Boolean vs. English

booleanstrings Uncategorized

I think Boolean syntax seems hard partially because many people still try to use English to talk with search engines, while software only understands the exact syntax it is programmed to understand.

As an example, whether a particular operator works or not on Google is not a matter of someone’s experience or opinion, it is either true or false, such as whether 3+5 equals 8 or not. We wish Google would warn us about syntax mistakes but it doesn’t! If you are in doubt about an operator- or about any syntax rule –  run sample searches and test its validity.

An operator in Google is a special word followed by the column : (Examples of operators on Google are: siteinurl: intitle:) How do you verify whether a particular word works as an operator on Google? There’s a way to test, and here’s how. If a word is NOT an operator, changing the column : for any non-meaningful special character (as an example, the question mark) will leave the results the same. If the word is an operator the results will be very different. Examples follow.

Compare

sourcecon site:twitter.com

and sourcecon site?twitter.com

(or use another character, as in sourcecon site\twitter.com)

site: is an operator on Google, so the results are very different.

Compare

sourcecon linkdomain:twitter.com and

sourcecon linkdomain?twitter.com

linkdomain: doesn’t work as an operator on Google, that is why the results are exactly the same. Special characters are ignored in both cases.

Google keeps improving its searching capabilities, trying to display the results we would want to see, so testing is not always easy; but it is certainly necessary to test.  It also helps to discuss the syntax and compare notes to find out what works and what doesn’t.