A Wonka’s guide to advanced search operators

wonkaMost people already know Followerwonk is an extremely valuable tool for any SEO, I’ve been using it more and more of late for all manner of task related to social media stalking. (I’ve even been using it to find suppliers for eCommerce stores)

Even with the free access there’s a lot you can get out of Wonk, in particular from the Bio Search if you’re looking for connections. Anybody using this search often is sure to have experimented with some of the basic search operators already.

Disappointingly for search geeks though there’s very little documentation (I couldn’t find it at least) on getting more advanced with your queries unless you want to dig through the Sphinx reference manual. In truth it’s not a great read so I’ve pulled out a few gems which have been useful to me in the past, hopefully you’ll find a use for them too

The basics:

Just a quick recap of the few very basic search operators available for use in Followerwonk, just in case you missed them..

OR Operator: “|”

This is probably the most common of all the search operators due to it’s use in the limited examples provided by Followerwonk. Clicking on the “see examples” link next to any of the search fields will use the OR operator as an example.

The results of this query will be any accounts which have the words Manchester, London or York in the Location field


NOT Operator: “-” or “!”

The NOT operator will remove accounts from the query results when they contain a certain word or phrase. Following on from the above example, adding -New (or !New works just as well) will insure that any accounts with “New York”, rather than the UK town “York” are excluded from the results

minus new

Phrase Search: ” “

On the other had, if you wanted to ensure that locations specifically mentioning the US city “New York” are included, not those listing simply “York” the phrase search query can be used.

Advanced operators:

So we’re all up to speed on the basics, lets get into a few more interesting areas.

Proximity Search: “~N”

The proximity search is useful when you are looking for a particular set of related words but they may not be in exactly the order you list using phrase search. The “N” denotes the number of random words in addition to your phrase which can be present for it to still return a positive match

In the below example the first result would have been missed when searching for simply “Internet Marketing”. However, because the word “Internet” and “Marketing” are no more than 2 words apart the proximity search finds a match.


Partial Phrase Match: “/N”

Partial phrase (or Quorum) matching can be used to find variants of the same phrase by matching returning matches where most of the words are found. The “N” signifies the number of words from your given phrase which must match in order to fulfil the criteria.

Before Operator: “<<“

The before operator ensures that words are matched in the order they are written rather than randomly as is the standard setup. This can be useful when searching for phrases where the order of words is important.

Starts with: “^” and Ends With “$”

These are pretty straightforward operators, return accounts where the bio (or part of the bio) starts or ends with a particular word.

Kim for example is both a popular forename and surname and these operators can be used to distinguish between the two. Using ^Kim in the name search box will return all accounts with Kim in the forename, Kim$ on the other hand will return accounts where the surname matches.


Bonus – Mashing them up:

These advanced search operators are pretty powerful on their own but by experimenting and mashing them together you can get some pretty cool results. Including stuff you probably would have missed using the basic operators or would have had to run multiple queries to return. Example:

(Blogger | Writer | Editor) “SEO Social PPC”/2 -inbound

Finds accounts of bloggers, writers or editors, who mention at least 2 of SEO, Social, or PPC as long as they don’t also mention “Inbound”


If I’ve missed any search operators you’ve found useful with Followerwonk then drop a comment below and I’ll be sure to add them to the list!

Post by Gaz Copeland


  1. Wow – really helpful operators. Great use of screenshots by the way 😉

  2. This is a very useful post Gaz! Bookmarked for future use and socially shared 🙂 Thanks

  3. Top post Gaz, basis of a good infographic – one I’d print out analogue style!