Vertical Ranking | Yext Hitchhikers Platform

What You’ll Learn

By the end of this unit, you will be able to:

  • Define vertical intents, threshold, bias, and priority fields
  • Explain how you can use each to influence vertical ranking
  • Configure each in the UI and JSON editor


In the  Overview of Algorithm and Indexing unit, you learned how the Search algorithm ranks verticals. This unit will walk through the different properties in the Search configuration you can set to influence the vertical ranking of your Search experience.

Namely, we will cover:

  • Vertical Intents: phrases associated with each vertical
  • Vertical Threshold: minimum score requirement a vertical must meet to be returned at all in the universal search results
  • Vertical Bias: adjustment to the final score of each vertical used to rank verticals against each other
  • (Optional) Priority Fields: select fields to prioritize when determining vertical ranking

Define Vertical Intents

One of the most direct ways you can control the vertical ranking of your Search experience is by defining Vertical Intents for each of your verticals.

Vertical Intents are phrases that you want to associate with that vertical as a whole, like a synonym for the vertical. A good way to think about vertical intents is to ask yourself: if this intent was placed as a search query, would I want this vertical to always return first?

Vertical intents are used by the Search algorithm as one of the “clues” to evaluate the relevance of a vertical for a particular search query. If the search query is similar in meaning to a vertical intent, it is likely that vertical will appear first as a result.

Set Thresholds

Thresholds are minimum score requirements that a vertical must meet in order to be returned at all in the universal search results. A vertical will always be returned in vertical search.

Thresholds are limited from 0 to 1 (inclusive) and can only include a single decimal point. They are set in the JSON of the Search configuration using the semanticVerticalThreshold property.

Choosing a Threshold

A useful way to think about vertical thresholds is how strict you want Search to be when deciding whether to return a vertical or not.

Setting a very high threshold (e.g., 0.7 or 0.8) indicates that you only want that vertical to return if there is an extremely high semantic match with the user’s search query.

Without a threshold, a vertical will often be returned in Search if there is any keyword match with the user’s search query whatsoever. This can be frustrating when working with verticals with a lot of content (e.g., long crawled documents, forum posts, etc.), where the probability of a random keyword match is high.

Therefore, setting a high threshold for these types of verticals can be a good way to restrict how often they return, so they only return when the algorithm thinks they are meaningfully related to the query.

On the other hand, setting a low threshold (e.g., 0.1 or 0.2) can be good practice in general across verticals, to ensure matches on keywords that are not actually semantically similar to the query are ignored.

Set Biases

Biases are adjustments you can make to the final score of each vertical, which determine the rank in which they appear. Adding a positive bias will be added to the vertical score, and a negative bias will be subtracted.

Biases are limited from -1 to 1 (inclusive) and can only include a single decimal point. They are set in the JSON of the Search configuration using the semanticVerticalBias property.

Choosing a Bias

Vertical biases can be used to nudge the Search algorithm into favoring one vertical over another. This can be useful, for example, if you have some verticals that are more authoritative or that you find are more useful than others.

For instance, say you have a support Search experience with one vertical featuring official published help articles, and another featuring forum Q&A posts. If there is a roughly equal match between help articles and forum posts, it is preferable for the user to go to the official published content, so you’ll want to bias the algorithm towards returning the official content.

Determining the right bias for your verticals should be done iteratively; by placing searches, evaluating the ranking of verticals, and making adjustments to the biases until the ranking feels generally correct.

Pick Priority Fields

Priority fields are a select list of the searchable fields that you want the algorithm to prioritize for a vertical when evaluating vertical ranking. As a more subtle way to impact vertical ranking, this is an advanced concept, and is not required to configure vertical ranking.

If two verticals are tied and have the same vertical score, the Search algorithm will use priority fields as a tiebreaker: looking at the top entities returned on each vertical, matches on priority fields are ranked above other matches.

The most common use of priority fields is to prioritize fields that are visible to the user on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP).

Say for example, you have an experience with two verticals: Product Categories and Locations. A user searches for “shoes”, and the algorithm returns a Product Category with the name “Shoes”, and a Location with a keyword “shoes”.

The Product Categories vertical is obviously the better vertical to show first, because the shoes product category more directly addresses the user’s query than a location that sells shoes. Therefore, we can add name as a priority field for the Product Categories vertical, to ensure it always appears above similar matches on keywords for Locations.

Priority fields are defined using the semanticVerticalRankingPriorityFields property in the Search configuration. Note that by default, name and builtin.entityType are set as priority fields for all verticals, as this is a pretty common use case. You’ll only need to define priority fields if you are looking to override this default.

Configure Vertical Ranking

Edit via the Platform UI

To configure searchable fields in the UI, navigate to the Verticals screen, choose the desired vertical, and find the Vertical Ranking section. For vertical intents, add each phrase separately and delete phrases by clicking the trash can icon next to them. For threshold and bias, enter the number in the text box or use the arrows to increment or decrement by 0.1. Note that priority fields are an advanced concept and can only be configured in the JSON editor, not the UI.

Edit via the JSON Editor

The same Resources vertical would look like the below in the configuration. Priority fields are added with the name and category fields.

Check out the Search Config - Verticals reference doc to learn more about the vertical ranking properties.

  "verticals": {
    "resources": {
      "semanticVerticalBias": 0.2,
      "semanticVerticalIntents": [
        "sales resources",
        "sales sheet",
        "corporate pitch deck",
        "support deck"
      "semanticVerticalRankingPriorityFields": [
      "semanticVerticalThreshold": 0.4
unit Quiz
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    Error Success Question 1 of 4

    What configuration in the Restaurants vertical could you use to achieve the same result as setting the synonym 'restaurant' = 'location'?

    Error Success Question 2 of 4

    Since FAQs provide your brand's official answers, you want the FAQs vertical to show up higher to answer user questions. What change can you make to boost the FAQs vertical?

    Error Success Question 3 of 4

    The recipes vertical sometimes returns results that are not relevant at all. What change can you make to reduce the number of irrelevant results?

    Error Success Question 4 of 4

    You want the events vertical to surface whenever a user searches for 'webinars'. What change can you make to the config?

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