How to Do a Boolean Search in Google

These tricks will improve your Google searches

Reflection of search button in businesswoman's glasses
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Using Boolean searches can make it easier to find things on Google. There are two basic Boolean search commands supported in Google: AND and OR, and they mean just what they presume to mean.

You can use Boolean searches to help specify what it is you want to find, whether to make it more specific (using AND) or less specific (which is what OR is for).

It's important to keep your Boolean operator in all uppercase letters because that's how Google understands that you're using a search operator and not a regular word. Being careful when typing the search operator can make all the difference in the type of results you're given.

AND Boolean Operator

Screenshot showing how to use the AND Boolean operator on Google

Use AND searches in Google to search for all the search terms you specify. It's helpful to use AND when you want to make sure that the topic you're researching is actually the topic you'll get in the search results.

As an example, say you search the word Amazon on Google. The results will most likely show you things on Amazon.com, like the homepage of the site, their Twitter account, Amazon Prime information and other things you can buy on Amazon.com.

However, if you were instead looking for information on the Amazon rainforest, even searching for Amazon rainforest might give you results that are just about Amazon.com or the word "Amazon" in general. To make sure each search result includes both the words "Amazon" and "rainforest," you want to use the AND operator.

Examples:

  • Amazon AND rainforest
  • sausage AND biscuits
  • news AND war AND president

OR Boolean Operator

Screenshot showing an example of the OR Boolean operator on Google

Google uses the OR operator to search for one term or the other one. This means the article can contain either word but doesn't have to include both. This usually works well when you use two similar words or words that might be interchangeable.

Some writers will choose the word "draw" instead of "sketch" when talking about drawings, for example. In this case, it'd be helpful to tell Google that you don't care which word is used since they both mean basically the same thing.

You can see how the OR operator is different from AND when you compare the results of how to draw OR paint versus how to draw AND paint. Since the former gives Google the freedom to show you more content (since either word can be used), there are much more results than if you restrict the search to needing both words (like in the AND example).

You can also use the break (|) character in place of OR (it's the one attached to \, the backslash key).

Examples:

  • how to draw OR paint
  • primal OR paleo recipes
  • red OR yellow triangle

How to Combine Boolean Searches and Use Exact Phrases

Screenshot showing how to combine Boolean search operators on Google

If you're searching for a phrase rather than just a single word, you can group the words together with quotation marks.

For instance, searching for "sausage biscuits" (with the quotes included) will only show results for phrases that include the words together without anything between them. It will ignore phrases like sausage and cheese biscuits.

However, using "sausage biscuits" | "cheese sauce" will give results of either exact phrase, so you'll find articles that talk about cheese sauce but also sausage biscuits.

If you're searching for more than one phrase or keyword in addition to the Boolean, you can group them with parenthesis, such as recipes gravy (sausage | biscuit) to search for gravy recipes for either sausages or biscuits. You could even combine exact phrases and search for "sausage biscuit" (recipe | review).

To follow in this example, if you want to make sure all of Google's results show you paleo sausage recipes that include cheese, one example could be to type (with quotes) "paleo recipe" (sausage AND cheese).

Boolean Operators Are Case Sensitive

Screenshot showing that Boolean expressions in Google are case sensitive

It might seem like Google doesn't care about uppercase or lowercase letters when you're doing searches, but that isn't always true. For a Boolean operator to work, it has to be in all capital letters.

You can see for yourself that Boolean searches are case sensitive when you make the "OR" lower case. For example, searching for freeware for Windows OR Mac will give vastly different results than searching for freeware for Windows or Mac.