Improve your online media monitoring with better Boolean searches

I first heard the word “Boolean” four years ago on my first day of sales training at Meltwater. “Boolean” simply refers to a targeted keyword search that uses Boolean operators such as “AND,” “OR,” “NOT,” etc. to define the relationships between keywords. My boss told me that if I could teach my clients how to build targeted media monitoring searches using Boolean operators, it would save them time daily and ensure more streamlined reporting. After working on several campaigns and setting up thousands of searches, I can say that my boss was absolutely right.

The word “Boolean” doesn’t exactly conjure up images of going home early on a Friday or getting a pat on the back for a job well done … but maybe it should. Used as a part of online media monitoring efforts, these targeted searches save time, return more precise results and reduce frustration. Even better, building targeted searches is simpler than it sounds: within the Meltwater News public relations platform it only requires a few basic English words and an understanding of simple math.


Online Media Monitoring | Be More Efficient with Better Searches


On my second day of training at Meltwater, my boss asked me to create an online media monitoring search for the company Apple, Inc. I typed “A-p-p-l-e” into the search box and the platform returned more than 70,000 results for the day! In the years since, I’ve found countless similarly broad searches in client accounts caused by a common company or brand name—and one time a client had a CEO named George Bush! Learning to build more effective, targeted searches increases efficiency and can mean the difference between getting sleep and making another pot of coffee.

This became clear when I was working with a client at a large, multi-brand company to set up end-of-quarter reporting across several markets. After teaching them how to specify which brand and market each search focused on, they used the searches that we built together as a template for searches on competitors and industry news. Once set up, these brand-focused searches needed tweaking only as often as the brands changed. When the executive team suddenly requested additional metrics, it took my client minutes, not hours, to prepare them.

The goal of online media monitoring is to get precise results as efficiently as possible. Targeted media monitoring searches mean that you spend less time wading through irrelevant articles and more time reaching out to journalists, measuring campaign success, and coming up with compelling new campaign ideas.


Online Media Monitoring | Boolean Searching Made Simple


To build targeted online media monitoring searches you only need to remember a few simple things:

Basic English Words


Simple Math

A x (B + C) = (A x B) + (A x C)

The above English words are Boolean operators that define the relationships between keywords and the simple math describes how they can be organized. Meltwater clients generally build searches to track themselves and their brands, competitors, and industry topics. Regardless of the topic, any search you build uses the same words and simple mathematical principle above to display relevant articles.


Using Apple, Inc. as an example, I’ve built several simple and complex searches below for you to copy, paste and edit for your own online media monitoring campaigns:


Simple Searches

Apple NOT (juice OR tree OR candy)

This media monitoring search could be used to find news on Apple, Inc. that excludes any general mentions of the word “apple” that are not about the company. Similarly, it can be used to display articles about competing companies and brands. This search uses the Boolean operator “NOT.” This operator is used frequently in online media monitoring to exclude articles that have instances of a company or brand name that are not in fact about the company or brand you’re looking for.


Apple AND (iPod OR MacBook OR iPhone)

You might use this search to find news about Apple products but not news about their shareholder meetings or recruiting efforts. Use this online media monitoring search to display articles about your company or a competitor, but only when one specific product or brand name appears in the articles as well. This search uses the Boolean operator “AND” to tie the company name to one or more of several product names.


Apple AND MacBook AND “Tim Cook”

You could use this media monitoring search to isolate a product announcement made by the company’s CEO as opposed to product reviews or other articles not including his or her name. Generally you might use this search to display articles about your company or a competitor, but only when several other qualifiers, such as product or brand names, or a member of the executive team, appear as well. This differs from the previous search because it requires that all of the keywords appear in the displayed articles.


Apple NEAR/5 design | Apple NEAR/5 expensive | Apple NEAR/5 WWDC

This search displays articles about your company or a competitor, but only when one specific product or brand name, event, qualifier or other keyword appears within five keywords of the company name. These proximity searches are very similar to above online media monitoring searches using “AND,” but specify a distance between the keywords. These sorts of searches are best used when you want to ensure that articles are drawing a close connection between the company and one or more qualifiers.


Complex Searches

(Apple AND iPhone) NOT (Google OR Android)

Use this search to display articles about one of your company’s products, but only when a competitor is not mentioned. In this example I’ve used “AND” and “OR” to describe the relationship between the two company and product names, however any combination of “OR,” “AND,” or “NEAR/#” can be used.


(iOS AND Android) OR ((OSX OR “OS X”) AND (“Windows 8” OR Windows8))

This search might be made by a marketer within Apple who’s searching online media for articles comparing Apple’s mobile and desktop operating systems (iOS and OS X) with competing operating systems (Android and Windows 8). I’ve highlighted the two different parts of the expression for more clarity: blue for mobile and green for desktop. Because it’s very common to find misspellings even in professional writing, I used “OR” to include common misspellings of the desktop operating systems. The use of quotation marks allows you to group two or more words as a single keyword and the use of parentheses groups expressions together.


Online Media Monitoring | Ready, Set, Search!


Now that you have the tools to build targeted online media monitoring searches using Boolean operators, log in and get started! Coupled with the largest source base in the industry, targeted searches will save you time and return more precise results with fewer headaches.

Better searching is just the first step in becoming an online media monitoring hero. Subscribe to the Meltwater Customer Blog for more tips and tricks, how-to guides and stories from clients. And as always, please let me know what you think in the comments below or send me feedback at