Flare Tip Tuesday: Improving search results

Okay. Today is actually Wednesday. In some places in the world, search it’s already Thursday. But I haven’t posted for several months, symptoms so you’ll have to cut me a little slack. Let’s pretend it is Tuesday.

Today’s post comes in response to some Flare consulting I was doing last week, treat and was further prompted by a conversation I had with a co-worker about improving Flare’s search results.

First, if you peruse the MadCap forums, you’ve probably seen several posts on search results, with many users claiming that they have a hard time getting relevant topics to appear at the top of the search results. The responses to these questions usually deal with the technical function of the search feature in Flare, but in many cases don’t provide much actionable information for the person who can’t get a relevant topic to appear at the top of the search results.

Additionally, I was searching a MadCap Flare generated help system at work yesterday. I knew the exact name of the topic I was searching for, but when I entered that into the search form, the topic I wanted (again, an exact match to the search term) came up fifth in the search result list.

There are some coding changes that I would love to see implemented in Flare (such as utilizing index key words a key terms for search results), but barring a change to the back end code, every day Flare users need some way to improve how a specific topic appears in search results for a key word or key phrase. That is what today’s Flare Tip Tuesday is here to help you with.

Where to begin? Open Flare to the topic you want to modify.

Now, you will want to open your style sheet, and create a class of “P”. I’ll call mine HiddenTerms.

Frankly, the easiest way to do this is to open the style sheet in the internal text editor, and at the end of the document, paste the following text:

p.HiddenTerms {

display:none;

}

Now save your style sheet and go back to the topic you want to modify.

Somewhere in your document (it doesn’t matter where, really; I generally place mine on a new line right after the title) add a new paragraph, and type in your key word search terms. Using the style panel, set the style for that paragraph to p.HiddenTerms. Generate your output.

Now when you search for a term that you included in that paragraph, the affected topic should show up higher in the search results.

You should be aware that since the text is hidden, it obviously can’t be highlighted, so you user won’t be able to scan down the page to find the highlighted term. If that is an issue for you, then you will want to try to solve this problem a different way.

You can also use this same tip to add keywords to an image or to a video. Since Flare doesn’t know what the content of a video or image is, it can’t use that to help improve search. But you can create a hidden paragraph of text directly before or after the video or image, and load it with key word terms, so that your customer can find that image or video when they search for the proper term.

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3 Responses to Flare Tip Tuesday: Improving search results

  1. Tom Johnson October 28, 2010 at 12:34 pm #

    This page on Flare's search algorithm is also helpful:

    http://userassistance.com/tips/flare_tip_search_rankings.html

  2. Melanie November 5, 2010 at 7:52 am #

    Paul – I like your blog; thanks especially for the Flare tips. I also really like your portfolio done in Flare. Happened to see that link in a Madcap Forum post you answered a while back and clicked on it.
    Regards,
    Melanie
    (User of Flare 6.1 and Analyzer X – can’t remember the version offhand; not on my PC here in the office.)

  3. Julious June 7, 2016 at 1:57 pm #

    I just stumbled across this post and I think you’ve made my day! Thanks for this powerful suggestion. I’m in Flare 11 and this STILL works- I needed a way to expand search for some items in my output and this did the trick wonderfully well.

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