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The Basics of Boolean – Google Search Tips
13 Jan 2014 ·
Firstly, what is Boolean, and what does it do?
Simply put, it is the logic that defines a path that a computed expression takes. A whole load of different technologies use it, including Google search. I'm going to explain how you can use it to improve your search results.
So as an example, let’s say you were looking for articles that contain one of two phrases (X and Y) whilst also containing one specific phrase (Z). This could be expressed as the following search phrase:
This basically tells Google to search for results that contain the exact phrases of either X or Y as well as the exact phrase of Z. Google will then interpret these as logic gates that metaphorically close or open depending on shown results. Visually, this could be represented in the flowchart below:
It might sound a tad daunting, but understanding Boolean can optimise your search results and help you manually sort the prime cuts from the spam.
Let’s use a real world example of how Boolean can help. While we are able to track cuttings and generate alerts through Google, there is often a time delay in detecting new coverage online. We observed this with a client of ours called “Direct Blinds” when we ran a campaign promoting a TARDIS blind.
Of course we knew to include the phrase Tardis in the search, however the main issue is that websites may change how they notate the brand name, either as “Direct Blinds” or “DirectBlinds”. This is easily fixed with the phrase below:
Et voila, we won’t miss a thing. Plus, boolean operators can be stacked, so if there are more variations of the brand phrase, simply add another ‘OR’. But wait, there’s more. A LOT more.
Here’s a handy list of everything you can do with Google Boolean search operators and how they could help you:
Probably the most useful operator I’ve encountered, the quotation marks tell Google to search for that exact phrase on a page
author: beth nunnington
This will show you all articles / blogs / tweets by our Beth. Less useful if the author has a common name, like Tom Clark. Include associated keywords to narrow search
This will show you all pages on buzzfeed with cats on. That’s A LOT
Useful if you’re looking for a quick definition of a word
filetype:pdf OR filetype:xls
Useful if you’re looking for reports or case studies, which are typically in this format
If you purely want recent results, make sure you become acquainted with the
button that allows you to find tune your searches even further, such as for finding out the most recent pages published within this dropdown:
There are even more here, for your delectation. So now you have no excuses for wasting time trekking to page 24 of search results.
Next time, we’ll delve into the slightly more daunting world of brand monitoring over social media channels, news sites, blogs and forums, and rocking your query to be as targeted and perfected as possible.