Boolean search operators – what are they?

Boolean search operators are terms that users can use within a keyword query to adjust their queries for more relevant results.

With Unamo Social, we use a variety of boolean search operators for our users to acquire the most accurate data possible without having to enter in nine billion different search phrases.

Given the extremely expansive amount of mentions that occur across social media channels and their growing usage and popularity, these operators are becoming less of a luxury and more of a necessity within social listening and monitoring.

However, complex queries aren’t an ordinary thing.

Most social media monitoring tools limit the amount of Boolean operators available to their users to just:

  • AND
  • OR
  • NOT

This isn’t inherently bad, it’s just not allowing users to clean up their queries to get the most relevant results possible.

On top of that, complex queries that only utilize these parameters can end up looking like this:

Dragonsearch boolean search operator

Nobody’s got time for that.

Using more refined boolean operators can help parse through unwanted mentions that will ultimately:

  • Make your data more accurate
  • Save time
  • Save money

All of these are necessary precursors to extracting data out of any social media analysis campaign – whether its for social media market research or social media management.

After all, your data and insights are only as informative as the query is you use to get them.

Some monitoring tools limit users on mentions or keywords in terms of pricing. Either way, having boolean search operators will help limit your keywords and maximize or limit the amount of mentions a user gets based on their needs.

Types of Boolean Search Operators

There are a few different boolean search operators that only a few social media monitoring tools utilize for their users.

Quotes

Using the double quotes “” search operator will ensure that whichever phrase is being searched for will be fetched in that order.

For example, searching for a phrase: the dog ran in the street, will look for mentions with that phrase in that word order.

In Unamo SMM, any search query is defaultly searched for in this way and thus the double-quotes are not necessary.

quotes boolean search operator

If you would want to look for certain phrases in mentions in which the word order isn’t a necessity, then you would use the “NEAR” operator, which we’ll get into later.

Wildcard Truncation*

Wildcard truncation boolean operators – also known as the asterisk* rule – helps to minimize the amount of search queries a user needs to enter by fetching any variation of a word after the asterisk appears.

For example, a query that is looking for mentions about the environment could use the asterisk like this: environmen*.

This would return any variation of the word appearing after the “n” such as:

  • Environment
  • Environments
  • Environmental
  • Environmentalist(s)
  • Environmentally

Furthermore, unlike other tools, Unamo SMM will honor the asterisk* rule in multi-word queries.

For example, a phrase like Sara* hous* will return results like:

example of wildcard truncation boolean search operator

Rather than implementing each variation of the phrase for both words, users can simply use the asterisk rule to get every variation of the mention with one keyword.

This is especially helpful with languages in which verb pronouns are suffix dependent. Simply place the asterisk at the root prefix of the verb and the tool will fetch all the variation endings for that verb.

This saves time, money if the business charges by keywords, and reduces the amount of unwanted data.

Near Rule

The “Near” boolean operator – or / rule – allows users to find words within a certain distance from the main search phrase.

Simply enter your main keyword followed by a space and a slash and then the number of words it has to appear within the main phrase.

Example of tilde or the near/ boolean search operator

In our example above, “hat” is our main keyword. The following related keywords that have the “/5” must appear within 5 words of our main keyword in a mention.

social media mention example for boolean near operator

In our example we get “buy” coming 3 words before “hat”. This allows us to find relevant results for keywords that may have multiple contextualization.

Some tools will use a “~” or a Tilde, however the “/” in our boolean search works the same way.

AND

The “AND” or “+” boolean search operator ensures that mentions appear with every word entered within a query, albeit without a specific order or distance from one another.

In Unamo SMM this is expressed with related keywords and globally required keywords.

example of boolean search AND operator

With this method, you will get any mentions that feature all three of these keywords in any order and any distance from each other.

The main keyword is “hat” and the related is “buy” which means they must appear together. The globally required keyword means it must also appear in the same mention with the main and required keyword.

For now the AND operator is limited to three keywords. However, changes will be implemented soon to remove any limit.

OR

The “OR” operator allows you to specify that any one of a set of keywords can appear in a mention.

This is done by making each individual phrase a main keyword.

example of boolean search operator OR

In this example, any mention featuring either hat, jean(s), or jacket(s), will appear.

We can take this a step further and add AND operators to each phrase so that we will pick up mentions for each word with other parameters within each phrase.

boolean search operator AND / OR required keywords for social media monitoring

In this example, we’ll get any mention that features the word “hat” and “buy”, or “jean(s)” and “sell(s)”, or “jacket(s)” and “get(s)”.

If you want just one universal word to appear with any of the keywords then you can add it to the globally required keywords and it will pick up any of the words in conjunction with the one universal keyword.

one keyword appearing with 3 OR boolean search terms

Using the “OR” search operator in this fashion allows you to expedite the process and aggregate the terms together while still maintaining a basic form of separation for quick data parsing.

NOT

Excluding certain words from your mentions is done via the “NOT” operator. This is a simple keyword exclusion that can be done in combination with any of the other boolean search operators.

one main boolean search keyword and 4 OR keywords

Here we get each required keyword under our main keyword as excluded, meaning none of them can appear within a fetched mention.

We can set up different excluded keywords for each mention so that some main keywords will exclude certain words while other keywords (if we’re using the OR operator) will exclude different keywords.

NOT boolean search operator example

Excluding one keyword from any mention that includes different keyword phrases using the OR operator requires users to exclude it in the globally required section.

NOT boolean search operator example for social media monitoring

Wiola!

Excluding certain words and phrases is a must for many social media managers needing to root out extraneous data.

Using the “AND”, “OR”, and/or the “NOT” boolean operators makes it easy.

Special Characters

Unamo SMM allows for special characters to be included in mentions such as:

  • #Hashtags
  • @
  • Pluses+
  • Underscores_
  • &

The hashtags need to appear at the beginning of a word, much like they do on sites like Twitter and Instagram.

The @ symbol can appear anywhere in a phrase as most email addresses place it somewhere in the middle.

Pluses, &, and underscores can also appear anywhere in a phrase.

Given that a lot of digital phrases and terminology includes these symbols, it seems like a no-brainer to include them in any search.

Authors

You can exclude certain authors from your mention results after they have been fetched. You can also choose to exclude any keywords appearing in the author’s name.

For example, wanting to hear about people talking about Nike would obviously want to exclude that author from any fetched mentions from all of their social profiles and frequent posting.

Domains

You can put in any base URL to be tracked as a mention and the root form of that URL will be fetched with the use of wildcard truncation.

You can also exclude any domains or websites from mentions as well.

Location

Every topic campaign is setup within a predefined location, so only mentions within that location will appear.

Currently in Unamo Social, you can search for mentions within The U.S.A, the U.K., or Poland.

Conclusion

Most businesses are unique in name or product, but there is still a ton of overlap to be reckoned with. Boolean search operators help users distinguish their products and interests with ease instead of manually excluding mentions and authors.

Get the data you need quickly, effectively, and painlessly.

The following two tabs change content below.

Marketing specialist at Unamo. When I’m not diving into the worlds of Social Media Marketing, SEO, or Conversion Analytics, you can usually find me reading contemporary literature or traveling Europe.

Source: Unamo

Share This