Here's what you need to know about the SharePoint Server 2013  cross-site collection publishing feature. Cross-site publishing provides the following benefits:

  • Offers a broad range of possible site architectures
  • Allows for a mix of authored pages and list content
  • Separates content authoring from branding and rendering
  • Allows content to be shared anonymously with users on the publishing site
  • Can be used across site collections, web applications, and also across farms
  • Allows for a mix of authored pages and list content

The cross-site publishing feature allows you to use one or more authoring site collections to author and store documents and content as well as use one or more publishing site collections to control the overall design of the site and its content display. An authoring site collection contains catalogs that are lists, libraries and pages with content that is tagged with specific metadata and terms (content types) (see Figure 1).

These catalogs are then indexed by SharePoint’s search and are available to the publishing site collection.

Queries for data are issues by the indexed publishing site collection and are shown on pages by using Web Parts (SharePoint 2013 Search Web Parts. In essence, you then brand the content on the publishing site via custom master pages, page layouts and display templates.

This capability of using “catalog-enabled” sites works extremely well for organizations who want to heavily utilize features such as a content repositories, knowledge base \ knowledge management or for a product catalog.

Note: The cross-site publishing is currently only available in SharePoint Server 2013 but if your organization is using  SharePoint Online, you can use the author-in-place method to publish content. It is also important to note that the search driven publishing features are only available for private site collections.

Figure 2 shows a graphical overview of cross-site publishing and the interaction with SharePoint’s Content Search Web Parts.

Types of Content Used for Cross-Site Publishing

There are multiple types of content that can be utilized for cross-site publishing in the libraries and lists of the authoring site collection(s). The following list describes the different types of content that you can use in an authoring site collection.

  • Pages library - You can utilize a Pages library to create any HTML content that you plan to reuse across site collections and take advantage of the Approval workflow and content scheduling features that are part of the SharePoint publishing feature set. Note: You can have only one Pages library per site. However, you can have multiple sites within a site collection and then place the Pages library content into separate catalogs.
  • Document library - You can utilize one or more standard SharePoint document libraries to store files such as Word and Excel documents. Due to the fact that these types of files are also considered binary large object files (BLOBs), you must then treat Document libraries in the same manner that you treat Asset libraries.
  • List - You can utilize one or more lists to store any type of data that is better stored in a list than in Pages library content.
  • Asset library - You can utilize one or more Asset libraries to store binary large object files (BLOBs) such as pictures, audio, or video files, as long as those files contain the primary content that you are wanting to show on the publishing site. Asset libraries that are used to contain BLOBs that are referenced by Pages or lists, such as PDFs or product images, represent a different type of content and are handled differently for utilization in cross-site publishing.

Term Set Tagging in Cross-Site Publishing

Term sets are used to tag content in authoring sites and when content is tagged with one or more terms, the terms become part of the metadata (content types) that is associated with the content.

When the search system adds content to the index, it also adds the associated metadata and that metadata is later used in the publishing site collections when content is shown on pages and when it is utilized for managed navigation.

Catalog Configuration in Cross-Site Publishing

Once you share lists and libraries for use as catalogs, you can then start to reuse this content across publishing site collections. When these lists or libraries are shared as a catalog you must specify that you want to share them with other sites and site collections or optionally choose to enable anonymous access to the content in the catalog.

Each catalog allows you to select up to five fields that are used to uniquely identify items in the catalog and you also specify a single managed metadata field that is used as a navigation term set in the publishing site collections.

Once a library or list is shared as a catalog and the content has been crawled and indexed, you are able to them connect to it from a publishing site collection.

There must be at least one piece of content added to a list or library before it is shared as a catalog and you must also tag it with a term from the tagging term set. When the managed metadata site column that is associated with the tagging term set is created, it is required to be a single value field.

Catalog Connections in SharePoint 2013

In order for content to be shared from an authoring site collection, there must be a catalog connection configured in the publishing site collection that will consume those catalogs.

When you configure catalog connections, you specify which catalogs the publishing site collection will use to show this content and specify granular details around information such as whether to integrate catalog content into the site or where the categories to use for navigation should reside.

You also specify the term set that was used for tagging as well as how category item URLs should be constructed.

Category Pages and Catalog Item Pages in SharePoint 2013

Category pages and catalog item pages are page layouts that you can use to show structured catalog content consistently across a site. By default, SharePoint Server 2013 can automatically create one category page layout and one catalog item page layout per catalog connection.

Pages based on these layouts are created in the Pages library of a publishing site when you connect the site to a catalog. These pages have the following considerations:

  • You should edit the HTML of the page layouts and the category page layout and the catalog item page layout are meant to be used to get you started. These are also not published specifically for you.
  • When you edit the HTML page layouts, they are automatically synced back to the corresponding ASPX pages but if you prefer to edit the ASPX pages directly, you should first delete the HTML version of the page.

Product Catalog in SharePoint 2013

The Product Catalog feature in SharePoint 2013 is based on the SharePoint Product Catalog site template and is a site that allows a content owner or content manager to create content that will be utilized and published within a site or even within SharePoint’s search.

You can optionally activate the Cross-Site Collection Publishing feature on a specific site rather than creating this site template if you are wanting to use SharePoint lists and libraries as catalogs.

It is important to note that there are additional configuration options that must be enabled if you choose to activate the cross-site collection publishing feature rather than creating a SharePoint Product Catalog site from the template. Note: The Product Catalog is only available in on-premises Enterprise SharePoint.