What are Boolean Operators?

Updated: Oct 26, 2020

Boolean Search Operators Are Excellent When Searching For Information.

Boolean operators are logical expressions used in searching databases. Boolean operators are used in a process that combinations keywords and operators that database engines can say yes or no to your search criteria. Boolean operators combine your search words to either narrow or broaden your search results. The terms used most often are; AND, OR, and NOT.

What are search operators?

Search operators, including boolean operators, are special characters and commands that can help you be specific about your research by filtering your results. Almost all search engines use the same or similar operators.

Using search operators will expand, yet be specific at the same time, with your text search results.

Download your list of search operators.

Below are a few searches I performed to test some of the search operators.

allintext:'modelo chelada' $2.99..$3.99

allintext:'modelo chelada' $2.99..$3.99 Minneapolis

allintext:Minneapolis Lake Street Riots Summer 2020

allintext:Minneapolis Lake Street Riots Summer 2020 filetype:pdf "fuck 12"

Note: Be careful with that last one because some naughty sites did pop up. Using the – (minus) character would take care of that problem. FYI, I was curious about a term I saw on walls of burned buildings after the rioting in Minneapolis, MN, which prompted that last search.

Why use boolean operators?

Boolean operators help you focus on your search, especially if your topic has many search keywords. Search operators help you connect sets of information to narrow down or widen to find the information you need.

Databases are set up with tons of information the average consumer can use for research. With the right tools, you can find what you want. When you use search techniques like Boolean search operators, the databases become much more user friendly. Databases are found in your online Public Library, Google Scholar, and other locations. These databases include article databases, and online catalogs, become valuable sources of information that you can find what you want. FYI: at your public library most articles are free to read. Google Scholar the database you use may ask for a fee.

Commercial search engines, like Google, Bing, and Yahoo!, are also databases where you can use these operators. Most of the information you find on a commercial database is free.

Subject headings and simple starter searches:

  1. Use a keyword or phrase describing your topic.

  2. Select 2 or 3 results that are relevant.

  3. See what the Subject or Descriptor field terms are used.

  4. Do a new search using the terms from step 3.

  5. Try using the search operators from this list.

Subject headings are searches within the descriptions of each database where you will find information on your topic. This type of database searches for the subject in the header, headline, or description. Each database has different criteria for how they use their vocabulary. When searching in a database for subject headings, you will need to know the vocabulary or lexicon used for that specific topic or database.

Keywords are what you would typically use for a commercial search engine. Keywords are usually "natural words" that describe your search. Databases look for individual keywords throughout their system. When you use keywords only, you may end up with too many results that are not relevant.

Search field forms, in databases found at your online library, are sometimes provided to help you in your search. Fill in the fields as complete as possible; use the search operators to zero in your subject.

What if you are using a commercial search engine?

Search operators can be beneficial with commercial search engines.

The search operators can help you zero in on your topic. Researchers all over the world have used these operators to help them find arcuate, specific information. Information can be; time-sensitive, price-sensitive, exact words matched, using the URLs and page text while being very specific about the search they want to perform.

These search operators can be used separately or many at one time. The list may look like a lot of information, but once you start using them, they will become second nature.

Refine Your Web Search with Search Operators

Using symbols and words, you can make your search results more specific.

SEO professional use these search operators all the time when searching for information on:

  • Website Research

  • Client Research

  • Competitor Information

  • Pricing Research

  • Keyword Information

  • Buyer Persona Research

  • Comparing Items

  • Finding Different Types of Documents

  • Spelling

  • Language Usage

The list of possibilities is endless.

Two things to remember,

  1. Databases, like Google, usually ignore or don't see punctuation or special characters useless you're using search operators.

  2. When using search operators, make sure you don't add space after the symbol and the word right after the symbol. For example, site:wendydanko.com is correct, site: wendydanko.com is not correct.

Give search operators a try and see what happens.

Download your list of search operators.

About the Author

Wendy Danko is an SEO and Web Design Consultant at WenKo LLC. Having a design background has its perks, especially when it comes to website design and SEO. Wendy is determined to help every one of her clients improve their website and SEO. With website improvements, her clients have uncovered new leads to grow their client base.

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