With a market share of over 85%, Google is the largest search engine in the world. It far surpasses its largest rivals, such as Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, and Yandex.
However, despite its popularity, Google isn’t without its drawbacks. It’s popular for a reason, but it’s also a good idea to know about the disadvantages of using Google as a search engine.
In this article, I’ll discuss some pros and cons of using Google. I’ll talk about why you might want to choose Google instead of an alternative and vice versa; you’ll also read about the best Google alternatives out there.
Let’s get into it.
Photo by PhotoMIX Company/Pexels
First, let’s talk about the good parts of using the largest search engine in the world.
Google probably has the best algorithms out of all the search engines in the world. As such a large company, it has the resources and capabilities to invest in perfecting its algorithms to bring its users the most accurate results for their searches.
Google has always been the trendsetter when it comes to SEO and algorithms. When Google’s algorithms came out with updates like Penguin and Panda, webmasters and bloggers worldwide scrambled to update their sites and SEO strategies accordingly.
If there is any search engine improving the user experience for users and weeding out spun content, spammy content, content boosted by artificial link schemes, and so on, it’s Google.
When you search for a keyword or phrase on Google, you’ll get results that accurately answer your question.
Google uses latent semantic indexing to bring you human-written content that discusses your topic of interest, even if there is no exact keyword match. It can tell that words like “puppy” and “dog” are similar, for example.
It also uses user behavior to accurately determine which articles and blog posts are most relevant for a search phrase. If it notices that users click on a particular result more than others, it will push that result to the top of the SERPs.
With such an extensive database of users, Google is in the best position out of all search engines to improve the search results based on user behavior.
In addition, Google makes getting the answers you want easier by offering enhanced search results like the answer box and “People Also Ask” section.
For example, if you search for an actor’s age, it will usually appear in the answer box, along with the actor’s date of birth.
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When you use a question to conduct a Google search, Google will scan the top results for a direct answer to the question and use that for the answer box.
That helps you get a quick answer to the question without needing to click on any website appearing in the search results.
The “People Also Ask” section is a series of related questions that show up somewhere on the first page. Google uses user data to determine which questions typically go together.
For example, if you are searching whether it’s safe to drink distilled water, you might also be wondering whether drinking distilled water is good for your kidneys. You might also wonder what’s the healthiest type of water to drink and whether distilled water is good for your blood pressure.
All you have to do is click on one of the questions that show up to expand it and get an answer specific to that question. The more questions you expand, the more questions will show up, allowing you to do a lot of research on a topic without ever leaving the first page of the search results.
If your internet is slow, running multiple searches and visiting multiple websites can take a lot of time. That’s why using Google is so convenient.
That’s not to say that other search engines don’t have similar features. For example, Bing also has an answer box and a related questions section.
However, I think that Google’s “People Also Ask” section includes the most relevant questions and answers you can get.
In addition, the Google search bar is constantly bringing up related search phrase suggestions. For example, if you type the beginning of a phrase, Google will draw on its vast user behavior data to suggest additional phrases that might be relevant.
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In addition, Google has excellent filtering options to help you get the most accurate results for your question.
You can find the most accessible filtering options by clicking on “Tools” above the search results. That allows you to search for:
- Results in a specific language
- Results from a particular day or period
- Most relevant vs verbatim results
However, there are also a lot of manual tricks (called operators) that let you get more accurate results. For example, you can enter site:cnn.com to get results only from CNN (replace CNN with any other website for similar results).
You can also exclude results from your search by adding -keyword after your search. For example, you can search for US news -CNN to exclude results from CNN.
You can also add quotation marks to a search phrase to bring up only exact match results.
There are so many other Google search operators that allow you to customize your results, such as:
Moz has an excellent cheat sheet for different Google operators and what to use them for.
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In addition to the answer box, Google has many built-in tools that make your life easier. For example, you can type “calculator” to bring up an online calculator:
You can save even more time by simply typing an equation into the search box for a quick result:
You can get the same quick results for other things, such as currency conversions, Celsius to Fahrenheit conversions, inches to centimeters, and sunset or sunrise in a specific city (type sunset Chicago or any other city name).
If you want quick answers that show up before even doing a Google search, type in a specific equation (such as 20 inches to centimeters). If you want an online conversion tool to convert inches to feet or USD to EUR, simply type inches to feet or USD to EUR.
Other units you can convert on Google include:
- Miles to kilometers
- Teaspoon to tablespoon
- Megabytes to kilobytes
- And many others
When you enter a search term, you can find free ebooks on the topic by clicking on the “Books” tab. You can also go to Google Books and directly enter a search phrase there.
Google Books now has an improved interface that allows you to preview the book, see author information, browse different editions, and more. You can review an ebook, add it to your library, or even find libraries near you that allow you to borrow a physical version of the book.
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Google Scholar is a separate search engine run by Google that only brings up scholarly articles or case law (you can choose between one or the other).
You’ll get articles and studies from academic journals and other academic sources. You’ll be able to save articles and see how many times each one was cited.
Google Scholar is the best search engine if you want to find trusted sources instead of random blog posts on the internet.
Google Flights allows you to search for cheap and affordable flights from anywhere to anywhere. The tool pulls results from different airlines and booking sites, allowing you to access the most inexpensive and best options.
You can filter price results by time, price, baggage allowance, airline, stopovers, flight duration, and more.
You can also look at the monthly calendar to find the dates with the cheapest fares or set up price alerts to get notifications when fare rates go down.
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You can use the Explore tab to explore different destinations. For example, if you’re in Los Angeles, the map will show popular destinations around the country on the map, along with flight prices to each destination.
You can browse the most popular things to do in your destination, or you can browse hotels. The “Things To Do” tab collects the best attractions from each city from Google Maps and more.
Booking hotels on Google is also convenient as you can see prices from different booking engines and book the cheapest one.
You can also click on the Shopping tab to find affordable items from different online stores. You can filter for products you can buy directly on Google or those sold on third-party sites, and you can also filter for products that are on sale.
Furthermore, you can also filter by price, brand, and more. Google Shopping makes ecommerce convenient.
Google News brings you the best stories from the most popular news publications on the internet. You can browse news stories from different categories, including:
- And more
You can also click on the “News” tab in the search results to see related news stories.
Google Finance, on the other hand, gives you the latest information about stock and ETF prices. You can browse markets in different parts of the world, see the latest financial news stories, and check out the earnings calendar for top stocks.
At the same time, using Google’s search engine has some serious drawbacks. Here are the main reasons people stay away from Google.
I repeatedly mentioned how Google has access to an extensive database of user data. It uses that data to improve its algorithms and the user experience in general.
However, it also uses that data to serve you ads. It tracks your search history, and you may find ads related to such searches appearing not only on Google but on other sites, like YouTube or even Facebook.
That’s not the worst of it, though. Various privacy advocacy groups have criticized Google for collecting all types of user data and sharing information with governments.
Google claims that when governments ask it for data, it carefully reviews the request and ensures it is lawful. It also tries to narrow the scope of the request and hand over as little information as possible.
However, depending on the country and jurisdiction, Google may have no choice. Google definitely doesn’t want a government to take action against it and prevent it from operating in the country and raking in a profit.
If the law requires Google to hand over information, it may be forced to do so. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a mega tech company built on mass tracking and advertising cares about your privacy above all else.
According to Google, law enforcement agencies may require it to hand over information such as:
- Your name, phone number, and email address
- Which IP addresses you log in from, and when
- Google Voice phone connection records
If you don’t want your search engine tracking you, there are safe alternatives. DuckDuckGo, for example, never tracks you or collects data for ads or any other purpose.
Because DuckDuckGo doesn’t collect IP address information and other user data, governments can’t force it to give over your details.
It can be scary to think just how much Google knows about you. It knows your location (unless you use a VPN), which topics you search about, which websites you visit, and more! Depending on your activity, it might know about things you purchased, books you read, and places you’ve visited.
There are other ethical problems with using Google. For example, it is a monopoly that has violated antitrust laws – in fact, the European Union fined Google billions of euros for violating antitrust laws.
There are also concerns about Google’s tax avoidance and its censorship of websites it doesn’t like.
This isn’t a big issue for most people. However, Google lacks a rewards program that rewards you for using the internet to search.
Many alternative search engines give you points for simply browsing the web. If you browse the web a lot, that could add up, so using Google means you’re leaving money on the table.
For example, Bing, the second-largest search engine in the world, allows you to earn points through Microsoft Rewards by simply browsing the web. You can then redeem those points for gift cards.
You can also use a platform like Swagbucks, which has a built-in search engine that rewards you for searching.
Accelerated Mobile Pages, or the AMP Project, is a project that Google came up with to make websites more accessible on mobile.
AMP is an open-source framework, and you’ve probably come across it if you’ve used Google on mobile. It strips down a webpage and removes any heavy components that could slow it down; it also shows you a cached version to save bandwidth and speed up loading times.
On the one hand, AMP can save you a lot of time. On the other hand, not everyone likes AMP, because it sometimes diminishes the browsing experience.
Google gives excellent results when you search for articles. However, when you go to the images or videos tab, Google is lacking in some ways.
Let’s compare the video results on Google vs the video results for the same keyword on Bing. As you can see, Google includes results in a list, just like its regular search results, along with the video description that it pulls from each site:
Compare that to Bing’s results, which it arranges in a grid, making it easier to browse more videos. You can even drag videos from the results to create your own playlist:
Google isn’t as bad when it comes to images, but Bing is sometimes better at giving you better and higher-quality image results.
Like most search engines, Google uses image recognition technology when you upload an image in an image search.
However, it doesn’t use facial recognition technology, making it less useful when searching for people. Yandex, a Russian search engine, uses both image recognition and facial recognition technology.
Best Alternatives to Google
If you’ve decided that you don’t want to use Google, there are some other excellent search engines out there worth considering. Here are the best Google alternatives and why you might choose them instead of Google:
DuckDuckGo is the king of privacy-friendly search engines. Using it is like using the incognito mode on Chrome.
You can also get the DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials browser extension to block trackers and keep you safe online.
DuckDuckGo isn’t perfect, though. According to CNET, it uses Bing to power its results; for that reason, it has some Microsoft trackers that it is contractually obligated to use.
Nevertheless, it’s still light-years ahead of Google regarding privacy.
Check out similar platforms to consider in place of DuckDuckGo.
2. Brave Search
Brave is a privacy-focused browser with ad blocking, tracker blocking, and other safety features. It now also has a search engine, called Brave Search.
Brave Search is the default search engine on the Brave Browser. However, you can also use it at search.brave.com, whether you’re using Chrome, Firefox, or any other browser.
Brave search tracks nothing – not what you search for, not what you click on. Since it doesn’t have any user data, it can’t give it to governments or sell it to advertisers.
Unlike DuckDuckGo, Brave Search uses its proprietary index to bring you results. That means that it will never be forced by Bing or other large search engines to include hidden trackers.
However, it does rely on Bing for most image and video results. Also, it uses fallback mixing to check results from Bing if it can’t bring up accurate results of its own.
It uses community suggestions and feedback to improve its results and bring you more accurate ones.
It also has a beta Goggles feature, which allows you to customize your own search results with rules and filters.
Brave Search is supported by ads, and Brave plans to incorporate those ads into the Brave Rewards program in the future.
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Bing is the second-largest search engine in the world. The main reason to use it instead of Google is its rewards program.
You’ll get rewards just for browsing the web on Bing. You won’t earn much – but every few weeks or months, you cann redeem a small gift card for Amazon, Walmart, Target, Starbucks, and other stores.
Not only that, but you can also get scratch-and-win rewards, enter sweepstakes, and more.
DogPile is an interesting addition to this list. Founded in 1996, it is older than Google, Bing (originally MSN Search), and AOL.
It has a weird name, and its interface looks a bit outdated. However, DogPile continues to fulfill its original goal – to be a metasearch engine that includes results from multiple other engines.
One of the issues people have when choosing a search engine is that some engines might be more relevant for different searches. For example, you might prefer Bing’s results for one keyword search, even if you prefer Google’s results for a different keyword search.
DogPile includes results from Google, Bing, Yandex, and other search engines. It will filter out duplicates, allowing you to get more results than you would get from using just one engine.
However, DogPile is no longer as practical as it used to be, as many search engines it used to rely on for its results have gone offline or been bought out by bigger search engines like Google.
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Now that you know what Google search engine has to offer and what it lacks, you’re in a better position to make a decision.
Whether you stick to Google or switch to alternatives, you’re not wrong.
Benjamin Levin is a digital marketing professional with 4+ years of experience with inbound and outbound marketing. He helps small businesses reach their content creation, social media marketing, email marketing, and paid advertising goals. His hobbies include reading and traveling.