So, you feel like googling has gotten harder over time. Rest assured, you are not going crazy- Google Search has simply gotten worse. Here is why googling in 2024 is a miserable experience, and what Google alternatives you should try!
- Why does Google Search suck?
- What alternative search engines should I try?
- Final Thoughts
Why does Google Search suck?
Google Search is a very good search engine. In fact, it is arguably the only good product Google developed in-house. And yet, googling information is more frustrating than ever, because Google Search has some big problems.
Many websites design their pages to rank well on Google Search. This strategy is known as “search engine optimization”.
Some websites just tweak their content to make it rank better, but others create a bunch of low-effort, low-value content for SEO only. Year after year, more and more uninformative pages take up the top spots in your queries.
Google tries to counter SEO by tweaking the algorithm every now and then, but websites eventually catch up and find a way to game the system again.
The good news is that all SEO is targeted at Google Search. When Google holds around 90% of the market, there is no point in optimizing the content for another search engine. So, a different search engine can often give better results, especially if it does not rely on Google’s index.
This is something of a paradox, really. Google Search became the biggest search engine by being really good at what it does. But by becoming the biggest, it also became the target of SEO. So, search engines with worse algorithms than Google Search often find better results.
Google is not a privacy-friendly company, to put it mildly. If you are concerned with privacy, then you should either degoogle your life, or run any Google services you just need to use in a separate and dedicated browser. This includes Google Search as well as ubiquitous services like Youtube and gmail.
Showing you ads is one thing, but sponsored search results are a whole new level of annoyance. Your search results are already full of SEO content, and sponsored results make things worse by taking up even more real estate on your screen. Have fun browsing all the way to page 5 before finding anything remotely relevant to your search.
Google Search doesn’t just look for relevant results: it uses your older queries to try and guess what results are the most relevant for you. Sometimes these predictions work perfectly, but at other times, they get in the way of finding what you are looking for.
If googling a specific query doesn’t work, give another search engine a try: maybe a more neutral algorithm can find what you need.
What alternative search engines should I try?
duckduckgo has been a mainstay for a while now and built a solid reputation as an effective search engine. The engine combines its own indexes with indexes from other search engines, but not from Google Search. It also has a duck for a mascot, which is awesome.
The duckduckgo browser caught flack a while ago for not blocking some Microsoft trackers, but the search engine itself should be fine privacy-wise.
Unlike most alternative search engines, Mojeek relies on its own indexes entirely. So, its search results are quite different not only from those of major search engines, but also from those of smaller engines that rely on Google and Bing’s indexes. Some users like this feature and some do not, but it makes Mojeek a must-try.
Startpage lies at the opposite side of the spectrum from Mojeek in that it is simply a proxy for Google Search. So, Startpage lets you use Google Search without handing over any personal data to Google. If you just want Google Search with better privacy, Startpage is your best bet.
A relatively recent entry on the market, Brave Search has been gaining traction quickly. Brave Search gives good results, is backed by a developer known for its strong privacy commitments, comes with an AI summarizer for questions. It is also the default search engine for Brave, the developer’s own Chromium-based web browser.
Brave Search uses an approach known as “fallback mixing”: the engine uses its own crawlers but falls back on other indexes (including Google's) when it cannot find search results.
Swisscows is a privacy-friendly search engine with some distinctive features. The engine implements robust filters against violent and pornographic content, which could be a pro or a con in your eyes- we are not judging. Swisscows’ infrastructure is also located in Switzerland, which could appeal to privacy-minded people as the US has a history of spying on foreign data in several ways (see the Snowden files).
(Qwant is another notable search engine based in Europe, but we are a bit wary about it because one of the co-founders later jumped into the cyber-surveillance business)
YaCy stands out from other search engines because it runs on open source, peer-to-peer software. Not everyone wants to go through the hassle of installing software to run searches, but if its decentralized nature appeals to you, give it a shot.
The Wayback Machine is the search engine of the Internet Archive, a digital archive that aims to preserve as much content from the public web as possible. So, it is not a search engine in a traditional sense as much as a time machine for the Internet
If no search engine can answer your questions, try and travel back in time! Maybe a long-dead Altervista page holds just the answer you are looking for- and a trip down memory lane is always an added bonus.
If this sounds good, feel free to give us a try!