Boolean searches are the key to surfacing the coverage you’re looking for about your brand, your competitors, and your industry as a whole. Begin brand monitoring by running basic searches using keywords. Check out the upper left for related keywords that you might have overlooked.

Keyword search for the Golden State Warriors using Meltwater

 Type keywords in the search fields or drag and drop from the suggestions above.

Precision Searching with Booleans

As you review the results from your keyword searches, you’ll start noticing that the more information you have to go through, the more junk you come across. For example, it might not be enough to say “Find me mentions of Subway but no mentions of stations,” because there might happen to be a Subway at College Station and that article might be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s these cases that demand the precision of booleans, so you can zero in on relevant results and exclude the ones you don’t need.

NOT > AND > OR

These are the three most common Boolean operators, in order of precedence. Remember when your math teacher taught you Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally? Boolean operators work the same way.

Group your term variations inside a set of parentheses and separate the terms with the OR operator. Anchor them against a common term with the AND operator. Be sure to use a set of quotes around an entire phrase to search for it exactly as is:

(”Golden State Warriors” OR “GSW”) AND basketball

Is the same as searching for:

(“Golden State Warriors” AND basketball)

OR

(GSW AND basketball)

Notice “basketball” is the common term to both searches. We used parentheses so the operators will be applied first.

A search for brands whose names are common nouns, like Subway sandwiches, might yield irrelevant articles. Here’s an example of searches looking for mentions of the Subway restaurant chain:

Basic search (keyword): Subway
Boolean: Subway

Boolean search for Subway using Meltwater.

We’ll have to be more specific: do we mean subway stations or the restaurant chain?

These results lead us to refine our search even more. We’ll look for common phrases containing “subway” that might appear in an article not about the restaurant chain. We’ll want to use the NOT operator to exclude phrases we know would show up in irrelevant results. Examples:

“subway station”
“subway line”
“subway track”
“underground subway”

Since none of these phrases are desirable for our purposes, we’ll group them together inside parentheses and separate them with OR. Here’s a more refined boolean search looking for the sandwich chain. The terms in parentheses have been broken line-by-line for legibility, but the entire boolean can be a single line:

Subway NOT
(“subway station” OR
“subway route” OR
“subway ride” OR
“subway stop” OR
“subway platform” OR
“subway train” OR
“subway line*” OR
“subway track” OR
“underground subway” OR
“subway construction” OR
“subway operator” OR
“Subway series”)

Notice that the exclusion list begins with NOT and comes after the main boolean search (keyword: Subway). This boolean means we’re confident that if “subway” appears as part of these excluded phrases, the article isn’t covering the food chain.

Boolean search (with exclusions) for Subway using Meltwater
Results of searching for Subway and ignoring any to transit.

Don’t Forget Tpyos and Alternate Spellings

Think about where people are when they make a quick post on social media: on-the-go, standing in line, in between meetings, on the phone, etc. Most people don’t bother to correct typos and autocorrect is notorious for misreading proper nouns, especially uncommon names. Consider names like Gabrielle Douglas, one of our star gymnasts on Team USA (go Gabby!) is referenced by either Gabby or Gabrielle. Here’s how to catch those variations using boolean:

“Gabrielle Douglas” OR “Gabby Douglas”

The same goes for a misspelling:

“Lilly King” OR “Lily King”

Notice we have the proper, formal spelling and then the nickname or misspelling. If there are other common variations, add them with more OR operators.

But social media, that wonderfully lawless landscape of funny autocorrect, GIFs, and emojis, throws us another curveball: the hashtag. While people make posts about “Gabrielle Douglas” or “Gabby Douglas,” they may also use the entire name as its own hashtag: #GabrielleDouglas OR #GabbyDouglas. Make sure to account for this when you search for full names. Write out the full name and its variations, then write them as hashtags (no spaces in hashtags!):

“Gabrielle Douglas” OR “Gabby Douglas” OR “#GabrielleDouglas” OR “#GabbyDouglas”

A Case for Sensitivity

Brands whose names happen to also be nouns—Subway, Square, Uber, Apple—can bring up unwanted results. Instead of researching a laundry list of phrases to exclude (and you can see we had so many for Subway), you can make your search case-sensitive.

Use this feature to find references to the Subway restaurant chain in the body of articles or posts.

Case-sensitive boolean search for Subway using Meltwater.
Turn on “Only match capital letters” …

Results of case-sensitive boolean search using Meltwater.
…to pull up Subway as a proper noun.

The Title Bout

You can even skip searching the body and only look at titles:

title:Subway

Boolean search for Subway using the title: parameter in Meltwater.

Some good news for the sandwich chain.

You can use the exact headline and the title: parameter to see what media outlets picked up your press release. This is a great way to benchmark the performance of your PR.

Benchmark your brand's press release using the title: parameter and boolean search in Meltwater.

Look up your press release title…

Benchmarking your press release with title: parameter in Meltwater. Chorizo, anyone?
…and use the title: parameter to measure syndication.

The Ingress

Use ingress: to find articles about a keyword most likely mentioned in the lede. A keyword is typically lower priority—and thus less likely the subject of the article—if mentioned toward the end of the piece.

ingress:warriors

Find keywords in the first paragraph by using booleans with the ingress: parameter in Meltwater.
Using ingress:warriors pulled up this article. 

The Wildcard

Sometimes, you’ll want to capture different variations of a term:

depreciation
depreciate
depreciating

We can use a wildcard after the last common character to reduce the amount of typing and capture any additional variations you may not have thought of:

depreciat*

Go wild with booleans and wildcard (*) searches in Meltwater.
More variations might give you some diverse results. Don’t forget to use the standard operators to narrow them down.

The Near Switch

The idea behind this operator is simple: the closer two words are in proximity, the greater the relationship. If “Golden State” and “Warriors” appear close together, there’s a high chance the text is about the basketball team and not some actual warriors showing up in the Golden State.

Boolean searching with the near/ switch in Meltwater reminds us that LeBron dominated the Warriors.
Caution: some booleans bring back painful memories: “Golden State” near/6 Warrior

 We use quotes to ensure the phrase appears exactly as written, and a number to specify within how many words the two terms should appear. For example, the above boolean would also capture:

“The Warriors will be returning to the Golden State for Game 3 […]”

If you’re looking for terms that appear further apart than 16 words, we suggest using AND instead of the near/ switch:

“Golden State” AND Warriors

This sounds complicated! Help!

The tl;dr:

  • Keyword searches are easy to run. Take advantage of suggested keywords.
  • Advanced searching allows better targeting with booleans. Experiment with these operators:
    • NOT terms after this will not be included; try using this at the end of the boolean followed by a list of exclusions.
    • AND specifies all words that must appear in each result.
    • OR results will match either the first word/phrase or another word/phrase
      • Use OR to look for all variations and misspellings of a word or proper noun: “Gabrielle Douglas” OR “Gabby Douglas”
      • For social searches, consider writing full names as single words after hashtags: “#GabbyDouglas” and remember there might be an equivalent hashtag of every phrase or full name you’re searching for.
    • Use quotes to search for an “exact phrase”
      • “Golden State” will surface the exact phrase, but (Golden AND State) doesn’t require the words to appear consecutively.
  • If you have multiple terms, group them in parentheses:
    • ((Warriors OR Basketball) AND “Golden State”) NOT NBA
    • Always count to make sure the number of opening parentheses matches the number of closing. You should always have an even number.
    • Note: since NOT has the highest precedence of all operators, put it at the end and separate your desired terms inside parentheses.
  • When looking for a name that’s also a regular noun, select the radio button “Only match capital letters” to isolate the name as a proper noun (Subway, Apple, Uber).
  • To look for a keyword in headlines only, use title:keyword or title:”exact phrase”
  • To search the first paragraph only, use ingress:keyword
  • A wildcard character (*) says “I don’t know how many more characters come after this part of the word, so find me everything variation of the single word”
  • near/n: results will have the first term or phrase within n words of the second term or phrase. If two words appear greater than 16 words apart, try using AND instead of near/17.

To delve into the nitty-gritty of how gathering data can support content your brand is producing, download our ebook on using statistics as your marketing super power.

boolean search media monitoring