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Boolean Search Basics: Making Google Work for You

The amount of traffic that Google receives on a daily basis is staggering. The search engine averages around 5 billion searches every single day. But the quality of the results that a user gets is based entirely on what is entered into the search bar. Using Boolean operators in your searches will vastly improve your results by helping you customize exactly what you want and don’t want to see.

Here are a few of the most helpful Boolean operators that will help you get exactly what you’re looking for from Google.

This Boolean search is especially important for SEO professionals. This will be an immense help when it comes to finding link building and guest post opportunities.

Inclusive terms

boolean search

This Boolean web search is going to be the two that you are most likely to use on a daily basis. These are both inclusive statements, meaning that they will add results to your search. As a running example throughout this article, we’re going to be searching for ‘clam chowder recipes‘. Normally, people could just type that phrase into Google and get a decent amount of results.

But what if they wanted to narrow it down by looking for recipes that only include certain ingredients? Maybe you’re also looking for a really good salad to go with your soup.

Your phrase would look something like this, ‘clam chowder AND salad recipes‘. Capitalization is important here. Google has evolved to be able to interpret the most important words in sentences and search for them. When you use ‘AND‘ in all caps, it tells Google that you are using the Boolean form of this word and it will give you results accordingly.

boolean search engines

Another helpful term that goes hand in hand with AND is OR. Going back to our chowder example, let’s say you are can’t really make up your mind and aren’t going to be too picky about the type of chowder. You could use something like this, ‘clam OR corn chowder recipes‘ this will pull all the results that have clam or corn chowder into your search.

Also, don’t be afraid to use each of these expressions in the same search. We can put both of our examples together, ‘clam OR corn chowder AND salad recipes‘ we’ll be able to make a nice hearty lunch in just one search.

Exclusive terms

boolean searching on the internet

These are Boolean operators that will exclude certain things that you do not want to appear in your search results. This used to be done by using NOT. However, recent changes to Google have made this operator obsolete. Instead of typing in the word they have replaced it with a symbol (-). This symbol can be used much like the wildcard in that you can attach it to search terms in order to exclude them.

So maybe at this point you’re tired of looking at clam chowder recipes and want to learn more about clams themselves. The search term that you would want to use would look like this. ‘clam -chowder‘ this will find results for the word clam and exclude the keyword chowder from all search results.


boolean web search

One of the problems that will come with searching for multiple words at once is that Google will look at them as individual search terms. This means that we might get some results in our search that just has the keyword ‘clam’ or ‘corn’ in them. It could be a Wikipedia page about the animal or the most effective way to grow corn.

Using quotation marks in your search will make Google only find webpages that have the exact phrase that you put quotations around appear in the search results. So for example, if we wanted to narrow down our previous search, we would have something like this, ‘ “clam chowder” OR “corn chowder” AND salad recipes‘. This will only allow results that have the phrase clam chowder or corn chowder in them to appear. Using this technique is very effective if you can’t seem to find relevant results without quotations.


boolean search basics

This sounds really exciting, right? Who doesn’t like surprises? The specific wildcard that we’ll be using is going to be the asterisk (*). This has two uses in Google. It can either treat the asterisk as any random word, a wildcard, if you will. So for example we can search for, ‘* chowder recipes’. This will look for any kind of chowder recipes. It could be clam, corn, potato, or whatever. Any search result that has a word before chowder will show up in your results.

You can also attach the asterisk to a term and it will have Google look for different tenses of the word that it’s attached to. For example, if you’re looking for either ‘recipes’ or ‘recipe’ you can use the asterisk to search for both at the same time, like this, ‘clam chowder recipe*’.

What about you?

This is a pretty basic list of Boolean operators used for searching on internet. There is always more to learn about using them effectively. What are some of your favorite search strings to use either while you’re on the job or just at home surfing?

Content Contributed by: Rob Moore


  1. Agree with thoughts. Seo is totally depends on your searching skills. You can beat your competitors only when you have knowledge where to but your valuable things.
    Thanks for coming with this post. Modern SEO needs this type of thoughts.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’m glad that you got something out of it. I love helping people get to know more about the world of SEO!

  2. This is interesting information.Thanks for sharing this.

    • I hope you liked it! Thanks for the comment.

  3. I’m glad you found it useful! I know that learning about this made all my searching efforts much easier.

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