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How can users improve on-premises SharePoint 2013 search?

SharePoint 2013 search provides access to a wealth of information, but finding relevant results is a challenge. To save time and energy, enterprises need to sculpt more efficient, context-aware search.

When it comes to enterprise search technology, we need to have relevant information at our fingertips at the right moment, and that's where SharePoint can come up short. It's hard to tune SharePoint search to find what is relevant.

There are ways to make search more efficient, but those forces may not be in users' immediate control. Enterprise search requires appropriate tagging of content. SharePoint uses metadata management. Managed metadata is hugely sophisticated in SharePoint 2013 -- we can even sculpt the navigation within SharePoint with metadata.

The trouble is, to make metadata tagging of content efficient and focused on relevance, we need there to be a strong mutual reliance between the business side and the IT side to make sure that the term store -- which is the name for the metadata repository -- is up-to-date and all the terms are correctly associated. If we have effective metadata tagging within the enterprise, we're going to get better results.

Improve SharePoint 2013 search topology

But there's more to it than that. We can also sculpt SharePoint 2013 search topology. Sculpting search topology means excluding things that don't need to be searched. It means fine-tuning the crawl of the environment so that it only searches the things that are most useful or most often accessed. We can also have things in there that we search for only so often, for compliance purposes -- but if we're very careful in sculpting our topology, then our search is going to surface more useful results.

SharePoint is all .NET under the hood. It's .NET applications using XML to communicate between components with SQL on the back end -- all standard Microsoft technology. In an on-premises deployment, you can fine-tune that to high heaven. You can take search Web parts and sculpt them through coding that any competent developer can do to customize your searches for particular purposes.

Different applications within SharePoint can have different custom search Web parts. If you've got competent in-house staff, it can make search relatively fine-grained. Third-party companies specialize in fine-tuning enterprise search for SharePoint. They will build Web parts for you that surface the content you're most interested in.

It's important to note that this applies to on-premises SharePoint. It's a different world in the cloud.

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How have enterprise search capabilities improved with SharePoint 2013? What challenges remain?
The improvements to the search user interface, changes made to the crawling functions and more flexible search schema/method have been welcome upgrades. There are still challenges in how many of these changes interface with existing systems and apps.