In the SharePoint server days, Admins could use farm wide (classic) search usage reports. These were Excel exports that provided some insight into user search behavior, and what our users were looking for. Microsoft plans to retire these classic, tenant-wide search usage reports in SharePoint Online during Q4 2021. Once sunset, these classic reports will still be available, but only through navigating site settings within individual site collections. The good news is that Microsoft is previewing the replacement right now. M365 search usage reports make it easier to analyze and adjust your organization’s search experience to find people quickly find what they are looking for.

Why should we care about M365 search usage?

Classic reports enabled administrators to view the number of searches over time, top searches, searches with a low click-through rate, and searches which return no results. These classic usage reports provided great insights into what users searched for but could find no or low-quality results for. This gave us valuable information about what content our users expected their SharePoint intranets to have! 

The new Microsoft Search usage reports gives us the same insights we could get from the classic reports. However, these reports are presented as charts and lists, rather than just an Excel export.  We’re still able to export the data to Excel for further analysis or to use in a Power BI Dashboard.

M365 Admin Center Left nav

Microsoft will also rely on user behavior and our current search configuration to recommend search actions we can take. We have some time to explore these new reports before the classic search usage reports are completely sunset.

Let’s Check Out Microsoft Search!

To check out the M365 Search usage reports, head to the Microsoft 365 Admin Center. From there, click on the “Settings” menu.  Under “Settings”, click on the “Search & Intelligence” link. 

At the top of this page, we’ll see five headings. Each heading provides tools for admins to use to improve the quality of search results for end users. Before we dive into the Microsoft Search Usage reports themselves, let’s touch on each of these areas.

Insights

This is where we can find search usage data now.  This includes the volume of searches by day or month, the top searches, searches without results, and abandoned searches.

 Search Usage - Insights

Answers

We can use the tools here to make it easier to find the content users are looking for! These Answers fall into five categories:

Acronyms

Acronyms help subject matter experts communicate with other experts. However, they can be a barrier for non-experts to understand their meaning. Organizations do not always have a single cheat sheet to explain their standard terminology or acronyms.

Answers allows search admins to set up Acronyms for refined search capabilities. Admins can spell out an abbreviation, provide a description, and link to a page or website with more information.

Acronyms can also be system-curated. Answers can discover and creates new Acronyms from users’ emails, and documents in SharePoint Online or OneDrive. Users will only see system-curated acronyms if they have permission to the source document or email.  For example, if I set up the acronym AC, when a user searches “What is AC” or “Define AC”, they would see the following:

Acronyms - example search

Bookmarks

With Bookmarks, search admins can setup a Title, URL, Description and Keywords.  Whenever a user searches for associated keywords, these bookmarks will appear at the top of search results.  Microsoft Search can also recommend bookmarks based on user traffic, which admins can review and publish when useful. Once set up and published, the user experiences bookmarks like this:

Example Search -  Bookmarks

Floor Plans

Floor Plans enable us to help our users find people and meeting rooms within a building.  It does require a bit of legwork to work successfully. The Floor Plan must be available in DWG format, office locations must be updated on user profiles, along with a few more steps that Microsoft has helpfully published must be completed.  Once set up and published, a user could search something like “Where is Allan Deyoung’s office” and return the following:

M365 Search Usage Floor Plans

Location

Location ties into the Floor Plan Answer and need to be setup before we can upload and publish the Floor Plan. Floor Plans use Location to define our buildings, including the address and keywords.

Q&As

Q&As are like Bookmarks, but allow us to answer the user’s question directly instead of just providing a link. We can even use HTML tags to give the answer in rich text format. Q&A can be displayed during a defined date range, and can even be targeted to specific countries, regions, groups, and devices!  When a user searches on a Q&A keyword, it’ll look like the following.

M365 Search Usage Q&A

Data Sources

This search tool allows us to connect Microsoft Search to content sources outside of Microsoft 365. Potential Data Sources include Azure Dev Ops, SQL Server, File Shares, ServiceNow, Salesforce, Dynamics 365 and more. With data sources set up, users can search in one place and get results from all an organization’s systems.

Customizations

This deserves its own post, but the key things to check out here are the Search Verticals and Result Type. 

Verticals show up across the top of a Microsoft Search. These provide content sorting into logical “buckets”, which make it easier for users to narrow down a search. 

Result Type allows us to override the default search result layout to display search results in a different way. We can set up conditions to use our result type and define the result layout to use for that type. The result layout decides what information displays about a search result, and how that search result looks. 

For example, if we had our Help Desk indexed, we could set up a Vertical called “Help Desk”. This Vertical could use Result Types to make urgent tickets show with a larger font and distinct colors. Using this sorting can help a use quickly tell which tickets are urgent.

M365 Search Usage Insight Reports

Ok, now back to the Insights!  Our first usage insight is the Query Volume Trend Graph. This will show us how many searches were performed over the last 31 days, or 12 months. We can use this report to view individual data points per day or month, depending on the period we’ve selected. We can also export the data into Excel.

M365 Admin Center Usage Insights Report

Below the query volume, we can see summaries of the Top Searches, Searches with No Results, and Abandoned Searches. A note here, to use this Insight, first we must select our period (last 31 days or 12 months). Then, we must pick a specific day or month, and Insights will populate the three columns.  We can also export each of these to see the full list. 

These three reports provide us valuable knowledge on our users’ search behavior. We can combine these reports with information provided Subject Matter Experts to tailor the Microsoft Search to the needs and behavior of our organization. 

For instance, I was able to see in April, we had a lot of abandoned searches for “Sales Process”. An insight like this tells us people are looking for information on our Sales Process and struggling to find it. This conclusion lines up with the fact that our team started to update our Sales Process in April. It is realistic to expect that this overhaul drove several people to try and find our old Sales Process content.

M365 Admin Center Usage Query Report

Check It Out

Check out the new Search & Intelligence area in the Admin Center to look at your M356 Search Usage reports!  We’d love to hear about your experience, or what sort of insights you were able to glean from how often and what your users are searching for. If you’re struggling to decide what actions to take on search based on your users’ behavior, then schedule a show-and-tell with the Total Solutions team. We can help get you started on your Search improvement journey!