Why You Should Use Boolean Search Operators for SEO

Boolean searches contain a specific set of search operators related to the logic inherent in the word and, orand no.

Even though they’re three simple words, their impact on search results—and the usefulness of Boolean SEO-related searches—can’t be overstated.

These search operators are used as conjunctions, allowing compound words to search (And), broaden the search (Or), or narrow the search to make it more specific (Not).

Boolean search is the core search method for obtaining SEO-relevant data.

Once you have fully explored and understood Boolean search, you can learn other search operators beyond Boolean logic, of which And, Or, and Not are a part.

Because boolean searches have so many features, it’s easy to find yourself returning them repeatedly because they’re so useful.

That’s why it’s important to understand and master these search operators.

why is it called boolean

Boolean refers to George Boole, a mathematician who invented Boolean logic in the 19th century.

Although George Boole lived in the early to mid-1800s, his contributions to logic and mathematics are considered an important precursor to modern computer science.

Stanford University Encyclopedia of Philosophy write him:

“He revolutionized logic by applying methods from the then emerging field of symbolic algebra to logic… Boolean’s methods provided general algorithms in an algebraic language for an infinite variety of arguments of arbitrary complexity.

… Boole mentioned the theoretical possibility of using probability theory, augmented by his logical algebra, to reveal the fundamental laws governing society by analyzing vast amounts of social data by massive (human) computers. “

Don’t underestimate the power of And, Or, and Not.

They are an effective way to extract useful SEO-related data from Google searches.

Why Boolean Search Operators Matter

Boolean search operators are useful because they make searches refined and specific. But Boolean searches can also expand the search to find more data.

At the end of the day, Boolean search operators are important because they are a powerful way to control what Google displays in search results.

Boolean logic helps searchers bypass Google’s conventional algorithms to produce more precise search results.

1. AND Concept in Search

By default, every word used in the search is considered together.

Modern search engines will also expand queries and start using synonyms, which can sometimes alter results in unwanted ways.

The problem with using synonyms is that sometimes we want a specific word in the search results, so we have to use “AND” boolean logic to force the search engine to return search results that contain the specific word we want.

There is no “AND” search operator in Google Search. So, one way to introduce AND logic into a search query is by using quotation marks (“”) to require specific words.

Quotes force search engines to provide search results that contain the exact keywords in the ranking pages.

The quote search operator is not an explicit “AND” search operator. They are exact match search operators.

this is a Totally Suitable search, not an “AND” boolean search.

However, using the exact match search operator, you can force the search engine to use “AND” logic to return results such as containing [keyword 1] and [keyword 2].

When you search in Google like this (no exact match):

pie recipe apple turmeric

Search results may not contain the word “turmeric”, as is the case when the first search result is a web page [apple ginger pie] Does not contain turmeric ingredients.

Using quotes forces Google to return the desired search results:

pie recipe "apple" "turmeric"
Search screenshots [pie recipe “apple” “turmeric, ” Google, July 2022

The “And” searches are useful in many SEO contexts.

For example, one can use the AND logic to find link pages of sites that link out to personal injury lawyers.

"favorite links" "personal injury"

The above search forces Google to find webpages that contain the two phrases, “favorite links” and “personal injury.”

The “And” search logic is very powerful and useful because it opens the door to a wider range of search results that are useful for SEO purposes.

2. How To Use The “OR” Search Operator

The “OR” search operator function can be thought of as combining keywords, such as give me this OR give me that.

But what’s happening is that the “OR” search operator allows one to do multiple searches with one search.

Another way to think of the “OR” search operator is to force Google to show search results with specific synonyms or related words (if you want to see those specific words in the search results but not necessarily on the same page).

Searches with the “OR” search operator can be thought of as “give me this and give me that within the same set of search results but not necessarily on the same webpages.

The “OR” search operator can be conceptualized as a refinement of the “AND” search operator.

While the “AND” types of searches (using quotation marks) return websites that contain all keywords phrases in each of the websites shown in the SERPs, the “OR” search operator results in websites that contain either keyword.

If one is looking for personal injury lawyer links, one can do two simultaneous searches with one search query like this:

"favorite links" OR "Link Resources" "personal injury"

Important: Take note that the “OR” search operator only works when it is used in capitalized letters like this: “OR” and not like this “Or” or this “or.”

3. Concept Of Not: Exclude Words From Search Results

Excluding keywords from a search is a powerful way to search for SEO-related data.

There is no “NOT” search operator, but there is a minus sign (-) that accomplishes the NOT search operations.

The NOT searches (with the minus sign) find sites with the desired keyword phrases except for the keyword phrase that is prefaced by the minus sign.

In other words, every word that has a minus sign next to it will be excluded.

How To Use The Minus Sign Searches For SEO

In 2009, then-Google search engineer Matt Cutts (no longer at Google) explained how the minus sign worked.

Screenshot of Matt Cutts Explaining the Minus Sign Search OperatorGoogle Search Tips, Google Search Central, July 2022

In a YouTube Video titled, Google Search Tips, he explained:

“Now, suppose you’re interested in Matt, but not me.

You might do:

Matt (space) -Cutts.

And that will … only show pages that have Matt but don’t have the word Cutts.”

The minus sign is great for researching backlinks.

While many tools can do the same thing, searching Google itself is a good way to surface webpages that Google has indexed.

The minus sign is a way to find all the sites that link to a domain. The way to do it is to search for the domain but exclude the domain itself.

How To Find Competitor Backlinks With Minus Sign Example:

example.com -site:example.com

If the website has a unique brand name, then you can do a similar search using the brand name.

Brand Name Backlink Search

example -site:example.com "links"

If you’re having trouble with that, you can segment the links by Top Level Domain (TLD).

Segmenting Searches With Minus Sign Search Operator:

example -site:example.com “links” site:.edu

example -site:example.com “links” site:.net

example -site:example.com “links” site:.com

Boolean Logic For SEO Searches

Understanding what Boolean means and where it comes from helps to understand how important it is for SEO purposes.

These examples are only a starting point for a near limitless way of extracting meaningful SEO data using Google and Boolean searches.

More Resources:

Featured Image: Master1305/Shutterstock

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