Explaining Boolean Queries and how to ask the right questions

POSTED BY   tdmbadmin
22nd February 2013
Explaining Boolean Queries and how to ask the right questions

Social Media Monitoring is fast becoming an integral part of a company’s brand management. Using the right software is the first step – whichUnderstanding Boolean Queries we can help you with – but then there is the understanding on how to use that software; this is where a Boolean query comes in. This article will explain what Boolean queries are and how to ask the right questions.

What is a Boolean Query?

Boolean queries, or Boolean operators as they are sometimes referred to, are not your average search phrase. They are specifically structured to ensure a refined set of answers ensues. These can be constructed in both simple and complex forms. Contrary to the normal law of questions, when it comes to boolean queries, the longer and more complex the query – the shorter and more specific the answer!

Great Simple Examples of how Boolean Queries filter your searches:

Basic Query Example Result 
The AND operator Cats AND Dogs Will find mentions of Cats and Dogs on the SAME webpage. Must be capitalised
The OR operator Cats OR Dogs Will find mentions of Cats or mentions of Dogs on any webpage. Must be capitalised
The NOT operator Cats NOT Dogs Will find mentions of Cats on a webpage as long as Dogs are not mentioned on that webpage. Must be qcapitalised
Brackets ( ) (Cats AND Dogs) OR (Cats AND Mice) Will find mentions of Cats and Dogs on the same webpage or mentions of Cats and Mice on the same webpage

With the inclusion of brackets these queries become more and more like excel equations and are thus a little more tricky to keep track of but we will happily help you out here should you get into trouble. It also means that your queries can be extended to make them more and more specific. To demonstrate just how much they can be extended, in some software that we use, queries can run to over 4,000 characters.

So lets get this more specific. After the basic operators you can start adding more complex operators to define sites you would like to search or specify countries for better results:

Operator Example Result
the proximity operator ~ “cats and dogs”~5 will find mentions of the exact phrase “cats and dogs”  and mentions of cats and dogs within 5 words of each other, e.g. “I love cats and horses but dogs are my favourite”
the NEAR/n operator (cats OR horses) NEAR/5 (dogs OR mice) will find mentions of cats within 5 words of dogs or mice and mentions of horses within 5 words of dogs or mice
the raw: operator raw:Google+ will find mentions of Google’s social networking service written with a capital G and a plus sign. NB: if the raw: operator is not used for Google+ all mentions of Google will be found because the + will be ignored
the country: operator country:uk  AND “cats and dogs” will only find mentions of the exact phrase “cats and dogs” that have been identified as from the UK
the site: operator site:twitter.com  AND “cats and dogs” will find mentions on a particular site, e.g. any mention of “cats and dogs” on Twitter
the url: operator url:bbc.co.uk/news AND “cats and dogs” will find mentions on a particular part of a site,e.g. any mention of “cats and dogs” on the news 

section of the BBC website

the author: operator author:jamesherriott will find mentions across all page types with a specific author name, e.g. tweets, blogs, forums, by any author called jamesherriott
the wildcard operator * complain* will find mentions with the root word complain, e.g. complain, complaints, complained etc.
the replacement operator ? customi?e will find mentions where ? can be replaced by another letter, e.g. customise, customize

Boolean Queries are a fascinating aspect of Social Media Monitoring and here at The Digital Marketing Bureau we hope we can help you out with any aspect of the process. Whether you want to discuss these in particular, whether you want us to recommend some software to use or whether you want us to run it all for you do let us know by contacting us below.

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tdmbadmin

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