Smooth Operators: The Ultimate Guide to Query-building Operators Guide

Guide By Joel Windels on July 23rd 2012

While many people may not have even heard of a Boolean, millions of us use them every single day. Sites like Google can interpret your searches using Booleans and it’s a similar set of operators that lets you make queries in Brandwatch.

We’re one of the only tools to offer users the full flexibility of having such a sophisticated arsenal of techniques to perform searches with.

They let you very precisely find exactly what you’re looking for, and more just as importantly, what you’re not. There is simply no other system available that affords such a level of power and refinement in search, the most integral component to social media monitoring.

Although we do offer a ‘structured’ query-building option for simpler queries and newbie users, we do understand that having such a wealth of options in our free-text option can make constructing your queries result in a bit of confusion and can give the user lots of things to remember.

To counter this, we’ve put together this document for you to refer back to each time you need a bit of help building your queries. For a step-by-step guide in creating one, you can read this post we put together too.

Click here to view the document in a PDF.

The Basics

The QUOTES operator

apple juice

Will find mentions of the exact phrase “apple juice” on any webpage.

The AND operator

apple AND juice

Will find mentions of apple and juice on the SAME webpage. It must be capitalised.

The OR operator

apple OR juice

Will find mentions of apple or mentions of juice on any webpage. Again, it must be capitalised.

The NOT operator

apple NOT juice

Will find mentions of apple on a webpage as long as juice is not mentioned on that webpage. It must be capitalised.

Brackets ( )

(apple AND juice) OR (apple AND sauce)

Will find mentions of apple and juice on the same webpage or mentions of apple and sauce on the same webpage.

Seven tips to remember for the basic operators

1/ Your Brandwatch query is NOT case sensitive (all letters are treated as lower case) and accents, punctuation and symbols are ignored UNLESS you use the raw: operator.

2/ Without the quotes, a space is treated like AND so a search for apple juice rather than apple juice” would look for apple AND juice

3/ The quotes operator produces fewer mentions than AND but they are more likely to be relevant

4/ OR will produce more results than AND but they are more likely to be irrelevant

5/ Strictly speaking, brackets are not operators, but they are used to group together terms so that an operator can be applied to everything in the brackets. The above example could be written:

apple AND (juice OR sauce)

6/ Keeping track of brackets can be tricky but Brandwatch will tell you if you’ve missed one!

7/ The maximum length of your query is 4,096 characters

Go on, take a sip. You’ve earned it. OK, now are you ready for the more complex operators?

Complex Operators

the NEAR/n operator

(apple OR orange) NEAR/5 (smartphone OR phone)

will find mentions of apple within 5 words of smartphone or phone and mentions of orange within 5 words of smartphone or phone

the raw: operator


will find mentions of Google’s social networking service written with a capital G and a plus sign. NB: if the raw: operator is not used for Google+ all mentions of Google will be found because the + will be ignored

the country: operator

country:uk AND “apple juice”

will only find mentions of the exact phrase “apple juice” that have been identified as from the UK

the site: operator AND “apple juice”

will find mentions on a particular site, e.g. any  mention of “apple juice” on Twitter

the url: operator AND “Simon Cowell”

will find mentions on a particular part of a site, e.g. any mention of Simon Cowell on the news section of the MSN website

the author: operator


will find mentions across all page types with a specific author name, e.g. tweets, blogs, forums, by any author called justinbieber the wildcard operator * complain* will find mentions with the root word complain, e.g. complain, complaints, complained etc

the replacement operator ?


will find mentions where ? can be replaced by another letter, e.g. customise, customize

Seven tips to remember for the complex operators

1/ Any number can be used after the NEAR/n operator

2/ The raw: operator works with parentheses and quotation marks:

raw:(Google+ OR google+ OR G+ OR g+ OR “Google Plus” OR “google plus”)

3/ The raw: operator does not work with the NEAR/n operator

4/ All country codes correspond to their internet standard country code. Other examples include: us (United States), de (Germany), fr (France), es (Spain), it (Italy) and nl (Netherlands).

5/ The asterisk works only as a suffix (not a prefix) at the end of a root word and needs at least two letters before the asterisk

6/ The asterisk only works on one single word, not in a phrase in quotes, e.g.

“customer service*”

will only bring back customer service not customer services. An alternative might be

(customer NEAR/5 service*)

 7/ The replacement operator is useful for finding English/American spellings and can be used more than once in a search term.

So there you have it, our list of operators. We also have one or two others, such as the tilde ~ (largely redundant die to NEAR) and the location: operators, though you can find out all about them from your account manager or in this post.

Joel Windels


Joel is the VP Marketing at Wandera, the innovators in enterprise cloud services and security. He ran a marathon once, and has a wide range of Pokemon in his Pokedex.

  • Very helpful, thanks Joel!

  • Very helpful indeed..

  • Operator AND and NEAR look the same, right? Both look for words appearing together in documents.