Why, What and How of Metadata and Search

Product:  All SharePoint Versions

The Problem (The Big Why)
– data is growing exponentially
– we spend a lot of time creating it
– we spend a lot of time searching for it
– we spend a lot of time managing it
– and time is money (1:10 ratio)
[for every $1 spent creating it, we spend $10 managing it]

The Insanity
– we keep doing the same old thing
– we keep expecting different results
– we keep whining about how bad SharePoint is
– we keep hearing the same old message:  “I can’t find what I am looking for”

The Blame Game
We hear management as well as users say that they can’t find what they are looking for because the search product or platform just does not work.  And we all know, the more something is stated, true or not, the more it becomes true.  So, then SharePoint gets a bad rap when really it’s not a technology problem at all.  It’s a people problem and a content problem.  Take SharePoint out of the picture, substitute any technology, and you end up with the same problem.  So, why can’t users find what they are looking for?

Probable Causes
The most probable cause for users not being able to find what they are searching for is that the content lacks proper metadata.  Metadata builds the relationship between the content and the users that need it.  Metadata should be applied …
– within each document name and title property
– within each document’s pages
– within each list name
– within each page name
– within each view name

The more keywords used in the proper context for the audience that is performing the search, the higher the relevant content will surface in the search results.

Metadata (The Big What)
The basics of metadata is that it provides a context of additional information that further describes a basic noun (ie; person, place or thing).

For example; the following terms provide additional context about a puppy:
– Fido
– dog
– golden retriever
– puppy
– furry
– canine
– male

If we search on the generic keyword of ‘dog’, our search results may return 2,000+ entries that consist of all types of dogs.  That is just too many to search through!

But, if we search on more specific keywords of ‘golden retriever puppy’, our search results may return just a few entries that we can easily navigate through.

Responsibility (The Big How)
Both the owners of the content and the consumers of the content have a joint responsibility to ensure that the content can easily be found by themselves as well as others.

The owners of the content create the content and include the keywords and information that is relevant and meaningful from their perspective as well as those that will later be the consumers of the content.

The consumers of the content have the responsibility of providing feedback to the content owners so that the overall user experience can be improved for all of the audiences involved.

Search Feedback
Provide a section on each search results page so that users may easily provide suggestions on how to improve upon the search experience.  Capture the search scope, the search keywords and the results they were expecting.  This information should be sent to the SharePoint Support Team and optionally shared with the content owner.

Site Feedback
Provide a section on each page of the site so that users may easily contact the Site Owner with suggestions on how to improve upon the overall user experience related to the site.

How has SharePoint affected you?

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This entry was posted in Content Management, Document Management, Search, User Adoption. Bookmark the permalink.

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