Let’s face it, Google Search has become the Scrooge McDuck of the search world. A once functional engine that now abuses its monopoly with nearly as many adverts as organic (real, not paid for) search results. Most of the time, these adverts have only a marginal resemblance to what we’re actually searching for.
I didn’t mind all the adverts when they were on the right hand side of my screen, because then I could easily see the actual results without having to scroll past the adverts. Unfortunately now days Google ignores all that screen real estate on the side of my widescreen and forces adverts into the main feed. At the time of writing, a search for the term ‘web design’ gives me 4 adverts, followed by the Google maps widget, followed by only 9 organic results, and ends off with 3 more, you guessed it: adverts.
Big monopoly brands like Google and Facebook are starting to lose sight of why, we the public, chose them in the first place. I’m tired of my search engine behaving like a haggling hawker at a flea-market. I want real, relevant search results, so I decided it’s time to start looking for alternatives. Without further ado, here are my findings, ranked from best to worst…
Google Search Alternatives in a nutshell
For each engine I searched for the term ‘Web Design’ to see the ratio of organic results to adverts, and also noted anything else of interest.
- DuckDuckGo was a clear winner, giving me 30 organic results on page 1 with no adverts. The landing page and interface is clean. It doesn’t track you and it has all the necessities (like image search, video search, and the ability to select local results) that you’ve grown accustomed to with Lord Google. See more details on DuckDuckGo further down the page.
- Yandex is Russia’s biggest search engine. It only gave me 10 organic results, but no adverts. Clean landing page and interface with image and video search options. Also has other bells and whistles like mail and translate. One of its few downsides is that, like Google, it tracks your browsing.
- Bing is Microsoft’s search engine. Like Yandex, it only gave me 10 organic results, but no adverts. Like Google, it tracks your browsing. Hideous landing page, but the search results page is clean. Has image and video search, as well as maps.
- Ask is the search engine I used back when Google’s parents were still just flirting with each other. When Google was conceived, I dropped it like a hot potato, and after looking at it now, wouldn’t go back. Back then it was known as ‘Ask Jeeves’, and if I recall correctly, the logo was a clip art butler. The logo and interface are cleaner now, but the ads are rife. It gives me 5 adverts, followed by 9 organic results, followed by 4 more ads, and something else that my AdBlocker wouldn’t even allow me to see. I’m not sure if this engine tracks you, but it probably does because those that don’t, usually brag about it.
- Yahoo is way worse than Google in the ad bombardment department. It gave me 4 ads at the top, followed by 8 organic results, followed by 4 ads at the bottom and 7 ads on the right. Landing page looks like ass. Also tracks you.
- Start Page, like DuckDuckGo, doesn’t track you, but it has 3 Google ads at the top and bottom, so you aren’t really getting away from Google. It also doesn’t understand the concept of marking hyperlinks – you will find that clicking on the text below a link also opens the link. Finally, it doesn’t seem to have many results in its database. Only 2 pages of results for a broad topic like ‘web design’ is alarming.
- Dogpile is as old as the hills (even older than Ask Jeeves). I remember using this back in the late 90’s, and it reminded me of why we all moved to Google in the first place. It looks like a dog pile and to top it off, is now has ads too – lots of them, and some weren’t clearly marked. As near as I can tell, there were 3 ads at the top followed by organic results interspersed with ads, and ends off with 3 more ads at the bottom. It doesn’t brag about privacy so it probably tracks you. It’s a definite ‘no’ from me, Simon.
A closer look at the winner: DuckDuckGo
To say I’m impressed with DuckDuckGo would be an understatement. Here’s a bunch of things, I really love:
- No Adverts. A search for the phrase ‘web design’ gives me a whopping 30 organic results on page 1.
- Unlike Google, I don’t have to click on a button to get to the next page of search results. Further pages are loaded as you scroll down, but unlike the usual ‘infinite scroll’ model (like Facebook), there’s a clear horizontal rule dividing each page of results. This is helpful when you want to limit yourself, to say 3 pages of results before you make a decision
- Unlike Google (and in fact the majority of engines), DuckDuckGo doesn’t track you. It protects your search history from everyone – even itself. In an age of privacy invasion, this is a breath of fresh air.
- It has all the extras – you can get local results by selecting your country. You can do image and video search. You can filter results by date.
- It has a happy duck in the logo.
I’ve set DuckDuckGo as my default search engine and have been using it for 3 days now. The search results are relevant and I can’t really complain. If I nitpick, I could say the font could be a tad bigger on the results page. Give it a go and let us know what you think in the comments.
- Interview with DuckDuckGo CEO
- Alternatives to Google Products
- Duck Duck Go’s exposé on how Google is manipulating search results
Article by Roxane Lapa of .COZA Web Design