Setting up a Visual Best Bet and Recommended Results for Search in SharePoint 2013

Here at BA Insight we’ve recognized through our research that one of the key pillars of search is UX or user experience. In SharePoint 2013, the popular best bets have been integrated into the new Query rules. When a user searches for a result, it’s important to display the most authoritative results. Those results that you know are most important can be pinned as top results, making the search experience great.

Between SharePoint 2010 and SharePoint 2013, one of the biggest things that changed was Search. The idea of a best bet changed quite a bit, and where they stuck the UI for creating the new objects has gotten more complicated than it needs to be. I think fundamentally the product team on search assumed that the average person responsible for search is more technical than I think they really are.

Essentially the UI around really doing the basics of managing search requires some education. In this article, I plan to give you some steps for how to create visual best bets and recommended results that should really simplify the process. I’m going to focus on keeping these instructions as simple as possible while encouraging you to invest in the area of enterprise search, one of the biggest investments of the product. These steps may take you 5-15 minutes the first time, but with practice you can easily add these recommended results in less than 1 minute. Once you get this down, you can setup a SharePoint list with a form to gather suggestions from users of your site or use the search reports to get this populated. I recommend at least a few hundred of these for enriching the search experience. It helps for users to feel part of the solution and they can get involved and make a difference.

Creating a Recommended Result in less than 1 minute.

1. Get the URL of the link you want to promote. Create the document or page if it doesn’t exist.

2. Site Settings –> Under Search –> Query Rules.

3. For what context do you want to configure rules? Choose “Local SharePoint Results (System)” and leave the other two as All User Segments and All topics. When you’ve configured user segments you can get more complex with your ability to target recommended results to different “audiences” or user segments as they now call them.

4. Click New Query Rule.

5. Give the Query rule a name such as “Holiday Schedule”.

6. Ensure the query conditions is “Query matches Keyword Exactly” then specify your terms and phrases such as “holiday;holiday schedule;time off;vacation;OOF;company calendar;calendar;holiday calendar”.

add as many keyword synonyms as you’d like, separated by semicolons.

7. Next under promoted results click “Add Promoted Result”.

8. Provide a title: such as “Holiday Schedule” (This will only be used for display in the configuration).

9. Specify the URL link to the page or document from step 1. If it is a Word document, then you may want to specify the Office Web Apps view of the document rather than have it open directly in Word such as “ /_layouts/15/WopiFrame.aspx?sourcedoc={2EF6C061-5640-4351-98B1-E63A5769CC8B}&file=2015%20Holiday%20Schedule.docx ” Note this document could be inside or outside of your company.

Do NOT check the Render the URL as a banner. We’ll do this in the section on the Visual best bet.

10. Provide a Description: This is displayed on the search result. So you will want to specify a nice well written, but simple and short description of the authoritative link such as “Official Company 2015 Holiday schedule.” Note any dates may go out of fashion if the document is updated. If there’s one document per year, then having the date will help distinguish between 2014 company calendar and the 2015 calendar. Then click save and click save again.


If you did it right, then you should get a nice recommended result right on top of your search results with a check box next to it. If you’re not seeing anything, make sure your search is for the same keyword as specified in step 6.

Create a Visual Best Bet

Now let’s create a visual best bet. These are the nice visuals in search results. I have learned a few things about this type of best bet and find that these don’t work exactly like I’d expect them to. If you specify a URL, it brings back the result as an iframe, so I recommend that instead, you use pictures to enhance your existing best bets that are hyperlinks.

1. Follow all the steps specified above, but when you get to step 9, you’ll specify the link to the image. I recommend that the image be in the same site as your search center or the same site as your search results page and ensure that everyone that will be searching has permissions to get to this result.

2. For title, specify the title such as “Holiday banner” or “Holiday Pic” so you can distinguish this from the hyperlinks.

3. Then check the box to “Render the URL as a banner instead of as a hyperlink.” Any URLs that are not images will be displayed in an ugly iframe. Your images should be approximately “Width of 500 and Height of 150.” SharePoint will trim any extra height and shrink your image if it’s too wide. Some might consider using image renditions in the publishing features, but this is not required if you simply link to an image that is already approximately those dimensions.

4. Adding a description is optional as it will not be used, but it can be specified.

5. Click “Save”.

6. You can now order your results. I recommended putting the visual best bet or banner result as the top result by choosing 1. Feel free to add additional hyperlink based best bets or recommended results, then click “save”.

You’re done!

Note: if the image is on another site collection from search then it may not render properly if: User doesn’t have permission to the image, if it’s on another protocol, if it’s on another site collection. This really is finicky, so you’ll need to play with your configuration if it doesn’t display. You will simply see a white box where the result should be if it doesn’t work.

Well, I hope you enjoyed this walk through. Now you just need to rinse and repeat for the other hundred or so best bets, right? Well, there are powershell scripts you can use to automate this, but you needed to walk through this once. As well, you can start to think about Context of your users by setting up User Segments such as by department or region. You may have different holiday calendars for different locations, for example. In addition, you may use best bets to point at key apps such as out of office request workflow forms, or you may integrate your backend system with a BA Insight connector to your HR system (Peoplesoft or TriNet) that can provide your number of days off and then allow you to request time off right through the SharePoint result. Let us help you integrate the REAL business value into key search scenarios that make a difference.

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