Forums/Documentation/Web portal (Zendesk Classic)

Optimizing your knowledge base search results (Web portal)

Anton de Young
posted this on September 24, 2012 09:13

Note: If you joined Zendesk on or after August 21, 2013, you have the Help Center instead of the Web portal. If you landed on this page by accident, see the articles on using the Help Center.

You have a number of options for improving your end-user Web portal search results so that they find the answers to their questions and don't need to request support via tickets. Helping your customers help themselves is referred to as self-service and the ability to easily find information via search is a key part of making that effective.

In addition to simple full text search of all the content in your web portal, Zendesk provides several search enhancements that help your end-users more quickly locate the information they need. These enhancements are core features of the search engine in Zendesk, which means that there's no need for you to configure or enable them for your Zendesk.

The first is advanced stemming. This a patent application pending feature and is only available in Zendesk. If you're familiar with search stemming, you know that if you search for "work" you'll also get search results of variations of that such as "works", "worked", "working", and "workflow". The advanced steaming available in Zendesk weights results based on how closely a variation matches the original search term. Using "work" as our example search term once again, the variation "works" will be weighted higher in the search results because it more closely matches what the user searched for. A variation such as "workflow" would then have less weight and appear lower in the list of search results.

The Zendesk search engine also boosts search results for content that matches an exact phrase search (which we refer to as implicit phrase queries). For example, if you search for a phrase such as "lost my password" (enclosed in quotes), any knowledge base content that contains that exact phrase is boosted higher in the search results. Any content containing "lost" and "my" and "password" as single words is returned lower in search results.

Search query auto suggestions

You can enhance your end-user Web portal search by enabling search query auto suggestions. This presents end-users with a list of search suggestions that appear when they begin entering a search query.

The suggestions are based on previous search queries by your end-users, which means that they are relevant to your knowledge base and therefore provide convenient shortcuts for locating frequently searched for content. Any search string queried at least five times by your end-users during the last 90 days can appear as a search suggestion.

This feature is enabled by default. You can turn it off (and on again) by following these steps.

To disable/enable auto-complete search queries

  1. Click the Admin icon () in the sidebar, then select Channels > Web portal.
    Zendesk Classic: Select the Settings menu, then Channels > Web portal > Edit.
  2. In the Search section, click the Auto-complete users search queries option.
  3. Click the Save button

Boosting search results for content created by agents or end-users

Many Zendesk customers provide knowledge base content in their Web portals and also allow their end-users to add comments and new articles. Doing so allows their community to ask questions, submit ideas, share tips, and so on. If your Web portal is a mix of both agent created and end-user created content, you have the option of weighting search results to favor either types of content. For example, if you want your official FAQs to appear before any end-user created content, you weight the search results to favor content created by your agents.

To boost knowledge base content by user type

  1. Click the Admin icon () in the sidebar, then select Channels > Web portal.
    Zendesk Classic: Select the Settings menu, then Channels > Web portal > Edit.
  2. In the Search section, set the slider to weight your search results to either agent created or end-user created content. You can also set this to 'neutral' (1:1) so that neither is weighted and search results are based only on search keyword relevance.

    Setting the ratio to favor agent created content by 4:1, for example, means the agent created content is four times more relevant than end-user created content.

    You can choose from the following boosting options:
    • Agents or End-users - Selecting either of these options means that those articles are returned first in search results. For example, if you select Agent, all articles created by agents are shown first, followed by any relevant articles created by your end-users.
    • 10:1 - Search results are boosted by a ratio of 10:1
    • 4:1 - Search results are boosted by a ratio of 4:1
    • 2:1 - Search results are boosted by a ratio of 2:1
    • 1:1 - Neither agent created nor end-user created articles are boosted; all search results are based on search keyword relevance and any search optimization (such as tags or phrases) you added to individual articles.
  3. Set the slider to the desired boosting ratio and then click the Save button.

Once you've set this up, you can monitor the effect over time by evaluating your search activity using search analytics. See Analyzing knowledge base search activity.

Boosting an article's search relevance with phrases (Enterprise)

In the Enterprise version of Zendesk, you have an additional tool for boosting articles to the top of your search results. This feature, referred to as article boosting, allows you to add relevant search phrases to your articles. Used in tandem with search analytics, you can first see what your users are searching for and then add those search words and phrases to your articles to push them higher up in search results. For more information on search analytics, see Analyzing knowledge base search activity.

Imagine that you have a Web portal with lots of both agent generated and end-user generated content. You've created a password FAQ that describes how to recover or reset passwords and you want that article to be listed first in search results. You'd probably add tags likepasswordandresetand so on to the article. Your users of course may be using different and perhaps more specific search query phrases such as: "lost password", "reset password", "change password", "password reset", "password new", "password recover", etc. By adding these search query phrases to the article itself, you dramatically boost its search relevance for users who enter the exact phrase in their search.

Using search phrases is a good way to account for variations and ensure that your users are finding the correct answers in their searches.

In the Enterprise version of Zendesk, there's no administrative setting to enable article boosting. It's added as part of the Enterprise plan.

To add article boosting phrases to an article
  1. Access your Web portal and create a new or select an existing article.
  2. Click the Edit link in the article.
  3. Add words or phrases to the article in the Phrases section, which is just below tags, then press Enter.
  4. Save the article.

Adding keywords and synonyms

If you want to return results for synonyms and related keywords, include the synonyms and keywords discreetly in the title or body of your article. The title and body have equal weight. Avoid keyword stuffing, which can actually harm your Google ranking. Google recommends that you focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context. For more information, see Keyword stuffing from Google.

If some keywords or synonyms don't fit in the title or body of your article, you can add them in the Tags section when editing the article. The Zendesk search engine treats tags like any other word in the article.

To add keywords and synonyms in the Tags section

  1. Access your Web portal and create a new or select an existing article.
  2. Click the Edit link in the article.
  3. Add keywords or synomyms in the Tags section below the text editor.
  4. Save the article.
 

Comments

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Jordi Torras
inbenta

If you want to maximize relevancy without having to enter hundreds of "Phrases" you can use Inbenta for Zendesk http://www.zendesk.com/apps/inbenta and save up to 65% of incoming tickets using Natural Language Processing

October 24, 2012 09:30
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David Crompton
absolutemarketing

I have 'auto complete' checked but don't seem to get auto complete when I search. Is there any obvious reason for this that I might be missing?

December 04, 2012 11:07
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Pierre Grenier
Product Manager

For the auto-complete results to show up you need your end-users to have queried the string at least 5 times over the last 90 days.

December 04, 2012 16:02
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David Crompton
absolutemarketing

Ah, there you go. Thanks Pierre!

December 04, 2012 16:41
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Trish Anderson
bostbenefits

Is the "Body" of the an article and/or the attachment searchable in the Web Portal's search menu? 

December 13, 2012 09:39
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Pierre Grenier
Product Manager

@Tanderson... the body is indexed.  However, we do not index attachments.

December 14, 2012 00:52
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Joe Spirk
sportinginnovations

Is there an ability to have an organic ranking system based on user 'ranking' of forum content? So that over time the most useful results will become more prevalent in search results.

December 26, 2012 07:35
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Pierre Grenier
Product Manager

Hi Joe, depends what you mean by "user".  If you mean agents and admin, then the answer is yes with Forum topic boosting.  If you talk about end-users, then I am not sure how you see this working, meaning how does end-user "rank" forum content.

January 02, 2013 23:42
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Joe Spirk
sportinginnovations

Thanks for the response Pierre. I agree the admin/agent aspect is key to avert potentially perverse outcomes as well as promote preferred content and answers.   

Essentially end-users rank the quality of an answer based on its efficacy. The ranking could either be a "yes, this solved the issue" or "no, it did not solve the issue". Alternatively, it could be a scale, How useful was this answer from "1 - not useful" to "10 - extremely useful". Over time the results of user searches within the knowledge base would incorporate the most relevant content but also an aspect of 'usefulness' so that the most 'highly ranked' relevant responses would rise to the top. This may not exist, and that is certainly acceptable. I'm most interested in maintaining an organically efficient knowledge base. This idea is one I think might be pertinent toward that end. 

January 03, 2013 14:13
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Pierre Grenier
Product Manager

Thank you Joe for clarifying the answer.  I can see this working on a per end-user basis... if you mark an article "not useful", then that article should be ranked lower the next time you search.  If it were across end-users, then I see that you should bound it to a specific search query (any user saying that Article A is "not useful" when searching for "XYZ" should be taken into consideration when another user searches for "XYZ" but should not be considered when searching for anything else).

Well, this is not supported today but your suggestions are good.

January 03, 2013 15:05
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Katrina Razavi
endplay

The article mentions that there is simple full text search of all the content in your web portal, does that apply even if the content in the knowledge base are PDF's? or must they be Zendesk articles? Thanks!

January 04, 2013 15:13
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Pierre Grenier
Product Manager

@Katrina... we do not index PDFs which are attached to topics.  For us to index the content, it has to be a Zendesk topic.

January 06, 2013 22:41
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Rafael Louzada

Are the tags in topics used only to generate relevance or can we filter searches by tags? I mean: can I filter my search based on a specific tag? Also, is that posible to search based on a time range? Thanks

February 21, 2013 08:30
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Anton de Young
Zendesk

Rafael, yes, tags are used for both search relevance and for search. For example, to search for tags in your forum topics you'd do a search like this: 

tags:my_tag type:topic

And yes on searching by date range: 

Searching within a date range

You can search within a date range, for example August 1st, 2011 through August 5th, 2011, using the following search statement:
created>2011-08-01 created<2011-08-05

The search reference is here: https://support.zendesk.com/entries/20239737-Zendesk-search-reference

 

February 21, 2013 08:38
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Todd Zabel
Hearsay Social

It would be awesome to have this for the Plus plan....

March 03, 2013 16:01
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Maggie Hannon

Are there any options at all on the Plus plan to add keywords to articles/topics?  I need a way to be able to direct search results to specific topics depending on what users are searching for. 

April 02, 2013 14:32
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Anton de Young
Zendesk

Maggie, 

In Plus you can add tags to articles. Like Search Phrases (available only in Enterprise), tags will help to boost the article to the top of the search results. 

April 03, 2013 11:40
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Maggie Hannon

I'm not seeing where the function is to add tags while I'm in Edit mode for an article.  What's the trick to finding that?  

April 03, 2013 11:50
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Anton de Young
Zendesk

Maggie, 

You should see it directly below the editor. If you're not seeing it, please send an email to support@zendesk.com and one of our agents will help you troubleshoot. 

April 03, 2013 13:25
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Brian Adkins
precisionlender

Is there a way to get the search box in ALL forums to be a global search instead of a localized forum search?

We spend a lot of time telling our users to make sure they always search from the "home" page if they want to get a full set of results

Maybe with a JS widget?

May 06, 2013 07:04
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Todd Zabel
Hearsay Social

+1 to Brian's comment about getting universal search no matter where you are in the Zendesk web portal :)

May 06, 2013 07:44
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Casem AbuLughod
Zendesk

Brian and Todd,

That is a great question. Making that kind of change to your search wouldn't be possible within the current setup of your Zendesk and would probably require some custom work. I believe Brian is on the right track with the JS widget, since you could probably do something in Javascript that would hide the granular search that comes up the deeper you go into your forums. If you don't have the resources to code this internally, we have a services department that could do this for you on a contract basis.

May 10, 2013 11:58
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Allen Lai
bitcasa

Is there a way to customize the search bar to search in a specific category?

May 20, 2013 16:40
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Anton de Young
Zendesk

Allen, 

No, that's not possible. You need to click into a category to search just that category. 

May 23, 2013 06:51
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Kevin Collins

Pierre said: "For the auto-complete results to show up you need your end-users to have queried the string at least 5 times over the last 90 days."

 

We are close to unveiling our company's Zendesk support KB, however for the time being, we will not show any log-in link and customers are being supported via email only. My question: Do the end-users need to be logged in, or will this work for anon users searching and influencing the results? 

 

May 31, 2013 14:46
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Brian Adkins
precisionlender

I was able to get the search in every forum to be a global search with a simple bit of JS applied via a global JS widget.

 

The two tweaks that need to be made are:

  • set the form's action to
        "/categories/search"
    instead of the default which looks something like this:
        "/forums/21562558-Feature-Requests/entries/search"
  • add a new element to the form:
    <input id="forum_id" name="forum_id" type="hidden" value="0">

This results in a search form on every form that acts identically (the home page search is still slightly different, but has same results)

June 03, 2013 15:01
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Jennifer Rowe
Zendesk

Brian, thanks for sharing your solution! Would you be willing to write it as a tip in our Community tips forum (https://support.zendesk.com/forums/3199-Community-tips-tricks)? That would make it more discoverable for other users! Thanks again!

June 03, 2013 16:44
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Kevin Collins

[I found the answer to my question, which is, there is no difference between anon or logged in users getting different search results with type-as-you-go]

June 03, 2013 16:50
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Jennifer Rowe
Zendesk

Thanks for letting us know, Kevin!

June 03, 2013 17:04
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Brian Adkins
precisionlender
June 04, 2013 08:44
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Jennifer Rowe
Zendesk

Thanks for doing that Brian! It's already generated some enthusiasm. We'll promote it in social media soon too. 

June 04, 2013 12:46
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Marisa
love

Is it possible to have the auto-suggest function working in the "Submit a request"  fields?  Both the subject line and the text body? 

June 12, 2013 02:24
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Dr. J
Zendesk

Hi Marisa - great question!

The functionality you’re looking for, with auto-suggest currently is not available on the submit a request form, as it’s a static page.

But -

you can borrow the code from your Feedback Tab via that link, and hide/replace your Submit a request button on the user web portal via JavaScript when someone clicks Submit, the “Feedback Tab” with the auto-suggest would pop up, rather than your standard ticket form.

This is sneaky, and would require some help from a web developer, but should work for you. :)

Thank you very much!

August 01, 2013 09:18
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Ben Crouch

Hi guys

I am on the plus plan and I cannot see tags on my articles. Can someone please advise? thanks

ben

October 21, 2013 07:28
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Emily
Zendesk

Hi Ben, 

 

You should definitely have access to the tags feature on Plus. I'm creating a ticket on your behalf so we can investigate what's going on. I'll see you in that ticket shortly. 

October 21, 2013 14:50