Configuring search

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:

  1. Go to Settings > Search.
  2. In the Results section, check the box next to Pagination.
    Pagination setting checkbox
  3. Save.

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:

  1. Go to Settings > Search.
  2. In the Results section, check the box next to Sorting.
  3. Save.

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.

Highlighted search term fragments

To change your search result article blurbs:

  1. Go to Settings > Search.
  2. Make a selection in the Article Blurbs section:
    Article blurbs section
  3. Save.

What does each setting do?

  • Display highlighted search term fragments (default): This will display dynamic fragments of text from the article with the search term highlighted.
  • Display meta description or default article blurb: This will display the meta description for the article, if one exists; otherwise it will display the first 150-ish characters from the article, including any code or HTML.
  • Use meta description as article blurb in search results and category pages (recommended): When checked, this will force the search results to display the meta description (even if it's empty). It will also display the article's meta description on any category landing pages, instead of using the first 150-ish characters of the article body. We strongly recommend keeping this box checked regardless of the display option you've selected above it.

Highlighted search terms vs. Meta description

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. You might also want to use meta descriptions when you have a lot of similarly-structured articles and you want to set a clear, succinct meta description to consistently appear in search results.

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.

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:

  1. Add a Refine dropdown menu to your search bars. This allows your readers to select a category before they search.
    Refine by category dropdowns on search bar
  2. Add Refine by Category checkboxes to your search results page. These allow your readers to refine by category from the search results page after they search.
    Refine by category checkboxes on Search Results page

To add these refine by category options for top-level and/or second-level categories:

  1. Go to Settings > Search.
  2. In the Filters section, check the boxes next to top-level or top-level + second-level categories to add the refine options for those two levels, respectively.
  3. Save.

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 to 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.

Exclude category

Have you ever wished you could exclude an entire category's contents from search, all at once? Maybe you have a category where you include content specific to particular customers, where you provide them a URL and otherwise hide that category from search and navigation. Or, you might have a category you use for Internal Reviews, where you publish things that are in-progress to get feedback from subject matter experts, but you don't ever want your general readership to find those resources.

Search result exclusions are usually set in individual articles. They don't get passed from the category to the articles.

So, for example, if I have a category called Enterprise Resources, and it contains subcategories for each of my enterprise customers, I'd have to manually set each individual article to be excluded from search:

  • Enterprise Resources
    • Customer 1
      • Article 1 (exclude from search)
      • Article 2 (exclude from search)
    • Customer 2
      • Article 3 (exclude from search)
      • Article 4 (exclude from search)

Excluding content from search this way can be inconsistent, since it depends on your content creators to remember to check the box in each article or for you to create a reader group restriction.

In the Search Settings, you can fully exclude a single category and all of its content from search results. When this option is used, it will automatically exclude from search:

  • All articles directly within the category
  • The main category (if it's topic display or custom content, which are indexed for search)
  • All topic display or custom content subcategories
  • All articles in the category's subcategories

So, in the above example, if I set my Customer 1 category to be hidden from search, Article 1 and Article 2 would be automatically hidden, even if I didn't check that option in the articles themselves.

If I set Enterprise Resources category to be hidden from search, all 4 articles would be hidden from search, as would any future articles created for additional customers.

Exclude a full category from search

To exclude a category and all its content from search:

  1. Go to Settings > Search.
  2. Next to Excluded category, click the gear icon:
  3. In the pop-up that appears, start typing the name of the category you'd like to exclude. You'll get an autosuggested list as you type. Click the category you want to select.
  4. Then click the Exclude Category button.

  5. Once you've made your selection, click Save to save your changes.

All of the content in that category will now be excluded from search.

Linked articles

When you create an article as being linked to another article, it is considered a "child" article (the original is considered the "parent".) By default, child articles are excluded from search.

To enable child articles to show up in search:

  1. Go to Settings > Search.
  2. Next to Linked articles, uncheck the box next to Prevent child articles from being searched.
    Prevent child articles from being searched checkbox
  3. Save.

Index large PDFs

The search index will automatically scrape and index the contents of PDFs in articles. By default, we only index the content of PDFs under 100 pages long.

If you have PDFs longer than 100 pages and you'd like them to be indexed for search, you'll need to change this setting.

Enabling this setting could lead to poor / skewed search results due to the amount of words inside of large PDFs. We recommend only using it if absolutely necessary, and testing some of your common search terms' results before and after the change.

To enable indexing of PDFs longer than 100 pages:

  1. Go to Settings > Search.
  2. In the Index large PDFs section, check the box next to Index the content of PDFs included in articles that are larger than 100 pages.
    Index large PDFs checkbox
  3. Save.

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.

Search Weights

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, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English (default), Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Kurdish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian (Bokmål), Norwegian (Nynorsk), Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish.

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

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 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 that (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.