Using Advanced Query Operators for Content Ideation


Producing content for content’s sake isn’t a tactic befitting of most brands and keyword-stuffed text is ineffective – if not detrimental – to your ranking abilities. Whilst you might not believe that ‘content is king’ it’s clear that the importance of creating effective content which meets user’s needs is rising. But just how do you know what your users need?

If you’re looking to find out the burning questions that your audience are asking, then you need to work out how to spy on them. Amongst the places which people turn to in order to ask questions or seek advice are online forums, which create entire communities dedicated to collective problem solving. If you can work out an efficient way to mine the wealth of information in these forums for the information you want, you will have uncovered a goldmine of content themes and topics.

Once you’ve identified the forums where your target audience are hanging out, you need to start to search through the mass of people just speaking their brains, and find the popular areas that could help with your content. One of the key elements of this is being able to refine the way in which you search and trawl through these forums before you start to mine them and export the data. Advanced Query Operators one of the most effective and simple ways to do this.

Main Operators


The least intimidating of all AQO’s, the site: search simply searches the entire site for the words in question. This will give you a huge range of results and – unless it’s really niche terminology you’re looking up – the likelihood is a lot of the results returned will not be relevant.


Most forums take the keywords of your question and put them into the url of the page, whilst this helps other people with similar questions find the page, it also will help you to mine the site of the most relevant information. An inurl search is likely to give far fewer results than the site: and it ensures that the whole page will be about the keywords you’re looking for, rather than them just appearing on the page.


This operator allows you to be more specific about the words in the title of the page you’re looking for. By combining this with a site: search you can use the intitle: functionality to put more emphasis on the important words you’re looking for; the search above will return any pages talking about digital marketing on the site, but will specifically seek out those pages with ‘courses’ in their title.

Expand your Results

The results from using search operators will rarely be perfect first time; as you’ll find that you may have used the wrong terminology and want to expand your search:

  • Asterisks act as a wildcard e.g account manage* will return for account manager, but also account management
  • Ellipses can be used to search for a range of numbers, for example 1…30 will look for numbers between 1 and 30

Refine your Results

If the results returned are too broad and not relevant to what you’re looking for then there are a number of functions that can be used in conjunction with the above operators to help you do this:

  • Minus signs will eliminate the words following it from the search results
  • Quotation marks will look only for an exact match in that order, rather than appearing anywhere, in any order, on page

The site search below will seek out all results featuring the exact quote ‘digital marketing’ on the site, but will also refine results by excluding any pages including the word ‘free’.refine_your_results

Once you have experimented with a number of different variations and combinations of query operators on the forum around your topic, then use a scraper to download the results and manually tag the main taxonomic groups; this will greatly simplify your ideation process. Of course, the more proficient you are with Advanced Query Operators, the more time you will save when it comes to sorting and manually reviewing the results, as you will have far more relevant data.


About Joyce Cowles

Joyce is an account manager here at Kerboo. Her role is to help our customers get the most from the suite.

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