How to Do a Boolean Search Effectively (& Advanced Tips)

How to Do a Boolean Search Effectively (& Advanced Tips)

Have you heard the term Boolean Search and you’ve been wondering what it is? Well, wonder no more,

Have you heard the term Boolean Search and you’ve been wondering what it is? Well, wonder no more, because we created this article, especially for this reason. We will explore what it means, how to do a Boolean Search, the main benefits, Boolean Search strings, and some tips for efficient execution.

So, let’s get started with this guide.

What is a Boolean Search?

Boolean search is a searching method created in the 19th century, by George Boole, an English mathematician, that allows you to blend words and phrases by using AND, OR, and NOT operators to make your search broader or more limited and generate more defined results.

This method is known for combining five different factors, including quotation marks and parentheses, besides the ones mentioned above, when creating research and using a search engine to its fullest potential. Boolean Search provides more accurate results and limits the unrelated elements.

Applying the Boolean factors appropriately together with the keywords you want to take into consideration, can help you build a wide range of search procedures. You can use these elements as often as you want to build very distinct search strings; a time-saving technique instead of filtering your results. This type of specific search can be conducted on any complex search engine on the web just by using specific symbols. There is no limitation on the number of symbols you use in one research.

How to Do a Boolean Search

Did you know that main search engines like Google use a Boolean search? We have already indicated that Boolean Search in brand monitoring helps you to get more precise. Therefore, using Boolean searches, you can monitor mentions that are flooding in more effectively.

The 3 basic operators on how to do a Boolean Search are AND, OR, and NOT; they bring together words to narrow down or widen your results. These factors are fundamental when it comes to conducting a Boolean search. Using them allows you to make a search more focused, especially if your topic consists of numerous search terms and connects different pieces of information to find the exact match for your advanced search. Let’s check them out.

Boolean search operator #1: AND

Adding the AND operator between two terms the search results will show only results that include both or all of your terms. Using AND helps you narrow your results and informs the database that all search terms need to be presented in the resulting records.

Although you need to be aware that in several databases, the AND is implied. For instance, Google automatically adds AND in between keyword searches, and even though all the search keywords appear in the results, probably they are not combined the way you want.

AND boolean operator

Let’s take for example a sports team, like Manchester United, whose nickname is “Red Devils”. To find online mentions for both terms, we should use the AND operator, and then both keywords will appear in your search results.

Boolean search operator #2: OR

Using the operator OR in your search allows you to connect two or even more very much alike terms and widen your search results, informing the database that any of the search results can appear in the final results.

So, the OR operator between two terms will demonstrate results that include either the two terms you chose or both of them simultaneously. In a few words, OR will generate results that contain at least one of the chosen search terms. So, OR searches are helpful when you prefer results containing at least one keyword.

OR boolean operator

For instance, your search would look like this; Red Devils OR Manchester United, based on the previous example. OR means either or both keywords will appear in your search results. So, the results that Boolean Search generates will be word for word with either of the search terms included in the list.

Boolean search operator #3: NOT

The 3rd operator is the NOT keyword. This factor is used to exclude words from the research, the truncation of your results, and tell the database to overlook topics that might be hidden by your search keywords.

The operator NOT will generate results that consist of the first of your search terms but not the second. You need to make sure to place your keywords in the right order when using NOT, because the resulting records will exclude the latter term. So, you should use this when you would like your results to accommodate one distinct search term and not another.

NOT boolean operator

Using the NOT operator allows you to get rid of negative keywords and narrow down your search results, and according to the previous example, your search should have the following form: Red Devils NOT Manchester United. So, using the two keywords from above, including the operator NOT, the results that we get will include the keyword Red Devils, but the keyword Manchester United won’t appear in the results.

These 3 are the basic operators on how to do a Boolean Search.

2 Main Use Cases of Boolean Search

It’s time to showcase the 2 most important use cases of Boolean Search for a better understanding of its functionality.

Use Case #1: Brand monitoring

First things first, searching for mentions online can be time-consuming, considering their quantity. This is where Boolean Search comes in, as it helps brands narrow down their search range thanks to its operators.

With this process, you can widen or limit your alert notifications according to your preferences. Boolean Search’s operators allow you to get the exact mentions you need, about your brand or products, which is extremely useful when it comes to querying. Another benefit of Boolean is that you can use more search terms, meaning you need to be careful when monitoring your brand mentions. So, maybe you even need to be aware of keyword variations. There are numerous possible keywords and keyword combinations that people use to search online and so you need to be able to use all these terms. Making sure you don’t miss mentions should be a priority.

On that note, you can always focus on specific locations if you want to generate higher potential when monitoring. Being more specific is necessary concerning regionally-based searches and it is possible by using Boolean Search operators.

Boolean Search it’s great when it comes to taking your brand monitoring efforts to the next level as it helps you get more precise results, monitor your online presence, get the most out of your mentions, and limit irrelevant results. The method uses Boolean logic when searching for specific words or phrases via huge amounts of social data. In a few words, using keywords and Boolean operators allows you to limit or expand your results; Boolean modifiers offer specific criteria while doing a database search.

All in all, Searching online mentions can sometimes seem to be a daunting task! Companies subscribe to different brand monitoring tools. While doing so, they hope they will be able to monitor their brand effectively. If you want a better brand monitoring experience all you have to do is start using the Boolean Search method. Boolean can also help you identify the monitoring tool you need for your brand management game.

Use Case #2: Recruiting

The second most important use case is about recruiting and human resources. Boolean search plays a great role when it comes to candidate search, both from search engines like Google and social media, for example, LinkedIn. Recruiters can narrow down their search of candidate profiles by using the Boolean operators in a way such as Developer OR Engineer, Architect OR Technologist, and so on. Using Boolean logic to find profiles and resumes helps in finding relevant job candidates with specific keywords and limits the ones that don’t match the job title.

Boolean Search on recruitment through google consists of using the following 3 operators: A) inurl; which helps you generate relevant results with a specific term in the URL, for example, if you want to check out the members of architecture teams of different companies you search can look likes this: inurl: ”architecture team”. B) site; the site field for entering commands helps you to specify your results when you are looking for something from a specific site. This works great when you are looking for people who maybe are not LinkedIn members but have potential as professionals. So, your search command could look like this: site:behance.net graphic (“illustrator” | “designer”). C) intitle; this command helps you broaden your search, as you can use it to specifically search for words, for example, “resume,” “CV,” along with your keyword, let’s say “illustrator.” So, your search could look like this: site:slideshare.net intitle:resume (illustrator | animator). Searching on LinkedIn looks similar to Google.

Boolean Search allows recruiters to discover great talents. You should keep in mind two things; creating a list of the keywords you can use in your searches, allowing you to use the variations to uncover candidate profiles, and of course always use the operators in uppercase, as they won’t work in a different format.

7 Advanced Boolean Search Tips

Now, let’s discover some search strategies and tips on how to do a boolean search, beyond the 3 basic operators we mentioned earlier.

Tip #1: Use quotes

Quotation marks are used when someone is searching for specific phrases, containing more than one word, or the phrase will be divided into single word elements by some search engines. For example: “software developer” or “manchester united” will only generate results about these phrases. If you search for a software developer or manchester united, without quotation marks, on some search engines, it will divide the words software and developer, manchester and united, and underline them as applicable matches even when not indicated as an exact phrase.

Tip #2: Use asterisks

Using the asterisk at the end of a term allows you to include all of its variations. The asterisk works great for resume databases and non-Internet search engines, as a root word search. The search engine will give back and underline any word that starts with the word’s root shortened by the asterisk. For example: recruit* will give you results for recruiter, recruitment, recruiting, etc. The asterisk saves you time in search engines, as you don’t have to create many OR statements and come up with different ways of expressing a specific word.

Tip #3: Use parentheses

The best way to use parentheses is to summarize OR statements so that search engines can execute them appropriately. Don’t forget that the OR factor means that you would like at least one of the proposed terms in your results. Parentheses should be received as your way of informing the search engine that you want one of these: (_______________). For example: Developer (android OR ios).

Tip #4: Search specific websites

If you are looking for a term on a specific website you can use the operator site. For example: site: linkedin.com AND “marketing manager”. That way you can narrow down your results from a specific website.

Tip #5: Find specific file types

Boolean Search is also great for finding specific file types. You can restrict results based on a certain file type. For example: filetype:pdf, filetype:video, ext:docx. You can also use the term ext, as the results that will generate are the same.

Tip #6: Narrow down titles

If you want to limit your results from a search to a website with specific keywords in the title, the intitle operator can be used. For example: intitle: “content marketing”. So, any result containing the above keyword in the title will appear in your search.

Tip #7: Narrow down URLs

Based on the previous example the same applies here as well, but only for URLs. So, if you are looking for pages with a specific word in the URL you should use this operator. For example: inurl:resume.

Now Over to You

All in all, Boolean Search is a great way of narrowing down or widening your search results according to your preferences and what you are looking for. Tracking and monitoring mentions, while managing your brand’s reputation and online presence are some of the reasons why you should start using this method. Learning how to do a Boolean Search is a must.

If you want to learn more about brand monitoring, tracking mentions, search techniques, and search tools you can always book a live demo with Mentionlytics and all your Boolean Search queries will be answered in no time.

About Vasiliki Kati

An enthusiastic person who loves working in international teams. Vasiliki is a junior content writer at Mentionlytics, passionate about marketing communications and languages.