Should search results link to a document or a section within the document?

The best solution, if you wish to link to the top of the document, would be to open the document with the term hi-lighted, then include a search box with prev/next arrows so that the user could quickly jump to each instance of the term.

In terms of actual practice, your best example is probably to look at how Google Books solves it. Here’s an example, using Willie McCovey in an old issue of Life Magazine. In this case, Google jumps to the first instance of our keyword (optional in your case). At the top of the page, we have the arrows to jump to the next/previous instance.

I actually don’t think the next/prev arrows are very well labeled, from a usability perspective. I also think that the default to use partial matches instead of phrase matches (‘willie’ vs ‘willie mccovey’) is a bit off-putting, since they don’t explain why it’s happening.

With a couple usability tweaks though, there’s a lot you can learn from Google’s approach.

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