Influence SharePoint 2010 Search Result Page Ranking with Authoritative Pages

Many ingredients go in to the SharePoint 2010 Search Engine algorithm. We reviewed them all during this year’s presentation at the SharePoint .ORG Conference in Baltimore, MD. They include: Contextual Relevance, Metadata Extraction, Automatic Language Detection, File Type Biasing, Click Distance, Anchor Text, URL Depth and URL Matching. Since the conference, I’ve received a number of follow-up questions pertaining specifically to Authoritative Pages (which falls under the “Click Distance” category). This article aims to explain the concept of an Authoritative Page and walk you through setting them up.

When a user enters a search term into your SharePoint 2010 Search box and clicks search they are presented with a results page. A LOT goes into turning that innocent click into highly relevant results. The SharePoint 2010 Search Engine delivers highly relevant results because it has a robust search algorithm which decides how to rank the results. The search algorithm determines if a particular result (link) is on page 1 position 1 or on page 17 position 3. It’s the search algorithm that takes Contextual Relevance, Metadata Extraction, Automatic Language Detection, File Type Biasing, Click Distance, Anchor Text, URL Depth and URL Matching all into account in deciding how results rank.

Although it has served the Search Engine world well to NOT trust humans (a hard learned lesson stemming back to Yahoo! and friends), the SharePoint 2010 Search allows you to at least influence one of the ingredients which help determine a pages rank. Enter Authoritative Pages.

Authoritative Pages fall under the “Click Distance” ingredient. An Authoritative Page is a page which you have declared as, well…, somehow better than the rest. You can actually have as many Authoritative Pages as you need and at different levels of Authority. You are essentially saying that a page should be considered a better match for any given search term that qualifies it as a result candidate. Keep in mind this is merely one ingredient (or category) which is carefully scrutinized on the algorithm used for ranking results. Declaring an Authoritative Page does not guarantee it will rank well for every search term used (and it shouldn’t).

How to create an Authoritative Page
Authoritative Pages are created and managed from the SharePoint 2010 Central Administration site. To create an Authoritative Page:

1. Go to your SharePoint 2010 Central Administration site.

2. Go to Mange Service Applications (under Application Management).
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3. Click on “Search Service Application” (the top one, not the proxy one).
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4. Click on “Authoritative Pages” (under Queries and Results in left nav).
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Now you can enter the full URL to the page you wish to set as an Authoritative Page (Example: http://intranet/site-directory.html).

You have 3 levels of Authoritative Pages to choose from:

· Most authoritative pages

· Second-level authoritative pages

· Third-level authoritative pages

Additionally, from this page you can actually specify sites to demote using (none other than) the “Sites to demote” box.

After entering your URL’s, ensure the “Refresh now” box is checked. This does not trigger a crawl but it does update itself and applies your new settings to its search result rankings.

Note: always make sure after clicking the “OK” button that it is not currently crawling or updating the Search Scopes. If it is, wait until it has completed before testing out your changes.

To test your changes, I always perform a search and note the location of the page rank (Example: page 1 position 7). Then I make the Authoritative Page entry and re-test the same search to see how it was influenced.

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About Sean Bordner

CEO, Solution Architect, Co-Author of SharePoint for Nonprofits, Contributing Author NothingButSharePoint.com MCT, MCTS, MCSD, MCP, MCAD
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