Optimize Keywords and Boolean Search

The more familiar you are with the use of keywords and Boolean, the more powerful ContentGems is for discovering content. This article briefly reviews the basics of Boolean, and then shares easy tips to level up your Boolean searches.

How Boolean works

ContentGems uses the Boolean logic operators OR and AND:

  • OR means that it will contain at least one of the terms you entered
  • AND means that it must contain all the terms you entered

If I were to search for “coffee” OR “doughnuts,” then I would get articles that include “coffee” as well as articles that include “doughnuts.” Of course, this would also mean articles mentioning both “coffee” and “doughnuts.” Let’s say I only wanted that last group of articles, then I could search for “coffee” AND “doughnuts.”

You can then chain these commands to create a deeper instruction. With AND, not only can you say, “gimme only results that satisfy these conditions,” but you can also say what you don’t want to see. That’s where Must and Must Not come into play.

  • Must Not means that it will not include that term you entered

For our example, if you see this:

This search will exclude any direct references to “The Simpsons.” Why anyone would actually want to do this is beyond us, however, but perhaps they’re getting too many Homer-related posts. 

Why do you want to use Must Not? It can help you pinpoint your topic and reduce ambiguity to produce stronger results. If you’re interested in coffee shops, you could be more interested in the design instead of the business side, so you would exclude articles including “revenue” with the Must Not option. 

Must Not also filters out articles that contain certain terms when your topic of interest uses ambiguous terms. A good example is the topic "Apple." Are you interested in the fruit or the company? If you are interested in the fruit, then under Must Not you might add phrases like "iPhone,” "MacBook," "iPad," "Apple Watch," and "Tim Cook."

Rule kinds

There are a number of kinds of rules to help you filter articles based on their content.

  • "contain the exact phrase"
    • Use this option to specify exact terms or phrases found in an article 
    • Example: The exact term "water" matches "Water down the bridge" but doesn't match "Watermelon Sugar"
    • Matching is not case sensitive.
  • "contain words starting with"
    • Use this option to specify word prefixes found in an article
    • Example: The word prefix "water" matches both "Water down the bridge" and "Watermelon Sugar"
  • "contain text similar to phrase"
    • Use this option to specify fuzzy search terms
    • Example: The fuzzy search term "color" matches both "colour" and "color"
  • "be shared with hashtag"
    • Use this option to specify the hashtag an article was shared under on Twitter. Hashtags have to match exactly, although they are not case sensitive
  • "be from Web Domain ending with"
    • Use this to specify the domain suffix under which an article is hosted. This rule is useful to specify from which kind of websites you want to get recommendations. You can, e.g., limit search to Canadian websites by entering ".ca" in this rule with a Must application. Or you can exclude articles from a specific website by entering the Web Domain in this rule with a Must Not application
  • "match advanced query"
    • Use this to specify advanced rules for matching content. The next section on advanced query syntax will provide all the details

Advanced Query Syntax

Here are some expert tips for pinpointing your search.


Your keywords may include a bunch of variations. For example, you may want to learn more about paint, so in addition to “paint,” you could also search for “paints,” “painter,” “painters,” “painting,” and “paintings,” which would net you more articles. You can use a wildcard search to cut down on the duplication, just by using the * symbol. For instance, the query paint* would look for all of the above. 


Parentheses allow you to create queries with nested logic. For instance, to search for content that must contain either “information” or “technology" you would include the following term: (information technology).

Field specifiers

Field specifiers allow you to query a particular field in an article. If you don't specify a field, the term will be matched against the article's title and body text fields.

The following fields are available for searching:

  • body searches in the article body only. Example: To find articles that have the term "apple" in their body text, enter body:apple as one of your query terms.
  • domain matches the domain suffix in the article's URL. Use this to find articles from a given Web Domain, e.g., for geographic filtering. Domains are interpreted from right to left. This may be unexpected. So to match any ".uk" domains, you just enter domain:uk.
    • Example 1: To match articles from Web Domain ending in ".com.au", enter domain:com.au
    • Example 2: To match articles from a specific Web Domain, enter domain:contentgems.com.
  • excerpt searches the first 300 characters in the article's body text only. Sometimes searching this field instead of the entire body will eliminate noisy results since the most important terms are typically found at the beginning of an article. Example: To search for articles that contain the term "content marketing" at the beginning of the body text, enter excerpt:"content marketing".
  • hashtag finds articles that were shared on Twitter with this hashtag. Example: To find articles that were shared on Twitter with the "#beyonce" hashtag, enter the following: hashtag:beyonce.
  • title searches in the article title only. Example: To find articles that contain the term "green tea" in their title, enter the search term title:"green tea".


The ContentGems ranking system delivers relevant content into your river, and sometimes you may want to prioritize some important keywords over others. That’s where boosting comes into play: basically, boosting allows you to control the importance of a term in a search. 

To boost a term use the ^ symbol with a boost factor (by the exponential of that number) at the end of the term. For instance, if you have a search that includes the keyword "AdWords" and want to boost this keyword then use the query AdWords^2. To boost a phrase, append the boost modifier after the closing quote: "content marketing"^10.

Any terms that don't have a field or boosting specified default to being searched in the title and body text fields. And the title gets a boost of ^25. You could accomplish the default behaviour with the following term: (title:water^25 body:water). This is a Boolean Or query that searches for the term "water" in the article's title field with a boost factor of 25, and in the body field with no boost. This approach ranks articles with the term in the title higher than those that contain the term in the body.

Lastly, you can’t “negative boost” a keyword. So if you’ve included a Must Not, there’s no need to boost it down further. ContentGems already will exclude that keyword.

Fuzzy matching

To match similar spellings, you can make a term fuzzy by adding a tilde and a fuzzy factor. E.g., ~color0.3 will match both "color" as well as "colour". Here the fuzzy factor was 0.3: the higher the fuzzy factor, the fuzzier the matches are.

More on Keywords

If you expect that all your articles will contain a specific phrase, that’s a good place to start to filter out noise: examples include unique location names, personal names, company names, product names, TV show titles, etc.—basically any phrase unique to the topic of interest.

ContentGems looks for exact phrases, so think carefully how often that exact phrase will be used. For example, if you are wanting to learn about organic coffee beans, you will receive more articles searching for “organic” AND “coffee beans” rather than “organic coffee beans.” There’s no guarantee that people writing about that subject will use that exact three-word phrase. If your phrase contains a hyphen, there’s no need to include it. Searching for “third wave coffee” works better than “third-wave coffee.”

Keyword Suggester

The Keyword Suggester, a yellow button above the keywords in the Filters tab, will help you find other potentially related search terms. For our example, for “coffee shop” it will also suggest “coffeehouse” and “cafe” as potential keywords to add. You can then select from the suggestions and include them in your keywords section, and then watch like magic as more articles appear.

Following these tips and strategies, you’ll be a pro at Boolean, and get the most out of your ContentGems river.

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