Perhaps you’re in the middle of creating a new project, and are not seeing the results you want in the preview section. Or you finished creating your project, yet now are noticing some items that don’t belong. In both cases, the source of the problem might be in the search rules. These guidelines can be a bit more complex than your classic internet search, so we’ve put together these five tips for creating search rules that get you the results you want.

Tip #1: Adding quotations

Quotations let you get exact in your search. When you put quotation marks around any words or phrases you enter in the keywords fields, we’ll only show you exact matches for whatever is inside those quotes. Here’s what we mean:

County Fair: Shows you results that contain just the word ‘county,’ just the word ‘fair,’ and both words—but not necessarily together.

“County Fair”: Show you only the results that contain that whole phrase.

Tip #2: Including and excluding keywords

As you create your project, you’ll notice that the default field is for keywords you want us to use to search. You’ll ener those where it says “Look for these.” Most of the time, you can get the results you want to see just by using this field.

However, there are two cases when it could be helpful to click “Exclude words” and add keywords that you want to make sure don’t make their way into your results.

The first case: When you already know that the keyword you’re looking for has some close matches. For example, you might be interested in following resident discussion around a water quality in a local park called Bay Park. Yet there’s a boating facility there called the Bay Park Water Club. To filter out results about the Club, enter that keyword (in quotes!) in words to exclude it.

The second case: After you’ve already created a project. Sometimes it’s difficult to predict beforehand, while you’re still in the creation stage, what will slip in that is not related to your intended search. As you start noticing these items, you can always go back and edit your project rules to exclude those items.

Tip #3: Using AND & OR

These little words are actually major players in the game of search; most specifically, in a type of search called a Boolean search. While you have fun figuring out how to pronounce that, we’ll give you the rundown of how you can use it to narrow in on the results you want:

And: Use AND to narrow your results. It’s a bit counterintuitive at first, since we’re used to thinking of ‘and’ as expanding our options. Here, though, if you enter “recycling” AND “trash,” you’re saying: Search for recycling, and search for trash, and only give me results that are matches for both.

It’s like setting up two tests that any results must pass in order to be included.

Or: Use OR to widen your results. Taking the example from above, if you enter “recycling” OR “trash,” you’re saying: Search for recycling, and search for trash, and show me all of the results that you find for each.

Tip #4: Entering synonym and related words

When defining your search, we recommend adding in as many similar words to your original query as possible. That way, you can capture all of the discourse, even when residents use slightly different words that you might choose yourself to talk about the issue in focus. Note: There’s no need to enter different tenses of the same word.

For instance, you might be interested in creating a project about parks in your area. There are many other words residents could use to speak about parks, such as green space, plaza, meadow, and playground.

The more keywords you add in, the wider of a search net we cast. If you notice one of those synonyms tends to introduce irrelevant stories, you can always edit your search to exclude that keyword.

Tip #5: Creating an advanced search with groups

Groups are helpful when you want to generate precise results for a phrase. They work by putting together many of the rules we mentioned above, like synonyms and the Boolean AND, which is why they’re a bit more of an advanced option.

Here are two ways you can use groups:

The first way is to create a group relationship between two keyword-based search rules. For example, if you wanted to create a project about street cleaning, you would:

  1. Search by keyword for your first search rule

  2. Enter the exact phrases that you want to include as keywords

  3. Add another group using an AND rule

  4. Select to search by keyword

  5. In the first keyword field for that new group, you would enter all the ways you can imagine residents might refer to ‘street’: roads, sidewalks, streets, etc.

  6. Next, you would add an AND rule (within the same group) and search by keyword

  7. Enter all of the words you can imagine residents using to talk about cleaning: sweeping, cleaning, trash, litter, etc.

In the end, your search rule would be: Exact phrases OR [Synonyms for street AND Synonyms for cleaning].

Translated to how we speak, it’s like telling the system: I want to see results for street cleaning, but there are a few different ways I can imagine results appearing. So try searching for exact matches, and also try searching for combinations of these synonyms, and show me the results you find from both approaches.

The second way to use a group is to narrow a topic search. Let’s imagine that you want to follow the conversation around early childhood education in your community. You could:

  1. Search by topic for your first rule

  2. Select Education from the drop-down menu

  3. Then create a group with an AND relationship

  4. Select to search by keyword

  5. Enter such keywords as: “preschool, “Headstart,” “early childhood education,” etc.

That would translate to results that fit the world of education and also are matches for your specific keywords.

Other ways to create your project

There’s a library of project templates, created by Zencity analysts, available for you to work with. They come with the search rules pre-set, so you can create it right away or edit the rules to tailor the project to your community.

Whether you create your rules from scratch or start from a template, you can always click on the Request Assistance button in the top right corner of the screen at any point in the process. From there, fill out a short form describing the project you want, and a Zencity analyst will create it for you.

Have more questions about search rules or want the help of a Zencity expert in setting up your project? Contact your CSM or chat with us below.

Did this answer your question?