Configuring search

The configuration options in this section will help you fine-tune the behavior of search in your knowledge base.

Pagination

Pagination allows your readers to view all possible search results. By default, we return the top 20 articles ranked by relevance. 

If you enable pagination, we will display the total search results beneath the search bar and allow the reader to paginate through all the results. They can use the next and back arrows to move between pages, jump to a particular page, or jump to the first and last page.

To enable pagination, go to Settings > Search and check the box next to Pagination.

Sorting

Search results are sorted by relevance by default. The goal is to show the most relevant articles at the top of the results. However, sometimes a reader might want to find the most popular, newest, or most recently updated article in the results.

If you enable sorting, we display a sorting dropdown menu below the search bar. Readers will be able to sort the results in the following ways:

  • Relevance (default)
  • Popularity (total views)
  • Last updated (date modified)
  • Newest (date created)

To enable sorting, go to Settings > Search and check the box next to Sorting.

Autosuggest

Autosuggest controls what kind of search is performed as readers begin typing in the search box, before they hit enter or click the search icon to run a full search. By default, we set autosuggest  return to readers while they type. When either type of autosuggest is enabled, readers will see up to 10 relevant results in a dropdown below the search bar.

To change autosuggest settings, go to Settings > Search.

There are three autosuggestion settings:

  • Autosuggest articles to readers while they type: This setting will autosuggest articles as readers type. It is not typo-tolerant. If multiple words separated by spaces are used, it will match and return results on the words independently. For example, if I type "configuring", I will see autosuggestions that contain "configuring". If I type "configuring search", I will get autosuggestions containing either "configuring" or "search":
  • Autosuggest articles and include fuzzy results: This setting will autosuggest articles as readers type, and it will also do "fuzzy" matching. Think of this like typo tolerance: searching for "remainder" might bring up articles with "reminder", searching for "good" may bring up articles with "Google". With fuzzy results turned on, the more precise match should bubble to the top of the autosuggestions:
    We recommend this setting with one caveat: for some customers with key search terms that are very close in spelling, it can increase the number of search results you get. So just be sure you test it to be sure it's helpful rather than noisy.
  • Do not autosuggest articles: Use this setting if you do not want any autosuggestions to appear as readers type. Readers will need to hit Enter or click the search icon to complete a full search and see any results.

For more details on what happens under the covers in autosuggest, see Autosuggest search.

Article blurbs

Article blurbs are the summary information displayed under search results. By default, we display highlighted search term fragments, but you can override this to display the meta description or default article blurb instead.

To change your search result article blurbs, go to Settings > Search and make a selection in the Article Blurbs section: 

Which setting should I use?

We default article blurbs to display highlighted search term fragments for a few reasons:

  • It's consistent with how Google and other search engines display results
  • It provides context for the search result, and that can help readers get to the information they want faster
  • Showing search terms in context can help readers figure out other search terms that might help them find what they need better

For many customers, this is just generally an intuitive search setting.

However, there are some cases where this doesn't make sense. If your articles frequently use the same word repeatedly in the same sentence, the fragment blurbs can almost seem noisy or cluttered.

There is no hard and fast rule about which setting is more ideal: it really depends on how your knowledge base is set up and how readers use it. When readers might be most heavily searching product codes or serial numbers and these fields appear in tables or long lists in articles, meta description might be a much better setting. But where readers are coming in to search for topics or subjects, often the search term fragments are a much better setting.

The good news is that changing this setting instantly takes effect and requires no reindexing for search, so you can very easily toggle it one way and then go back to the other if it isn't working for you.

Search weights

Search weights determine the relevance each article field has in search. All fields start with a weight of 1 and have equal relevance in search. You can view your knowledge base's current relevance search weights by going to Settings > Search.

The following fields are indexed for search:

  • Title
  • Permalink
  • Body
  • PDFs
  • Meta description
  • Search phrases

Search weights allow you to boost individual search fields. The weight represents how strong of a preference you’d like to give it.

For example, say that you set article titles to a weight of 10 and keep the other fields at 1. The search engine will still try and determine the best match across all fields using relevancy scoring algorithms. If the search finds a similar match in the title of one article and the body of another, the search weight will be used to bump up the score of the article with the matching title and it will rank higher.

Note: Tags do not impact search weights or relevancy scores.

Search testing

Search testing

Once you've made changes to your search weights, use search testing to quickly and easily test changes to search weights to see if they're producing the results you want/expect. The Search Testing section is just below the Search Weights section on Settings > Search.

Type a search term into the test search phrase field and hit enter (or click the magnifying glass). This will give you the search results and relevance score for up to 200 articles.

To see how a change to search weights will affect your results, adjust the weights and click the magnifying glass to refresh the search results. You can see how changes will affect the ranking and scoring of results. 

You can also click on an article to open the editor to view and make adjustments to the searchable fields. Once you've made changes, search again to see how it affects the search results. 

To improve the ranking of an article in search for a given search term, you can optimize the article by making sure the search term appears in the searchable fields. For example, if you want to be able to significantly boost an article for a search term, you can add it as a search phrase and boost the search weight of search phrases.

When you are happy with your weighting, click save to make the changes live. Adjusting search weights does not require a reindex.

Primary search language

Primary search language

The primary search language determines how we perform the stemming to reduce the words to their root form. You can set this in Settings > Search in the Language section:

Our search supports many of the world's most common languages.

Available search languages: Arabic, Armenian, Basque, Brazilian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (default), Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Kurdish, Norwegian, Persian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Turkish, and Thai.

If your language isn't listed, we recommend using English (the default).

Why does primary search language matter? The stemming rules for English are different from those for German, French, and so on.  For example...

  • In English, possessive "apostrophe s" is removed so that "Pete's" becomes "Pete".
  • In French, elisions are removed so that "qu'est" becomes "est".
  • In German, characters are normalized so that "hässlich" becomes "hasslich".

Synonyms

Synonyms

You can create a list of synonyms in your synonym library to tell the search that multiple words or phrases have the same meaning. Synonyms can be a single word or a phrase (multiple words). For example, you can create a synonym for "knowledge base" with synonyms like "kb", "kbase", and "k base".

When your content is indexed, we will detect any version of a synonym and add the rest of the matching terms to the index. If the search finds "kb", it will also include "knowledge base", "kbase", and "k base" in the index. This way, a search for any of the synonym variations will return the same results.

To add, view, or remove synonyms in your knowledge base, go to Library > Synonyms:

When you add, remove, or alter synonyms, you will need to perform a reindex for the changes to take effect. You'll see a pop-up warning prompting you to complete the reindex.

Synonyms can be a great way to create link acronyms and abbreviations to their full-word counterparts (e.g. US and USA are synonyms of United States or United States of America).

Tags versus search phrases

One of our most frequently asked questions is what is the difference between tags and search phrases. While they appear similar, they perform different functions.

Tags are like categories

  • Categories and tags are used for organization and navigation. 
  • Tags are added to articles describe what the content is and what it relates to, and articles are put into categories for the same purpose.
  • Both are visible to the reader.
  • Neither are indexed for search but they display in the search results to provide additional context.
  • Readers can click on tags or categories in search results to navigate to a list of related articles.

Tag example

You might have a tag called "troubleshooting" which tells you and the reader than (a) this article is about troubleshooting and (b)  there are probably other articles which are about troubleshooting as well. By clicking on the tag, the reader can navigate to a list of all articles with the tag "troubleshooting". 

You can manually pull up a list of all articles with a tag using the search. The syntax to return a list of articles with a tag is ":tag name". This tells the search to skip the normal search and return a list of all articles with the specified tag. Putting ":troubleshooting" into search would return all articles with the tag "troubleshooting".

Search phrases are like keywords

  • Keywords and search phrases are tools to find things using a search engine.
  • Both are part of the content and indexed for search.
  • Neither keywords or search phrases are visible to the reader.

Search phrase example

Maybe you have an article on troubleshooting computer errors. If you have a Windows computer, you might be familiar with the "blue screen of death". If you are on a Mac, you might be familiar with the equivalent "spinning beachball of death" or one of its variation. 

When someone types in one of the colorful variations of these problems, you want this article to come up but you may not want to add all these "of death" variations to your visible content. This is the perfect time to use search phrases.

You can add all the variations of the error as search phrases, which are hidden from the reader but get indexed for search. This way, next time someone types "spinning pizza of death" or its acronym "SPOD" into search, your article on troubleshooting computers errors will appear.


Filter search by categories

You can allow your readers to filter search results by category. You can choose to allow filtering by the top-level categories or by both top-level and second-level categories.

When enabled, this option will add a Refine dropdown menu to your search bars and Refine by Category checkboxes to your search results page. The dropdown menu allows readers to select a category before they search, and the checkboxes allow your readers to refine by category from the search results page after they search.

Toggle this feature under Settings > Basic.