When it comes to search engines, like most people you probably use Google. Currently, Google has a 92% worldwide market share, making it by far the most used search engine. Can you name any alternative search engines that you used recently? Probably not.
If you need any convincing, think about the last time you needed a specific piece of information, you probably said that you’d ‘Google it’, right?
Offering a personalised search experience, dominating the paid search landscape and continually evolving algorithms that provide relevant results it’s not hard to see why Google has become the most popular search engine.
is Google really the best search engine?
It’s a well known fact that Google stores your search queries and browsing habits. It also shares that information with advertisers and other similar third parties.
If you don’t like the idea of search engines invading your privacy or have more specific search query needs, it’s worthwhile trying some alternative search engines.
Here’s our pick of the best alternative search engine if you’d rather not use Google.
DuckDuckGo is perhaps the most anti-Google search engine on this list. Launched in 2008, the popular search engine takes users’ privacy seriously.
DuckDuckGo gets its results from over 400 sources including its own crawler DuckDuckbot, crowd-sourced sites like Wikipedia, and links with other search engine partners like Bing. Unlike other alternative search engines, DuckDuckGo doesn’t source any results from Google at all.
Some searchers find that DuckDuckGo isn’t updated as frequently as Google. If you’re looking for the latest viral piece of news, the search engine may not show any results for it while Google tends to bring up ultra-relevant and fresh results quickly.
The search engine’s main selling point is its privacy features. It doesn’t store any personal information like IP addresses. While DuckDuckGo doesn’t use any tracking cookies the search engine does save your searches although it claims in a non-identifiable way.
Being based in the U.S. means DuckDuckGo is subject to the nation’s mass surveillance programs with data frequently collected from numerous internet companies. This is a downside for searchers who are more concerned about their privacy.
Best for: Internet users who don’t want any search results pulled from Google at all.
Swisscows is a Switzerland based search engine with its own index for German searches, other languages use Bing search engine for requests.
Swisscows is a highly privacy-oriented search engine, putting its users first. It doesn’t collect any data about its users, use tracking cookies or geo-targeting.
While it is partnered with Bing, Swisscow puts search queries through a firewall to remove any personal identifiers. Since Switzerland isn’t part of any intelligence alliances, it’s a good choice for privacy-conscious users.
Swisscow mainly differs from other search engines in that it’s first and foremost a family-friendly search engine. It’s default setting is to filter out all pornographic and violent search results. You can’t change this in the settings.
It’s ‘semantic maps’ are a unique visual feature that helps you refine your searches based on similar semantically based words.
Best for: Swisscow is best for families concerned about young children finding search results not suitable for their age range.
Powered by Bing, Qwant supplements results with those collected from its own web crawler.
Launched in 2013, Qwant heavily prioritises its users’ privacy and doesn’t track your geolocation at all. The search engine also disassociates your IP address and search query for further privacy.
Based in Paris, Qwant offers GDPR protection and since France is a part of the Nine Eyes intelligence alliance Qwant adheres to this too. This means data is shared with the eight countries part of the alliance including countries like the U.S. and U.K who have been known for privacy violations.
The downside of these privacy features is that the search engine doesn’t provide great results for local searches. If you’re searching for restaurants or something similar nearby, Qwant will often show you results in another country.
Best for: Searchers who want Bing results without any tracking.
Once of the internet giants, Yahoo operates on a much smaller scale compared to what it once was.
Now powered by Bing, there are similarities between the two search engines although Yahoo’s user interface design is visibly worse than that of Bing.
Some users prefer to use Yahoo due to its News, Sport and Finance sections.
One of the downsides of using Yahoo is that it’s harder to tell the paid and organic results apart from each other. Unlike Google, the search engine doesn’t differentiate so obviously between the two types of result.
If privacy is a priority for you, Yahoo is not the best search engine to choose. The company collects personal data when you register and use any of its products or services.
In fact, some of the world’s most serious data breaches have been at the hands of Yahoo. They’re known for the comparatively laidback attitude towards cybersecurity.
Since they were bought by Verizon in 2017 it’s also possible that there’s sharing of data between Yahoo and Verizon for product innovation and research.
Best for: Users who like the News and Finance sections and don’t mind the lack of privacy.
Outside of the U.S. and the U.K, Yandex is a pretty big alternative search engine. In August 2020, the search engine was used by 42% of Russians. It’s also used in other countries like Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkey and Ukraine. Originally just available in Russian, Yandex is now available in English too.
Like Google it has an image and video search. Yandex also comes with a few other features like app analytics, a series of cloud services and Maps API.
It’s also worth noting that Yandex uses quite a different set of ranking factors when compared with Google. User behaviour such as dwell time are more significant and backlinks are much less important.
Yandex is pretty user friendly and is helpful if you’re looking to get another perspective on search results that isn’t so U.S oriented.
Best for: Users who want a perspective that’s not completely based on U.S. or U.K search results.
Like the name suggests, Search Encrypt is a private search engine that makes users’ privacy a top priority.
Using a mix of encryption methods like Secure Sockets Layer encryption and AES-256 encryption you can rest assured that your searches remain private.
When you search for something, Search Encrypt pulls up results from a network of different search partners to deliver the requested information.
The most privacy forward function is that any user’s search terms will eventually expire so your information remains private even if someone gains local access to your computer.
Best For: Privacy conscious users who like the reassurance of a search engine making encryption their top priority.
Did you know Google is responsible for a massive 40% of the internet’s carbon footprint?
This means that every Google search contributes to the creation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. To be specific, check out this tracker that’s updated in real-time.
Ecosia sources search results from Bing and improved by its own algorithms. If you’re privacy orientated, Ecosia may not be the best alternative search engine.
Ecosia collects search data from users and which is used to improve web searches. This personal data like IP addresses are only deleted after 7 days. They also share some personal details with their provider Bing.
Best for: Users who want to make a difference to the environment and contribute to tree planting efforts.
Like the name suggests Boardreader takes results from message boards and forums.
If you’re looking for search results on niche topics that are frequently discussed on forum threads, Boardreader will help you narrow down the exact forum or message board that you’re looking for.
Best for: Users who frequent forums like Quora searching for discussions or answers on more niche subjects.
StartPage combines the best of both worlds - high levels of privacy along with Google quality search results. StartPage actually uses results from Google but just doesn’t use tracking.
While it uses Google to source its results it doesn’t send your personal data to Google. Instead, it strips your search query of unnecessary metadata like your IP address and other possibly identifiable information. Sending an anonymized search query to Google, it then pulls up search results for the user.
The ‘anonymous view’ feature allows you to see possibly privacy-invasive features of websites. This protects you against cookies, social media tracking pixels and website fingerprinting when you visit other websites.
StartPage also has HTTPS support, a proxy service and a URL generator giving it some more unique features compared to other search engines.
Based in the Netherlands, it follows the EU’s GDPR protection policies which protect users’ data. It’s worth noting though that the Netherlands is part of the Nine Eyes intelligence alliance.
Best For: Users who want Google search results but don’t like the idea of their search results being tracked or their search history stored.
Another environmentally friendly search engine, Ekoru donates 60% of its monthly revenue to several different climate change charities including those committed to animal conservation, reforestation and climate action.
Unlike many other internet companies, Ekoru commits to using renewable energy sources for its data centers.
The search engine also doesn’t store any user or search related data on its servers.
Best for: Users who want to use a environmentally conscious search engine that gives back unlike many alternatives.
If you prefer the idea of a community led search engine, Wiki.com is a great place to start.
Pulling its search results from multiple wikis on the net, it’s a good alternative search engine if you enjoy using sites like Wikipedia.
Seeing as Wikipedia dominates most wiki searches, it can feel like the search engine just replicates Wikipedia’s search results.
Best for: Users who want Wikipedia type community led search results.
After Google, Bing is the second largest search engine. Owned by Microsoft, for an alternative search engine it’s pretty similar to Google in terms of features and privacy functions.
Like Google, Bing has translation, currency conversion, and weather features. Privacy isn’t such a priority to Bing as other alternative search engines. In fact, Microsoft collects data from all of your interactions with their products.
Given the similarity of features, quality of results and that there’s no privacy advantage, there’s not that much difference in using Bing instead of Google.
Best for: Users who don’t want to use Google but want a very close alternative search engine.
Opting for an alternative search engine that’s not Google will likely become a more common decision as users become more concerned about their data and privacy.
The decision ultimately comes down to your priorities. Some users may prioritise their privacy while others may prefer a different perspective on search results.
Try a couple on the list and see how you get on with them, you’ll likely find some more suited to your needs than others.