Concepts for Creating Effective Keyword Searches

Modified on: Thu, 26 Jan, 2023 at 5:02 AM

The document below includes a detailed discussion of concepts for creating effective keyword searches using our basic form. The ideas presented here will help give you tips for creating a search that will achieve your monitoring goals.

Before filling in the basic keyword search form fields, it will be beneficial to review two key concepts from the field of information retrieval: precision and recall.  

Precision refers to the percentage of relevant results. Higher precision means fewer irrelevant clips. The narrower your search terms, the higher the likelihood you’ll collect only relevant mentions.  

Recall refers to the percentage of relevant clips that were successfully retrieved. Better recall means fewer missed clips. The broader your search terms, the higher the likelihood you’ll collect every relevant mention.  

Crafting a good search requires finding the right balance between precision and recall. You want a search that is specific enough to return relevant information but not so narrow that you are inadvertently missing content.  The right balance depends on you, your business needs, and your workflow.  


Before drafting your search, take a moment to consider the following questions. They will help you determine what search parameters to include and judge the effectiveness of your search. 

  • What do I plan to do with the information I retrieve?  

Track coverage of a new initiative, analyse the reaction to a new product and keep tabs on my competitors. 

  • What kinds of information am I looking for?  

Blog posts, newspaper articles, press releases 

  • In what kinds of sources would this information be published?  

Social vs traditional media, local vs international coverage 

Keep in mind that the answers to these questions differ for each search. Suppose you are only interested in keeping up with major news stories about your partner organisations. In that case, a search you craft to retrieve that information should be narrower in scope than one seeking to track any mention of your organisation.  

Your answers to these questions may change as you build your search. Search is an iterative process. As you test out different search parameters, the results you see should help you refine your approach.  

Crafting a Search: 

Start by listing all the relevant terms that could come up in your search.  

  • What terms will always be present in a relevant result? 

The name of your organisation or the specific product you are monitoring for 

  • What terms will sometimes be present in a relevant result?  

Relevant industry terms, products, or initiatives  

  • Are there any additional parameters?  

Language restrictions or limitations on sources of interest 

The terms that will always be present in your results are your core search terms. You are telling the system that if an article does not contain these terms, it is automatically irrelevant. Enter core search terms in the box labeled “Contains ALL of the following keywords.” 

This second question helps you brainstorm relevant qualifiers for your search. The presence of qualifier terms helps ensure that the mentions of your core search terms are relevant to your specific needs. For that clip to be retrieved, one or more of your qualifier terms must be present. Enter qualifier terms in the box labeled “Contains ONE OR MORE of the following keywords.”  

As an example: Imagine I want to monitor for mentions of Cision. For my purposes, relevant articles will also mention public relations, PR, software, media, or communications. I want to start by monitoring only Print/Online coverage, so I craft the search below.  


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If you’re still unsure what you’re looking for, start with a slightly broader search and refine it. Use the Preview Sample Results button to examine what kinds of results the first iteration of your search would return.   

Examining Results:

When you preview a new search, you will see sample results found over 30 days. This will only reflect sources that you specified in your search. These results should approximate what you see in Cision monthly, so examine them carefully.  

For this information to be useful, it should be actionable. Think back to the brainstorming we did and ask yourself if the clips you’ve pulled will enable you to do what you set out to do. If so, great! Go ahead, save your search, and watch the clips flow in.  

In most cases, you will need to go back and refine your approach to increase the precision of your results. Take note of patterns you see in the results. (You may need to do some additional investigation to see the patterns. Try searching for the sample clip in Search All News to learn more about it.) 

  • What do the relevant results have in common?  

Are they all from similar outlets? Do they all mention a specific product?   

  • What do the irrelevant results have in common 

Are there any reoccurring terms or concepts? Is the coverage about another organisation with a similar name? Are there any relevant concepts that are missing from irrelevant results?  

My search for Cision-related media above retrieves 217 results a month. For my purposes, that is too many. I need to go back and restrict my search parameters to tailor the results to my needs.  


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Refining Your Search: 

Once you have a sense of what kinds of results your search picks up and what patterns are reoccurring, you can use that knowledge to improve the second iteration of your search. 

Three principle ways to refine a search arequalifiers, exclusions, and filters.  


Remember, qualifiers are terms that “qualify” your search and provide more information about the context in which your key search terms are relevant. Enter qualifiers in the box labelled “Contains ONE OR MORE following keywords.”  

Add some if your results are too broad, and you don’t have any qualifiers.  

When you examined relevant articles, consider what specifically made them relevant. 

Some examples of qualifiers include:  

  • Specific products or initiatives 
  • Individuals connected to your organisation 
  • Industry terms to differentiate your company from another with a similar name 

Remember, not every qualifier has to be present in an article for it to be retrieved. A clip will be retrieved when one or more of your qualifier terms are found.  

If you’ve already added qualifiers, consider narrowing them down further. Remove overly broad qualifiers and replace them with something specific to your information needs.  

If you recall, I started my search with Cision as my core search term, and the industry-related qualifiers are public relations, PR, software, media, and communications. Upon closer inspection, I realised that the articles most relevant to me are the ones that specifically mention our products and services. I’ve replaced those broad qualifiers with more specific ones: public relations company, communications software, Communications Cloud, Comms Cloud, and Global Insights. 


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 By adding specific qualifiers, I’ve reduced my monthly results – too many more manageable (and relevant) articles per month.   


Another way to refine your search is to add exclusions. Enter these terms in the box labelled “Contains NONE of the following keywords.”  

Exclusions act as advertised: they exclude any articles containing those terms. When an exclusion term is present, that takes precedence over everything else. Even if all of your core search terms and qualifiers are found in a clip, if it contains any one of your exclusion terms, it will not be retrieved.  

Exclusion terms can inadvertently block relevant content from making it into your system if used haphasardly. However, they can also be a powerful tool for ensuring the relevance of your search.  

Some scenarios in which you may want to use exclusion terms include:  

  • Blocking specific kinds of online coverage, such as market analysis reports, by excluding terms and phrases common to those reports 
  • Blocking commercials for your products by using tagline phrases as exclusion terms 
  • Removing mentions of an unrelated company with a similar name by excluding terms specific to their industry 


Finally, you can refine your search results by using filters. You can filter by language, country of origin, and source type in Cision Comms Cloud.  

Language and country of origin reflect the publication. Source refers to the broader category of content to which these publications belong. For example, do you want to see Print/Online, Broadcast, and Social content for this search or just a subset of those categories?  

Remember, when searching for Social Media content, these terms must be optimised before delivering results.  

Finding the Right Balance 

The strategies above should help you refine your search to get relevant results.  

No information retrieval system is perfect, and no search will collect 100% relevant results without occasionally missing something (or capturing every clip without the occasional irrelevant result). However, you can certainly build an effective and relevant search for your business needs.  

It might take several iterations of your search to accomplish. Sometimes, you restrict your results too much and must go back and add broader qualifiers or remove some exclusion terms. Changing one variable at a time is a good idea when you're testing searches. Test your qualifiers before adding exclusions, for example. That way, you’ll know the impact of each of your changes.  

You should learn more about your coverage and what makes it relevant with each iteration.  

Need Help?

Some searches are simple. Others present significant technical challenges. Sometimes, you need complex Boolean logic to drill down to the most relevant coverage.  In these cases, you’re not on your own. Cision’s expert support team is here to assist you!  

For example, consider a scenario in which two different versions of your core search terms (such as alternate forms of your organisation’s name). Only one of these terms must be present in an article, but you want to pair every version with the same qualifiers and exclusions. In this case, you can create two separate searches – one for each core search term – or work with Support to craft a nested Boolean search tailored to your needs.  


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