When configuring Microsoft Search in Office 365, you have the option to choose between two different search scopes: “Organization” and “Current Site.” While “Current Site” is the default behavior, it can be easily changed to the global “Organization”. – But what’s the difference between these two options? And which one should you choose for your business? In this post, we will explore the differences, and some recommendations, too.
Challenges and considerations
The scope of search is a very common question to discuss with our clients:
Our SharePoint Online intranet has multiple hubs and sites. We found that the users are often confused by how the default search scope changes as you move through hubs, sites, lists, and libraries. We are considering configuring the search to remain global search across the tenant. – However this may cause overwhelming search results, and we would lose the convenience of the scoped searches for those that are familiar with it.
Also, once search is expanded to the whole Organization, there is no way to go back to the original scope, “Current site” – unless closing search, and starting over again.
Another complaint is that when the scope is “Current site” or “Current hub”, users don’t notice the breadcrumb with “Organization”, therefore don’t realize they can expand search to the whole tenancy.
While having a site-search per default has unquestionable benefits, it makes sense to consider changing the default scope to “Organization”. This can be changed on each site separately.
The Pros and Cons
“Current site” or “Current hub” scope
When the scope is “Current site” or “Current hub”, users get results that are narrowed down to the current location. If the site (or hub) contains focused, specific information, this makes sense – for example on a project site, users might be interested in finding documents related to that specific project only.
- The results are focused, specific to the current site.
- Using site-specific search settings, verticals and filters can help to achieve better findability in the context of the site.
- When needed, the users can expand search to the whole tenant by clicking on “Organization” on the search bredcrumb.
- The users need to have a good understanding of how the content is organized, what they can find on which site.
- The users have to understand that the scope of search is the current site only, and they should not have false expectations about finding documents stored elsewhere.
- Also, the users need to be educated on how to expand search, and what they get when they click on “Organization” on the search breadcrumb.
When the default scope is “Organization”, users get results from the whole tenant by default. This might be useful when the goal is to support the user with more results from a wider context.
- The users get a broader set of results.
- This option might be useful if the typical users of a site need results from outside of the site (eg. in case of a legal case site, where it’s important to collect information from precedent cases).
- The search user experience can be unified across all the sites which have “Organization” as the default scope.
- The users might have to deal with more irrelevant results.
- There is no user-friendly way to narrow down the scope to “Current site”, unless using specific operations in the query itself.
- The users need to be educated about scope of search, and they have to have a good understanding on it’s being more than the current site.
- Even when the default search scope is set to “Organization”, if the user performs search in a specific document library on a site, the scope of search is that specific library (and not the whole “Organization”).
Additional Consideration: The Search Box Dropdown
Besides the option to change the scope on the main search results page, the Microsoft Search search box also has a context-sensitive dropdown, which lets the user change the scope of search before entering the query.
The dropdown has a couple of options, depending on where the user is: Besides “Current site” and “Organization”, it also has “Current Hub” (if the site is associated to a Hub), “This Library” (if the user is in a document library), etc.
To prevent confusion, it might be a good idea to educate your users on how the search works and what the different scopes mean – and how they are accessible. They will appreciate these little “tricks”, and it will improve their search productivity a lot.
So, what is the best way to set up your search scope?
The answer, as always, depends on your specific needs and usage scenarios. But here are a few general recommendations:
If you want users to find both global and site-specific content, we recommend setting the default scope to “Organization”.
If most of your users only need to find content from the current site (or hub), then it makes sense to set the default scope to “Current site”. It is always possible to expand search to the whole “Organization” option in the search box dropdown, or on the main search results page, for those occasional cases when users need to find something outside of the current site.
In most cases, however, we recommend to apply a “hybrid” solution: make “Organization” the default scope on each site, but be flexible and keep using “This Site” or “This Hub” on sites (or hubs) which has very specific content.
Also, it might be useful to create custom verticals for the key sites in “Organization” search, e.g. “HR”, “Knowledge Center”, “Project Office”, etc. This will allow users to focus their search and get more relevant results.
To sum up, the “Organization” vs “This Site” choice in Microsoft Search is mostly a matter of user experience and relevance: what content the majority of users need on each site? Be sure to test different options and see what works best for your organization.
Do you have any questions about Microsoft Search scope? Let us know in the comments! And don’t forget to check out our other blog posts about Microsoft Search. Happy searching! 🙂