engine looks at.

III. The principle of selection of search results (what is relevant for your search engine?)

Imagine this is a spotlight search window in your community. You are looking for something. This is what your grid of search results might look like in a typical community.

* Сases with customized search engines are different from a standard search and should be considered separately.

As you see, several elements can be indicators for you to understand what your search engine checks when generating the list of results for you.

  • Groups of results. The system will provide content, people, and places results for you.
  • Order of these groups. The system will look for content at first.
  • Title of content with or without an excerpt. It may be just by design or may mean that your search engine will check only the content body for the keywords.
  • Additional information about a content item. As you see, there is a place of publication and there is a publication date. It means that these elements are a part of the sorting process for your search engine.
  • Take a look at the additional information from the content item and results for the People and Places blocks. They are the same, It means, that you will see your subscriptions in the first place on the list. It means, that your search engine takes into account this information.

Of course, this is a very simple example, and it does not display all the features of modern search engines. Usually, the system uses many ways of sorting and searching the information at the same time, so you would get the most complete and correct list of results. A typical search engine can search as you type, suggest the full search request based on the first word you type, can generate one list based on different triggers at the same time. Anyway, all of these capabilities are working in the same principle: they have some informational triggers to look for them and to sort by them. So if you constantly fail to find the information, you can try to look closer to the search page and change the way you form your requests.

Always remember about the human factor. The search engine is a piece of code that works predictably in every situation. It is because it can’t change its work principles. However, it is the author who creates content. Every time someone creates a piece of content, they generate something unique. Sometimes a masterpiece can contain typos, wrong titles, or even any related to the title information at all. So the search engine might fail in finding such type of content. Not because of its misfunctioning, but because of the difference in content and your request.

Again, about the human factor. Developers are people, and they may do typos, too. So if you are very sure that something is wrong with the search engine, go to your community administrator, and ask for help.

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny з Pexels

Natalia Scherbina

Author Natalia Scherbina

Project manager, Tech Lead, QA

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