We live in a world where all human knowledge is available at our fingertips. If you want to find out what "right-clicker mentality" means or who Aristotle was you simply…
Wait, what? Let’s rewind the tape.
I was going to say that you “type your query into a search engine of your choice.” But googling something feels so natural and convenient, doesn’t it? It became synonymous with searching for information online. But is Google an unbiased search engine? Or the best search engine for doing academic research?
We surveyed almost 600 technology enthusiasts to find out:
First things first.
Here is the list of good alternatives to Google for the impatient:
But the question of Google’s neutrality in itself deserves a deeper investigation.
You can xerox a document with a photocopier manufactured by a company other than Xerox, right? Let’s assume that you can also google something with search engines other than Google.
Before we explore the best alternatives to Google, let’s find out what the fuss is all about.
We asked respondents to evaluate their level of satisfaction with the majority of search results offered by Google.
It turned out that Generation Z respondents are very happy with the results they get. Almost 95% of Zoomers think that “Google provides accurate and useful content—exactly what people may expect to get when they type in a specific search phrase.”
On the other end of the spectrum are respondents who identify themselves and their political views as “conservative.” Almost one in four of the self-proclaimed conservatives didn’t think that the top positions of Google result pages were accurate.
The majority of respondents do believe that Google is politically neutral. Offering results that are politically biased was one of the least common arguments for using an alternative search engine.
However, respondents who label themselves as conservative chose “political bias” as one of the main reasons for using a Google alternative. If we were to compare it with the rest of our sample group, conservatives mentioned “Google not being politically neutral” as the primary reason 15 times more often.
Is there a grain of truth in this? Does Google have a political agenda and ranks some content higher than others?
Let’s try to illustrate it with a quick experiment. We’ll compare some results from Google and a “non-liberal search engine.”
If we google “Andy Ngo,” the first result after his Wikipedia profile is an article by Rolling Stone: How a Right-Wing Troll Managed to Manipulate the Mainstream Media.
If we use an independent search engine, such as DuckDuckGo, the first results are Ngo’s Wikipedia page, official website, and some articles from NY Post and Fox News, with titles such as: Another Antifa Beating Won’t Silence Truth-Teller Andy Ngo.
Which search engine is non-partisan? Is the person of interest a right-wing troll or a truth-teller?
Google uses PageRank—an algorithm created by Larry Page to measure the importance and authority of a website—to decide which articles get better positions.
In general, pages rank higher if they are optimized for search engines and mentioned as sources by other reputable pages. It is a kind of “authority score'' that is calculated on the basis of how many pages link to your website. You can find it out by using a backlink checker tool.
The article from the Rolling Stone has 1,305 backlinks coming from 243 websites, many of which have a page authority score within the range of 60-70 points.
By comparison, the article about Andy Ngo from the New York Post has been linked 107 times from 23 domains, mostly pages with a lower authority score. Many links to the NY Post article have a no-follow attribute or no anchor texts which makes Google more suspicious of the quality of the content linked.
Google itself does not sabotage right-wing content. It's just that their algorithm picks out information that is:
To evaluate and measure this, Google uses a range of signals. If an article is high, it is not due to a single factor. A “liberal” content is more likely to appear higher in search results provided by Google if the general media landscape, journalists, content creators, and readers are likely to find it useful. And, according to our survey results, it seems to work the way it was supposed to.
On the other hand, some may argue that the Google Personalized Search feature may create a filter bubble effect. However, this phenomenon is more prevalent in social media. If you want to make sure that you are not getting personalized search results, you can turn it off by adding an additional search parameter (psw=0) to your query. Or simply turn it off in your Google account settings.
You can read more about getting neutral results with Google in one of our articles with SEO tips about SERP analysis.
Google is not biased. If anything, it does what it is supposed to do in a specific socio-political context. It simply doesn’t boost content produced by “truth-tellers” if it is not backed by any authoritative sources (which some may perceive as a lack of neutrality).
Nevertheless, our survey respondents have many other reasons for choosing an alternative search engine. So, what are the main problems that people may still have with Google?
Although many think that Google is extremely useful and they are satisfied with services the company provides, they still have some major concerns about other aspects. Over 75% of respondents agreed that Google collects too much data that invades their privacy.
Main reasons for using alternative search engines:
Apparently, the most common reason for using alternative search engines is not related to Google being biased or unbiased.
We all know that Google is one of the most important tech giants and holds the majority of the market. The four most popular search engines in the world today are:
You can check out more detailed search engine statistics here.
Interestingly, our respondents picked different options as their favorites. Here is a visualization of what they wrote:
Over half of them mentioned DuckDuckGo as an alternative search engine they know or use.
The most popular alternative search engines named in our survey were:
We find these results extremely interesting. Let’s take a closer look at each of the solutions.
Not all of these search engines are alternatives to Google in the literal meaning of the word. Some of them have better application in specific situations or are complementary tools. Some of our survey respondents agree that Google is the best choice, but it is good to consider other solutions as additions that put Google search results in a wider context.
DuckDuckGo is a browser that addresses the most common problem users have with Google—the privacy matter. Searches are private and no data about them is stored or tracked. Search results are frequently based more on user engagement than traditional SEO techniques. You can expect more results from diverse news outlets, which makes DuckDuckGo one of the so-called conservative search engines.
Bing can do the same thing as Google and offers a very similar user experience. We can search for content, images, or maps. You get featured snippets and extracted information from sites that answer your questions. Maybe not all features are as powerful, but some people think that Bing is better than Google because of its simplicity, fewer ads, and very convenient map features.
Ecosia is not actually an independent search engine. The results are all provided by Bing. In fact, what we are dealing with here is an interesting partnership between several entities for the noble purpose of protecting the environment. The more often you use Ecosia, the more trees you plant. This is a very good image maneuver to show a more friendly face of technology companies.
Brave is a whole system of interconnected technologies that aim to revolutionize the way we use the internet. It's a browser, search engine, cryptocurrency wallet, and much more. For using Brave you get cryptocurrency rewards, for example its Basic Attention Token (BAT) that is available on popular exchanges and easy to monetize. The search engine itself is still in the beta phase but we can expect some cool developments and further integration with the crypto market and interesting ad revenue models.
Google sometimes has problems with very technical queries. If you need something more scientific or related to mathematics and engineering, WolframAlpha can be a helpful solution. It is not described as a search engine, but some of our respondents mentioned that it is very useful as an alternative to Google for scientists.
Marginalia is a really interesting tool that will take you back in time. Instead of the results that are the most SEO friendly, you can expect to see some websites that belong in a museum. Although some of the links listed by Marginalie may look amateurish, it is a very interesting engine that often provides interesting and unexpected results. You can use it to add diversity to your research.
Sometimes to find exactly what you're looking for you don't have to change technology—just combine several solutions into one. Or use advanced options of Google. You may be surprised to find out how easy it is to access high quality content with the tools that you already know.
Below we present some simple tricks on how to get more accurate results when you are searching.
Google displays content based on a fixed set of rules and measurable qualities. After reading a few tutorials on how to do keyword research for search engine optimization, you will be able to create content that gets featured on the first page of Google.
This means that a perfect result usually has a specific number of words, uses certain predictable phrases, and has an acceptable, user-friendly format. It is usually written by a professional journalist or a blogger.
Websites that appear on the Google search result page are not created by independent contributors or “average” people. And they are not based on votes. They are produced by professional content creators, sometimes as part of their deliberate content marketing strategy.
But there are many websites that use voting systems. For example, people ask questions on Reddit or Quora and then the most popular and useful answers are usually the one with the highest number of positive votes. The only drawback is that these portals do not have good internal search engines.
You can have the best of both worlds. The most powerful trick for searching user-generated content is to write your search query in Google and add “Reddit” or “Quora” at the end.
The most-voted answer will usually be more straight to the point and accurate. It will also be based on personal experiences rather than theory.
This technique is similar to the previous one. Instead of searching the entire Internet, you can direct Google to specific sources or exclude unwanted results. You can freely filter or modify several search criteria.
Writing your search query and specifying sites will help you compare different viewpoints on a given issue. Just perform multiple searches and specify sources with contrasting political profiles.
This technique is the opposite of the first approach. Instead of looking for more accessible content created by average Joe, you can narrow your search to things that have appeared in print. This usually implies good quality but may require a little more time and dedication.
People are looking for alternatives to Google for a variety of reasons. Some would like an independent, conservative search engine that returns more right-wing content. Others may care about their privacy and security. For some people news, SEO-friendly guides, and editorials are not enough because they need more technical information.
Whether you're pro or anti-Google, you should learn the mechanisms that make one site rank higher than another. If you have the right tools at your disposal it is much easier to understand what’s going on behind the curtains. It may turn out that Google is less biased than it seems.
Kazimierz is a tech journalist and content marketing professional