Not getting the search results you’re looking for in SharePoint?

SharePoint not only provides a way to store and share your documents, lists, and other data, but offers a powerful search ability. Here are some tips to help you fine-tune your SharePoint search results, either with a Search subpage (using the Enterprise Search or Basic Search templates) or by adding search Web Parts to your pages. These tips will help you construct queries in SharePoint and SharePoint Online to find what you want.

Adding search to your site

By default, your SharePoint site pages will have a search box that provides basic site search capabilities. If you want more control over your searches, you can create an Enterprise Search or Basic search subsite, or add Search Web Parts to an existing page. Depending on the Web Parts you add, you can open an advanced search page for more granular search criteria. See these articles for more information:

No results or too few results?

If you get no results when you’re searching for information, even if you've spelled all words correctly, try to widen the search to include more results:

  • Be sure that you're searching across all relevant content, and that you haven’t restricted the search to only portions of the content, such as People or Videos.

  • Use fewer search terms to expand your search. For example, use “report” instead of “sales report”.

  • Use more general search terms. For example, use “computer” or “PC” instead of “laptop”.

  • Use the * character as a wildcard at the end of any word in your query. For example, "micro*" finds documents that contain "Microsoft" or "microchip".

  • Is the content searchable? If the content is brand new, the search system may not have picked it up yet. Wait a few minutes and try again. If that doesn't help, check with the site administrator to make sure that the content hasn't been excluded from search, and that you have permission to view it.

These tips may also do the trick if you get few results. After widening the search, use refiners to limit the results to find the exact result you're looking for.

Too many results?

If you're drowning in a sea of search results, and you can't find what you want even after using refiners to limit the number of results, try using the Content Search Web Part (CSWP) to make a more specific query. You can add a CSWP to your page with the following steps.

Add a Content Search Web Part (CSWP) to your page
  1. From Settings Small Settings gear that took the place of Site Settings., click Edit Page.

  2. Place your cursor in the area where you want the CSWP, click Insert on the ribbon, and then click Web Part.

    Insert Web Part ribbon menu inserting a CSWP
  3. From the Parts menu, click Content Rollup, click Content Search, and then click Add.

    The add button from the Insert Part menu
  4. You should see your new CSWP appear on the page, and you';re ready to set up the query.

If you don't see the CSWP as an option, you might be using a custom SharePoint application that doesn't offer it. In this case, contact your helpdesk or site administrator.

Edit the Web Part settings to find information that contains or excludes specific words or phrases, or limit search results by language or by result type. Y For more info on Content Search Web Parts, see Configure a Content Search Web Part.

If you're an expert search user, you can skip the CSWP, and use Keyword Query Language (KQL) to enter advanced queries directly in the search box, like this:

("wind farms" OR "solar panels") AND (title:"innovations" OR title:"technologies")

The Keyword Query Language (KQL) Syntax Reference article has details about how to write valid KQL queries.

Using the proper SharePoint syntax?

If you get no results and an error message tells you to make sure you’re using the proper syntax, the SharePoint search system may be interpreting your search as an incorrect Keyword Query Language (KQL) query.

SharePoint uses the Keyword Query Language (KQL) to search data very specifically, and often is added through the advanced search options. To open the advanced search options page, click Advanced Search at the bottom of a search results display. It contains tokens or search terms, operators (how to combine terms such as ALL or NONE), and property restrictions (how items relate to specific data, like > or = a value).

The Keyword Query Language (KQL) Syntax Reference article has details about how to write valid KQL queries.

Check that you're using the correct syntax, and particularly the right number of parentheses and double quotation marks.

If you want to search for a phrase that contains a parenthesis or double quotation mark, make sure that you enclose the entire phrase (including the parenthesis or double quotation mark) in double quotation marks.

Searching the correct search engine

While this may seem obvious, some pages may have more than one search box. Not all search fields are the same. A browser search field does not always find the same information as a search box that's within a SharePoint webpage. Make sure you're using the right search box on a page.

If you're using a custom built SharePoint page, you might need to contact your helpdesk or site administrator, as your search options might be limited.

See Also

Search in SharePoint 2013

How to create a Search Center Site Collection and enable crawling of your content in SharePoint

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