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Earlier last month we announced improvements coming to search in SharePoint Online (  As we continue to innovate across Microsoft Search to bring you a better, more precise search experience – we’re making some changes and improvements to search in SharePoint Online.


No matter where people work or what kind of device they use, they need the ability to quickly and easily find the information that will help them be more productive. As part of our continued effort to bring Microsoft Search to all your favorite productivity apps and services we’re making changes and improvements to several classic search experiences in SharePoint.


Changes and improvements to the query experience in SharePoint Online


Updates to FQL (FAST Query Language)

As we continue to modernize Microsoft Search, we’ll retire some elements of FQL described below in February 2021.


FAST Query Language (FQL) is a powerful query language that enables developers to perform exact searches and to narrow the scope of search to values that belong to a specific managed property or a full-text index. The FQL query language is only intended for programmatic query integration.


As part of this deprecation several operators related to FQL will be removed.  Beginning on <DATE> the following FQL operators will be removed:


COUNT operator 

The COUNT operator In FQL specifies the of number query term occurrences an item must include for the item to be returned as a result. 


FILTER operator 

The FILTER operator in FQL is used to query metadata or other structured data.  Once this operator is retired, the FILTER operator will be ignored.  This change will not impact the user experience; however, ranking of results may change.


Dynamic rank ‘weight’ parameter to the ‘string’ operator 

Enables custom ranking where the expressions enclosed in the affected string() operator will get a different rank. This change will not impact the user experience; however, ranking of results may change. 

Per string configuration of linguistics on/off 

Enables linguistics control where stemming is not applied to the expressions enclosed in the affected string() operator.  This change will not impact the user experience; however, ranking of results may change.


Per string configuration of wildcard on/off 

Enables wildcard expansion control where the expected behavior is that when set to off then any wildcard character in the string must be treated as a character.  This change will not impact the user experience; however, ranking of results may change.


FQL dynamic rank difference between OR and ANY 

The ANY operator, is like the OR operator except that the dynamic rank (the relevance score in the result is affected by neither the number of operands that match nor the distance between the terms in the item. The OR operator in FQL is returns only items that match at least one of the OR operands. Items that match will get a higher dynamic rank if more of the OR operands match.  Once this operator is retired, the ANY operator will be implemented similarly to the OR operator.


We recommend, where applicable, using the default SharePoint query language, KQL where your business requirements can be similarly met.


KQL is the default query language for building search queries. Using KQL, you specify the search terms or property restrictions that are passed to the SharePoint search service.


Learn more about KQL query syntax at


Search Query Rules

Search Query Rules in SharePoint help support the users’ search intent, by creating pre-defined rules which apply to the user queries.  In a query rule, you specify conditions and correlated actions. When a query meets the set conditions, search performs the actions to improve the relevance of the search results. 


For example, you might specify a condition that checks whether the query matches a term in a SharePoint term set, or another condition that checks whether the query is frequently performed on a particular search vertical in your search system, such as Videos. 


Beginning on February 1st, 2021 we’ll be removing the following conditions in SharePoint


  • Context condition: Category 

  • Context condition: User segment 

  • Query condition: Taxonomy 

  • Found in query condition option “Query matches dictionary exactly.” 

  • Found in query condition option “Query contains action term.” 

    • Found in query condition option “Advanced Query Text Match.” 

  • Query condition: Common query 

  • Query condition: Commonly clicked property 

  • Query condition: Regular expression 

In addition to these changes, we’ll additionally deprecate the following out-of-the-box query rules that take a dependency on the conditions to be deprecated:  


  • Location in People Search (depends on Taxonomy query condition) 

  • Location in SharePoint Search (depends on Taxonomy query condition) 

    • Phone Number in People Search (depends on Regular expression query condition)  

    • Phone Number in SharePoint Search (depends on Regular expression query condition)  

    • Tags in People Search (depends on Regular expression query condition)  

    • Tags in Conversation Search (depends on Regular expression query condition)  

    • People Expertise Search 

NOTE These deprecations only apply to classic search experiences, they do not affect the modern search experiences.  


For scenarios in which you would like to promote a result above existing ranked results, Microsoft Search provides a set of Answers, both editorial and AI mined, that can be used in place of classic search functionality such as Best Bets and Promoted Results.


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.  Learn more about Microsoft Search Answers at


Changes and improvements to relevance in SharePoint Online


Changes to Authoritative Pages

Currently, as a global or SharePoint admin in Microsoft 365, you can influence the pages or documents that should appear at the top of your list of search results by identifying high-quality pages, also known as authoritative pages. Authoritative pages link to the most relevant information. A typical example of an authoritative page could be the home page of your company portal.  Beginning February 1, 2021, we’ll remove the ability to configure authoritative pages in SharePoint Online.


Like query rules, Answers in Microsoft Search can be implemented to influence specific sites, documents, and more to promote a result above ranked results.  Refer to the information above to learn more about Answers in Microsoft Search.


Improving Personal Favorites

Search is something we use every day, a lot, and it’s hard to keep track of what you last searched for now you’ll no longer need to search for what you’ve searched for adding a new option to view and manage your personal query history.


In SharePoint Online, personal favorites were used to display previous queries when a threshold was met, for example, if frequently searching for “Contoso Marketing Presentation”, this query would become a candidate to be displayed in search.  Beginning February 1, 2021, we’ll remove personal favorites and recommend personal query history in Microsoft Search.


With personal query history, you’ll see your recent queries as you begin typing in the search box to help you get back to insights and information you recently used or accessed so you’ll no longer have to bookmark your queries or memorize the right query to get you back to where you were. Your personal query history can be managed through your Office 365 My Account settings and new My Account privacy controls allow you to delete your query history or download your query history for future reference.


To learn more about Microsoft Search in SharePoint visit  To watch related sessions from Microsoft Ignite visit

Brought to you by Dr. Ware, Microsoft Office 365 Silver Partner, Charleston SC.

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