Should I stay or should I go…Bookmarks vs Promoted Results

What’s a promoted result?

In brief, Promoted Results are a component of query results that allow you to promote a search result to appear above ranked results. For example, for the query “sick leave”, a query rule could specify a particular result, such as a link to a site that has a statement of company policy regarding time off work or otherwise, the promoted result link.

What’s a Bookmark?

Bookmarks are one of many Answers in Microsoft Search.

Answers are highly relevant and high confidence results that satisfy a user’s intent expressed as a query/question in search.

An Answer is a way to address user intent. When searching, the user typically types in characters and keywords to express an intent. Recognizing the keywords that are triggers for specific intents is important, but it is even more important that the content that is shown in search satisfies the user intent.  

Answers are useful when you want to promote a search result to appear above ranked results. For example, for the query “sick leave”, you could specify a particular result, such as a link to a site that has a statement of company policy regarding time off work.  You can think of Answers as being navigational aids to assist employees in getting directions to the information that matters most to help them keep productive and informed.

Similar to Promoted Results in SharePoint, Bookmark Answers are designed to help employees way find the organization and quickly identify the best and most relevant resource curated by you or your organization such as authoritative sites or documents to satisfy the searchers’ intent.  Examples of Bookmark Answers can include sites, documents, or even files such as the Human Resources site, policy document, or more.

When to use what?

While Promoted Results and Bookmarks provide similar functionality in respect to promoting curated resources to user’s, Promoted Results are a classic search component based on Best Bets (introduced with SharePoint Server 2010) with limited functionality when compared to Bookmarks (which are a feature of Microsoft Search).  Bookmarks, unlike Promoted Results support a variety of capabilities from presentation, targeting, and integration with other Microsoft 365 apps and services.  For example, a Bookmark created with Microsoft Search will display in apps and services to include SharePoint, Outlook, Office.com, Bing, and Microsoft Teams.

 Promoted ResultsBookmark Answers
Supports Banner DisplayYY
Supports TitleYY
Supports URLYY
Supports DescriptionYY
Supports App Integration (E.g. PowerApps)NY (PowerApps)
Supports Reserved KeywordsNY
Supports SchedulingYY
Supports Targeting by CountryNY
Supports Targeting by LanguageNY
Supports Targeting by GroupNY
Supports Targeting by OS or DeviceNY
Supports Targeted VariationsNY
Supports Display in other Microsoft 365 apps and servicesNY
Fires on condition: Query matches keyword exactlyYY
Fires on condition: Query Contains Action TermYY
Fires on condition: Query Matches Dictionary ExactlyYN
Query More Common in SourceYN
Result Type Commonly ClickedYY (via Related)
Supports condition: Advanced Query Text MatchYY

Creating Bookmarks

You can create a bookmark in just a few steps. Each bookmark includes a title, a URL, and a set of keywords that trigger it. You can also add categories to a bookmark that can be used for sorting and filtering in the admin portal.  Use the Import or Export feature to bulk create or edit bookmarks. It makes adding or editing many bookmarks faster and easier.

Bookmark in the SharePoint SERP

Bookmarks can be configured with the following options:

Keywords:  Keywords specify the search terms commonly used to find the Bookmark.

Reserved Keywords:  Reserved keywords are used when you want to ensure the bookmark shows for a specific keyword.  Reserved keywords override all other keywords, for example: Time Off

Category:  Categories allow for organization and grouping a collection of keywords.  For example, if you have multiple Bookmarks to a variety of working from home resources, you can categorize them into a Remote Work category.

Dates: Allow you to specify when a Bookmark Answer should be presented in the SERP.  Date presentation is useful when you want to have a Bookmark appear and subsequently expire from the SERP, such as supporting an event or product launch.

Country or Region:  Allows you to specify the target country or region for where the Bookmark Answer should appear in the SERP

Groups: Allow you to specify a security group for which the Bookmark should appear in the SERP.

Device and OS:  Allow you to specify the device and/or OS the user is using to determine whether or not the Bookmark should appear in the SERP, for example, you may want to present device specific information the query not only satisfies the user’s intent, but also is applicable to their device whether PC (Windows or Mac) or mobile device (iOS or Android).

Targeted Variations:  Targeted variations are useful when you want the Bookmark to appear in the SERP with different content based on device, country, region, or both.  The Date and Group settings are considered when using targeted variations.

App ID:  The App ID setting is used when you would like to embed a PowerApp in the Bookmark, for example, if you have a PowerApp to record employee vacation requests, you can embed it in the Bookmark.

Bookmark administration in Microsoft Search

Migrating Promoted Results

If your organization set up Promoted Results in SharePoint, you can import the Promoted Results into Microsoft Search and make the imported content available to your users. This is an easy way to quickly populate search results as soon as you set up Microsoft Search and make it more effective for your users. We recommend using promoted results from SharePoint as a reference to understand how to name and create relevant search results.

Resources

Learn more about Answers in Microsoft Search at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftsearch/plan-your-content.

Hindsight is 360

Hindsight is 2020, or for me, 360. I’m humbled to be writing this post, having joined Microsoft a few short weeks before the XBOX 360 was released, just shy of 15 years ago.

As a humble kid from Germany who joined Microsoft by way of Colorado – it has been an amazing journey.

That journey has been amazing, challenging, and rewarding. I had a dream of becoming of a veterinarian…and in the early 1990’s that is what I had majored in – and by a strange turn of events, I ended up realizing my true passion while accidentally working at Apple (to make ends meet) in the early to mid-1990’s working as a storage engineer on the Apple Power Macintosh 7 series. That accident started in the late 1980’s when my parents bought me a Commodore 64, later replaced with the 128D where I spent my time pouring over Commodore’s PET BASIC samples – at that time it never seemed like something I’d pursue as a career as much as a hobby.

Flash forward to mid-1990’s when I applied at Apple in an effort to pay down student loan debt – I spent a couple of years working on the 7’s storage when, at the time, I received an offer I couldn’t refuse at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) – the largest brain trust at the time. I spent about 18 months there before moving about First Data Corporation and Quantum (where I worked on DLP’s) before rejoining DEC.

Over time, DEC became Compaq and Compaq became HP – during that time I went from storage engineering to True64 to HPUX.

Then the phone call came – a good friend at Microsoft said they were going to change the world…change the world by bringing by software to the cloud and needed someone who knew storage… I couldn’t resist the challenge…

Welcome to SharePoint Online, or at that time, Microsoft Managed Solutions. I accepted the offer and started my Microsoft journey designing the storage architecture for SharePoint “in the cloud”, and later writing software to address customers’ needs – Recycle Bin, Timer Jobs, etc.

Over the course of time, MMS became BPOS, Office 365, and finally Microsoft 365.

I’m both honored and privileged to have had such an unexpected journey – and every day where I now work on Microsoft Search, I realize I have the opportunity to touch millions of lives and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.

This is outside of my usual technical or informatory posts, so would be interested if a topic such as this would be of interest in the future… or if anyone wants to know “the rest of the story“.

Making the most of Answers in Microsoft Search

What are Answers in Microsoft Search?

An Answer is a highly relevant and high confidence result that satisfies a user intent expressed as a query/question in search, presenting the most relevant information needed to get a job done and help users to faster task completion.

An Answer is a way to address user intent. When searching, the user typically types in characters and keywords to express an intent. Recognizing the keywords that are triggers for specific intents is important, but it is even more important that the content that is shown in search satisfies the user intent.  

Answers are useful when you want to promote a search result to appear above ranked results. For example, for the query “sick leave”, you could specify a particular result, such as a link to a site that has a statement of company policy regarding time off work.  You can think of Answers as being navigational aids to assist employees in getting directions to the information that matters most to help them keep productive and informed.

In Microsoft Search, an Answer can come from a variety of sources. The examples below are not meant to be exhaustive. An Answer can be anything that helps fulfil the user’s intent.  

  • Some types of answers can be manually curated by the tenant admin. Examples include editorial Bookmarks, Acronyms, QnA, Locations, and Floorplans. 
  • Answers can be entities that exist in Azure Active Directory: People, Groups, Apps 
  • Answers can be user-created content that exactly matches the user’s intent: News, Files, Sites.. 
  • Answers can be knowledge or entities mined from content or communications.

What kinds of Answers are there?

Calendar

Calendar Answers in Outlook represent a high confidence result that satisfies the searchers original intent.  For example, for a Calendar Answer, “meeting” is a primary intent. “Accept a meeting” contains a sub-intent, “Accept”.  An example query that would trigger a Calendar Answer could be “my next 1:1” or “my next meeting”.

Calendar Answer in Outlook

People

Often when you are searching for an entity in the enterprise context, you need to rely on knowing at least part of the entity title or exact keywords to search for. People Answers are designed to change how we think about an entity we don’t know the name of. For example, we often remember who created or edited the document, but can’t really remember it’s name. In a traditional search scenario, we’d and search for “<first-name> <last-name>”, and the results presented would be a set of entities that contain the words “<first-name> <last-name>” in them.  People Answers are designed to allow you to search around a person – consider the scenario below.

Daisy is an employee at Contoso and wants to find a document that Jane Smith has worked on. The document is shared with Daisy, but she can’t remember the name of the document. Daisy opens Office.com, types “Jane” in the search box and clicks on the suggestion for “Jane Smith”. On the SERP Daisy finds the document she is looking for.

An example query that would trigger a People Answer could be “Megan” ,”Megan Bowen’s Office”, or “Megan Bowen’s Calendar”

People Answer in SharePoint

File

File answers, coming soon to Outlook (web), allow you to narrow your search to a file or link within an email suggestive of a file using natural syntax containing file name, author of the file, sender of the email that contains a file or just the file type across attachments you’ve received in addition to files someone shared with you on a Teams chat or your files in OneDrive For Business and SharePoint.

Location

Location Answers help you find addresses and location buildings and places by providing accurate location information, directions, and navigation assistance.  For example, Location Answers can be offices, campuses, buildings, or points of interest.

As best practice, you should consider adding all the important locations of your organization. Unlike Bookmarks and QnA, the index is not refreshed immediately, and it can take several hours for new or changed locations to appear in search results.

Location Answer in SharePoint

Bookmark

Similar to Promoted Results in SharePoint, Bookmark Answers are designed to help employees way find the organization and quickly identify the best and most relevant resource curated by you or your organization such as authoritative sites or documents to satisfy the searchers’ intent.  Examples of Bookmark Answers can include sites, documents, or even files such as the Human Resources site, policy document, or more.

Bookmark Answer in SharePoint

Each bookmark includes a title, a URL, and a set of keywords that trigger it. You can also add categories to a bookmark that can be used for sorting and filtering in the admin portal. A bookmark can have several keywords and several bookmarks can share the same keyword, but reserved keyword can’t be shared. When a Bookmark is created or modified, the search index is refreshed immediately, and the bookmark is available to users immediately.

As best practice when creating bookmark answers, consider how a bookmark best represents a means to an end.  For example, you may find through Microsoft Search insights, employees are commonly searching for “time off”.  In this scenario, if your organization has a formal site or process for requesting time off, you may consider creating a bookmark answer to promote this site or process so it shows up at the top of the search results when employees are searching for this topic or guidance.  In addition, you can use insights to understand the various keywords your employees are using to help ensure this answer is presented consistently.  For example, “time off”, “vacation balance”, “pto”, etc.  Bookmark answers can also be used to help employees complete a task as well by integrating Power Apps into the answer, so for this scenario you can help your employees complete tasks, such as entering vacation time or reporting expenses, by adding existing Power Apps to your bookmarks.

In addition, consider reserved keywords for important Bookmark Answers as a Bookmark can have several keywords and Bookmarks can share the same keyword, but reserved keyword can’t be shared. When a bookmark is created or modified, the search index is refreshed immediately, and the bookmark is available to users immediately. 

NOTE where Bookmark and Q&A Answers share the same keywords, the Bookmark answer is prioritized in the SERP.

For more information on Bookmark answers see also https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftsearch/manage-bookmarks.

Q&A

Q&A Answers are like Bookmarks with the difference in that they allow you to answer the user’s questions instead of just providing a link to a webpage. You can also format the answer in rich text. If a bookmark and a Q&A share the same keyword, the bookmark result is shown first. Like bookmarks, the Q&A index is refreshed immediately after a Q&A is added or changed.

Q&A Answer in SharePoint

For experimental purposes you can download a set of sample QnA’s here.

Acronyms

Did you know the world’s longest acronym, according to the Guinness Book of World Records is NIIOMTPLABOPARMBETZHELBETRABSBOMONIMONKONOTDTEKHSTROMONT?

Often, we come across unfamiliar acronyms at work. Sometimes, these terms could even mean specific to different teams, projects, or organizations. Finding the meaning of acronyms at work is now easier than ever using natural language queries across Microsoft 365 apps and services. For example, you can query ‘Define DNN’, ‘What is DNN’, ‘Meaning of DNN’ etc. to see all the definitions of DNN used within your organization. Definitions are both mined from the content you have access to and curated by your organizations, Microsoft 365 administrator.

Acronym Answer in SharePoint

Acronyms answers are currently available in SharePoint and Office.com (in English) in addition to Bing.com (in English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and Italian) and soon in Outlook web, Outlook mobile, Teams mobile, Office apps like Word, Excel and PowerPoint in English and additional languages.

Acronyms answers can be both created and curated by admins and editors in addition to those that are mined from documents and conversations.

For experimental purposes you can download a set of sample Acronym Answers here that represent a list of U.S. States by abbreviation including their expansion, description as provided by Wikipedia data, and Url linking to their official, respective website.

Floorplan

Floorplans help you navigate offices and their surroundings at your organization. To scale floorplan architectures, Floorplans files must be in DWG format; DWG files can contain text labels. When a text label marks a room, it is called a room label. The DWG file must have at least 10 rooms marked with labels.  DWG is required to process metadata and correlate between Microsoft AAD and these architectures. 

Floor Plans and Locations are available at 100% GA on Bing.com, Office.com and SharePoint.com.

Resources

Learn how to plan content for Microsoft Search at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoftsearch/plan-your-content

A primer in machine reading comprehension

If you’ve been following the various news and announcements from Microsoft on Microsoft Search at events like Build and Microsoft Ignite, you’ve probably come across a demo or two on Machine Reading Comprehension (MRC). For example, a search for “Can I bring my dog to work?” in Microsoft Search in Bing.

Let’s explore what MRC is…

In brief, MRC is the ability to read and understand unstructured text and then answer questions about it or effectively algorithms that can learn to answer questions about new documents with limited amounts of training data, incorporate common sense, and leverage external knowledge about the world. Our primary goal is questioning-answering in the real world: we envision an experience where getting the answers you need to complex questions about your documents is simple, effective, and intuitive.

In 2018 we shared an article describing how Microsoft researchers have created technology that uses artificial intelligence to read a document and answer questions about it about as well as a human.

It’s a major milestone in the push to have search engines such as Bing and intelligent assistants such as Cortana interact with people and provide information in more natural ways, much like people communicate with each other.

For example, today, you can ask Bing a question such as “how long does coca-cola last?”, and get an answer most appropriate to the question asked… but it’s more than that…

A key, additive component of most MRC models is semantic understanding. For example, using the question above, using semantic understanding, search retrieves documents on “soda”. Traditional search experiences would conversely do keyword matching and simply attempt to find one or more documents or articles that have “coca-cola” in them. However, using deep learning, search engines such as Bing, understand that Coca-Cola is a soda, and retrieves related documents and articles (even though it doesn’t have word “Coca-Cola” in it) that satisfies the user’s intent.

Semantic Search Quick Shot.2019-12-04 11_46_27

Above, Machine reading comprehension and semantic understanding in Microsoft Search

To summarize, in search applications, machine comprehension will give a precise answer rather than a URL that contains the answer somewhere within a lengthy web page. Moreover, machine comprehension models can understand specific knowledge embedded in articles that usually cover narrow and specific domains, where the search data that algorithms depend upon is sparse.

To learn more about deep learning and MRC refer to the articles below:

Machine Reading Comprehension

Microsoft creates AI that can read a document and answer questions about it as well as a person

Deep learning and machine reading comprehension

4 simple tips to being more productive in 2020 with AI and Cortana in Microsoft 365

Time is our most valuable resource and with the rapid pace of work and ever expanding amount of information we need to process, it’s often hard to find time to manage our work.  AI and Cortana in Microsoft 365 puts you at the center so you can do your best work with intelligent, natural, and personalized productivity experiences.  Here are four tips to being more productive in 2020 with AI in Microsoft 365.

  1. Make time for focus
  2. Put your personal assistant to work
  3. Get a head start on your day
  4. Stay informed

Make time to focus

Create a focus plan in MyAnalytics and rule your day.

Productivity preferences are different for everyone, but experts on deep work report that setting aside regular blocks of time to focus on challenging work can have massive benefits. With a focus plan, MyAnalytics will help you establish a daily focus time routine. The focus plan will offer you the flexibility to have daily focus time booked automatically based on your availability, or surface suggestions to book focus time manually as you work in Outlook. The automatic booking algorithm will prioritize booking morning hours, if they are open, so you can be at your peak capacity for tackling challenging analytics tasks.

Focus Plan.2019-12-05 09_18_33

The focus plan in MyAnalytics helps you set aside regular focus time for your top-priority work. This plan helps you schedule one to two hours every day to focus, with an option to book that time automatically. During the booked focus time, it silences chats in Teams and in Skype for Business.

Learn more about focus plans in MyAnalytics at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/workplace-analytics/myanalytics/use/focus-plan.

Put your personal assistant to work

Get control of your calendar with Scheduler.

Often the hardest part of meetings is scheduling them, whether finding the right time or the right location.  Let Cortana help manage the logistics so you can focus on the purpose.  Simply let Cortana know your meeting needs in the body of the email. You can tell Cortana the duration, timing, or location, or simply say “Find a time for us.” Since Cortana understands natural language, there are no special commands to use.

Scheduler Demo.2019-12-05 09_07_32

With the speed of artificial intelligence and the personal touch of a human assistant, it’s the best of both worlds. Cortana communicates with your contacts by email to provide a natural, almost human, scheduling experience.

Learn more at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/scheduler?rtc=1 and sign-up for the exclusive preview.

Get a head start on your day

Get productivity tips from where you’re already working.

Information moves quickly and it’s not always easy staying on top of tasks and commitments.  Have you ever missed an important email or forget a commitment you made to your co-workers? Do meetings and emails tend to take over your calendar? Do you ever wish to see reminders for 1:1 meetings with your manager, direct reports, or other top collaborators? Would you like to be notified if an upcoming meeting doesn’t have a quorum?

Let the Outlook Insights add-in help you stay on top of your e-mail, tasks, and more.  The Outlook add-in provides actionable insights to help you stay on top of your tasks and get more done. This add-in is an extension of your Outlook experience and works within Outlook to help you gain focus time, maintain your work relationships, and improve your overall work-life balance.

Insights

MyAnalytics can also help you follow up on requests you asked of others in email. MyAnalytics will automatically find tasks you requested of others based on your sent mails. For example:

  • “Can you send me this year’s latest report?”
  • “Everyone, please complete your performance evaluations by the end of the week.”
  • “Cancel my RSVP for Carrin Patman’s lunch scheduled early next week.”

Learn more about the Insights Outlook add-in at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/workplace-analytics/myanalytics/use/add-in.

Stay informed

Let Microsoft Search help you find what’s important and trending around you.

Let’s face it, we’re inundated with more information than ever.  Microsoft Search helps you discover what’s trending around you so you can keep informed and get back to what you were working on easily.  Whether you’re looking for a file in SharePoint or a conversation in Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Search is there to help.

Microsoft Search in Office.com.2019-12-05 11_45_57

Learn more about Microsoft Search at https://aka.ms/MicrosoftSearch.

Learn more about AI and Cortana in Microsoft 365 and get more productivity tips at https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2019/11/04/ai-cortana-microsoft-365-people-at-the-center/.