How to Set Up & Improve Audience Targeting in SharePoint

by Yvonne Harris

SharePoint audience targeting helps get the right content to the right people. However, it can be tricky to set up natively. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

A successful company intranet relies on engaging, relevant, and easy-to-discover content. Achieving this requires a robust content management system. Your chosen intranet CMS should ensure a smooth end-user experience.

Yet, most intranets contain too much information with the same content pushed to every employee, department, and country—this lack of content relevance and information overload results in low user adoption and intranet failure. If you use native SharePoint as an internal communications tool, you’ve likely encountered this problem.

That is why audience targeting in SharePoint is a Communication Managers best ally. Targeted content helps Comms teams personalize the employee experience and improve communication efficiency, content discoverability, and scalability. It provides users with the information they need. For instance, employees can see news posts according to their location, role, or department.

How to target content in SharePoint

In this article, we compare content displays and audience targeting in native SharePoint vs. a third-party SharePoint intranet solution (we’ll take the example of Powell Intranet). We take the perspective of a SharePoint site owner.

In native SharePoint

Sharepoint Online provides several features to display a personalized content experience to employees:
• Adding quick links
• Choosing content display
• Content search
• Setting content targeting
By default, Sharepoint only displays content users have access rights to. It will allow well-developed rights management to refine the relevance of documents.

Quick links

The default Quick Link web part is static and will display the same content to all site visitors.

You can display the Quick Link web part to a specific audience population using the existing Microsoft 365 security groups. Links will be displayed depending on the Active directory groups’ settings and the Microsoft 365 security groups.

To enable this feature in native SharePoint, edit the web part and enable “Audience Targeting”.

SharePoint quick links

SharePoint Quick LinksSharePoint Quick Links

Audience targeting results for HR

Audience targeting setting in SharePoint Online

Audience targeting settings in SharePoint Online

Audience targeting results for HR

Recent document

SharePoint site builders can use this web part to display the user’s recent documents. However, it is not customizable. It will display all recent documents targeted to the user (Always respecting SharePoint rights)

Recent Content

Highlighted content

SharePoint’s highlighted content web part can also be used to display relevant content to the user based on their rights under specific rules proposed by the web part.

Highlighted content

Content Source

This web part allows you to select a content source from:
• The Hub site
• The site
• A library within these sites
• The site page library
• A selection of sites
• All sites
By combining the structure of the sites and this web part, you can easily display content relevant to the user.

Content source

Using filter

This web part also provides several filters to refine the content returned by content sources.

Filter & sort

You can filter by specific keyword or column or by using more standard properties, for example, recently added or modified.

The “Column name” filter can be used to apply specific business rules to your intranet.

How to use the “Column name” filter and the “Highlighted content web part.”

This filter allows the use of data present in the document and list libraries. It can also be used in the page library.

To add a column, go to your list or library, then click on the “Add column” feature in the last column

column name filter and highlighted web part

Then add a column as in any list of data

Add column

This column can then filter the content displayed in the highlighted content web part.

Create a column

This column can then be used in the highlighted content web part to filter the content displayed

.Content source type

Use advanced filter queries

The Highlighted Content web part also allows you to use Keyword Query Language (KQL) or Collaborative Application Markup Language (CAML) query strings to customize your search further.

This query type allows you to go further in the experience by using properties provided in the lists or advanced arithmetic operators.

More info about CAML Query here: Query schema in CAML | Microsoft Docs

Use advance filter queries

My Feed web part

Site owners can make their site more dynamic and relevant to employees by adding the “My feed” web part. It can be used to display a mix of content from across Office 365 based on what’s likely to be most relevant to the current user at any given time.

Site builders can choose to turn off news on the web part.

My feed web part

Advanced customization

SharePoint Online also allows the creation of web parts from anywhere with SPFx development.
More information here: Overview of the SharePoint Framework (SPFx) | Microsoft Docs

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Personalizing the SharePoint user experience with third-party solutions

While SharePoint does offer features to help target users with relevant content, there are easier ways to achieve the same, if not a better, result.
For ease of demonstration and because we know it best, we’ll show you how to target content in your SharePoint intranet if you build it with Powell Intranet.
Powell Intranet allows you to deploy a set of web parts named “Powell Intranet web parts”.

Personalizing the SharePoint user experience

This web part allows you to configure over 60 new web parts that meet many business needs.
This article will focus on the “Graph” Widget and the “Web part Search.”

Powell Intranet web part Search – improving content displays

This Powell Intranet web part allows you to personalize the intranet experience and improve communication efficiency, content display, and discoverability more than native SharePoint.

Powell Intranet web part search

Powell intranet web part search

This web part allows the use of the KQL language to report data from the site to the inside of the SharePoint site based on its search engine.

It also allows you to display different results under multiple templates.

Display different results under multiple templates

You can use this web part in all Powell Intranet templates/pages to improve the personalization and global intranet experience for many use cases:

Department news display

Department news display

Employees News display

Employee news display

Internal Job opportunities display
internal job opps
Recent Contents

Recent contents

Using the Graph to connect the intranet with Microsoft 365

This feature allows site builders to display any data available in the Microsoft 365 rest APIs based on the Graph API manager.

Using the graph to connect the intranet with Microsoft 365

It allows you to retrieve data from the tenant according to the user’s rights. The advantage of this web part lies in its ability to exploit data outside the SharePoint site (Other SharePoint sites, Teams, OneDrive, Delve) and connect the whole Microsoft 365 environment.
Example of features made available using it:

Quick Links

Powell Intranet quick links

See the Teams I belong to

Powell Intranet my teams

See emails

Powell Intranet my emails

See my Tasks (planner, To Do)

Powell Intranet my tasks

On Sharepoint Online, these features are often part of heavy SPFx development, requiring complex releases.

Targeted content – reaching the right people with the right content

Powell Intranet also allows “Content Targeting” to improve the user experience by displaying the most appropriate content according to the user profile.
To do this, Powell Intranet relies on tags.

Powell Intranet targeted content

The activation of user preferences can be done directly from the Web part, MISCELLANEOUS section

Powell intranet miscellaneous

With this setting, the user will access, by default, content related to their department, role, and location displayed on the intranet page. Audience targeting is simplified. Employees can also decide to display the news they prefer thanks to the user preferences options.

Powell Intranet new display

Powell Intranet department preferences

In summary

Implementing relevant containers on SharePoint is something that needs to be planned from the beginning of your intranet project. While SharePoint offers several features to tailor content, providing a targeted experience and SharePoint audience targeting requires an advanced site builder.

A third-party solution, like Powell Intranet, makes it easy to change the content displayed and creates a targeted experience based on the users’ department, role, location, or preferences.

Powell Intranet leverages SharePoint customization to the maximum. How? By exploiting Graph and SharePoint search while providing a set of turnkey web parts to display targeted content.

This matrix provides a quick overview of the methods used in both products:

Feature Standard SharePoint

Powell Intranet

Content displays

Native Microsoft 365 displays & experience.

Improving the experience requires code & SharePoint settings competencies

Engaging displays with modern rendering, including social & sharing buttons – predefined options available through templates to be selected

User-targeted content

Audience targeting options


Improving its experience requires code & SharePoint settings competencies

Audience targeting options
Targeted content based on employees’ role, location, department, and own preferences – easy to set through the Powell Intranet web part search

Viewing other SharePoint site’s contents

Requires using the SharePoint Framework (SPFx) to use Graph features Using graph through the predefined Powell widget in the web part search


The native SharePoint Web part allows you to display site content using a dedicated interface.

It also allows the use of KQL and CAML

The Powell Widget allows the search for content thanks to KQL. However, it allows display under many templates


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