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Navigation Between Site Collections

A SharePoint Online tutorial by Peter Kalmström

SharePoint iconIt is recommended that you create several site collections, for example one for each department, instead of having everything in just one site collection. It will be easier to manage, and you can set different permissions on each site collection. It is however important to have a smooth navigation between the site collections.

In the demos below Peter Kalmstrom, CEO and Systems Designer of kalmstrom.com Business Solutions, shows two ways to build navigation between site collections. The first method, the links method, is suitable only when there are few site collections. The second method builds on SharePoint Search and can be used even if there are thousands of site collections to navigate between.

The Links Method

The links method works in the same way for site collections as links to sites within one collection.
SharePoint Global Navigation Links
  1. Click on EDIT LINKS in the Global Navigation/Top navigation.
  2. Copy the path to the top-level site in the site collection you want to link to.
  3. Click on the '+link' button. A dialog will open.
  4. Write a Display text and paste the path you copied.
  5. Do the same with all site collections you want to link to.
  6. (Create a collective, not linked, caption and drag the other links under it.)
The obvious disadvantage of this method is that the Global Navigation links have to be added to the top-level site of each site collection. Subsites can inherit the navigation from the top-level site, but links cannot be inherited between site collections.

Therefore the Links method is suitable only if you have a few site collections. When you have more, you should instead use the Search method, see below.

The Search method

The second way of navigating between site collections is to not link at all. Instead we recommend you to use the SharePoint Search to find your site collections, just like you search everyting else. Add a search vertical to the Search Center to make it easier to find a site collection.

SharePoint Search Vertical for Sites

Usually a search vertical is intended to show only search results of a particular type, like Google's Images and News, but a search vertical can also be used to find site collections. These are the steps:
  1. Open the SharePoint Search Center.
  2. Under the Settings gear, select Add a page. This creates another page on the Search Center template.
  3. Give the page a name and click on Create.
  4. Edit the Search Results web part and click on the 'Change query' button.
  5. Under Property filters, select 'content class' 'Equals' 'Manual value' and 'STS_Site' to get the search results to show only site collections.
  6. Click on 'Add property filter' and then on 'Test query'.
  7. (To add property filters that remove site collections you don't want to include in the searches, select 'Path' under Property filters and then 'Not contains' 'Manual value' and the path to the site collection you want to exclude.) Click OK.
  8. Click on Apply and publish the page.
  9. From the Search Central, open the Site settings and select 'Search Settings' in the Search group.
  10. Under Search navigation, click on 'Add Link'.
  11. Give the link a title and browse to the new Search Center page you just created.
  12. (Make sure the new vertical will be displayed among the first and not under the ellipsis, by changing the order or remove an existing vertical.) Click OK.
Now the new Search vertical is displayed with the other verticals on the Search result page, and when you click on it and make a search only site collection top sites will be shown in the search results.

Users can access the Search Center by selecting Everything in the top right Search field. You can also copy the link to the Search page (without a search term) and add it to the top-level site of the site collection in the same way as in the Link method. This has to be done manually for the top-level site in each site collection.

In next article we will have a look at how you can enhance the Search Navigation with promoted links and by customizing the refiners.

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