When we search for information often we know exactly the term or phrase we want to find more information on. But that’s not always the case. They are times when we search to see what we get, trying out different keywords, and phrases. It’s at these uncertain times when we appreciate the suggestions appear under the search box that we can scroll down and click enter to choose the term from under the search box list.

We find it helpful when we type a keyword on Amazon, Google or Bing and the search engine brings a list of best results, assuming on our behalf what we want to buy, or learn more about. Would it not be nice if intranet search also suggested content like other commercial search engines? In this blog, we will learn what are query spelling suggestions and how to implement them.

Let’s define what query spelling suggestions are. Query spelling suggestions are words that appear below the search box as a user types a query. SharePoint automatically creates a query suggestion when you’ve clicked a search result for a query at least six times. For example, if you’ve entered the query word “customer agreement” and then clicked a search result six times, “customer agreement” automatically becomes a query suggestion.

Automatic query suggestions are generated daily for each result source and each site collection, so the query suggestions can be different for different result sources and site collections.

Organizations can take control over their own most frequently searched content, or even content that’s not frequently searched for but it’s important to expose for employees to easily find. You set your criteria what to include in the list of suggestions. I recommend that each department is asked to send a list of their keywords, and phrases to a content strategist who manages this effort at your organization. For example, Human Resources at the open enrollment time could submit queries that will help employees complete the sign-up process, find links to external HR application, and find other relevant information that will help employees make benefits choices.

Create query suggestions list

  1. Open a text editor of your choice, and enter a list of terms that you want the system to always suggest to users. Only add one term per line to the text file, and don’t mix languages in the text file.
  2. Save the text file to a location that’s accessible from SharePoint Online.

After validating term suggestions list with your internal stakeholders, you are ready to create a manual suggestions list that will enhance search experience for employees on your intranet. Configuring manual suggestion lists can be done in SharePoint 2013, 2016 on premise, and Office 365 tenant.

Create your company’s Query suggestions in SharePoint search

  1. Sign in to the Office 365 Admin Center as a search administrator.
  2. Choose Admin > SharePoint > Search > Query Suggestion Settings.
  3. To import a list of query suggestions to SharePoint search, go to Always suggest phrases > Import from text file. When you import query suggestions, any existing ones will be overwritten.
  4. Browse to the file that you want to import.
  5. Go to Language for suggestion phrases, and select the processing language of your query suggestions. It should match the language of the terms in the text file.
  6. Choose Save Settings.

Manual query suggestions apply to all result sources and to all site collections unlike the automatic query suggestions which can be different for different result sources and site collections.

To create query suggestions for multiple languages, you’ll need to create a separate file for each language. The language determines how the query suggestions are processed internally in the search system. All manual query suggestions are always displayed for all languages. Add each phrase as a separate line in the text file that you create, and save the file in UTF-8 encoding.