Is There Really an Alternative Search Engine to Google?
With over 90% of the Search Engine market share worldwide, its hard to propose there is an alternative search engine that can/could compete with Google. Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped some companies from attempting to take Google head on and get a slice of their tasty market share.
There are, of course, the likes of Microsoft’s Bing and Russia’s Yandex that have been trying for some time now. But other, alternative search engines have begun to gain traction and comments within some forums suggest they are superior to Google.
For some people however, even the mere suggestion that the likes of Bing are an alternative to the Big G sends them into emotional meltdown.
But with over 4 billion people now using the internet, the idea of a new player in the search engine market is exciting. Surely we should welcome any competition, right?
To find out if a worthy alternative to Google actually exists, we have extensively tested the following popular search engines:
- Dog Pile
The factors of our extensive experiment were to commit to using each of the search engines for personal use for at least 2 weeks. We would compile our findings and draw up an insightful conclusion at the end of the set time.
We drew straws to see which member of staff would be charged with testing which search engine and once that was done the experiment begun.
So, strap in and get ready for some old-fashioned, professional user testing.
(SPOILER ALERT – We did ask 2 guys to try Baidu & Yandex, but they didn’t make the whole 9 yards….)
Privacy Privacy Privacy
The search engine DuckDuckGo (DDG) markets itself on being a completely private search engine. No stored search history, no personal information is collected, no cookies are used by default, and no “Search Leakage”* occurs.
(*At other search engines, when you do a search and then click on a link, your search terms are sent to that site you clicked on (in the HTTP referrer header))
This meant that we could search at will without the worry of our browsing history being used by advertisers to serve us up custom ads. It also meant we were confident that our personal information would not be used by anyone for anything scandalous.
Duck Duck Design
The design of the search engine is clean. We enjoyed the lack of visual clutter presented to users following a query search. Whilst we did see similarities between Google’s search results page and this one, the overarching response was that DDG was cleaner.
One thing we didn’t like was the default font. Upon first glance, it was difficult to read, and the colour contrast wasn’t quite sufficient. However, this wasn’t really much of a problem once we figured out how to switch it up in the settings (Settings > Other Settings > Appearance).
The font isn’t the only thing DDG allows you to customise. There are 6 default themes to choose from and a whole host of other appearance settings you can tweak at your desire. For instance, we centre aligned all our search results as you can see below:
Does it Search Well Though?
The overall experience we had with DDG’s search was good for both mobile & desktop. Because it doesn’t use previous search results to condition your future results, we ultimately saw a, “truer search”. However, this did mean that in some instances we had to devolve a bit deeper to find what we were looking for.
They do have a feature called “Instant Answers” which we did find pretty useful. Basically, they are DDG’s answer to featured snippets. One we enjoyed was when searching for a term that has multiple meanings, for example, “Jaguar”, a section appears with the heading – Meanings. Within this section, you will find Jaguar Cars, SEPECAT Jaguar, Jaguar Cat, Jaguar a Marvel supervillain, etc. You simply click one of these meanings and the SERPs will change to reflect your choice. Pretty neat.
During our testing, we did experience a slight glitch with the weather search function. Using the term “York Weather” we were expecting to see forecasts of light rain with a spattering of heavy rain. However, to our amazement, we saw sunshine and highs of 34 degrees! Just as we’d sent someone down the shop to pick up the Cornetto’s, we realised we were, being served the weather in New York, US even though we had the United Kingdom locale turned on.
Needless to say, no Cornettos were harmed during this experiment.
Is it a Haven from Ads?
In short no. There are still a number of ads amongst the search results. Admittedly, there are considerably less than what Google has, and, in most cases, they are only located at the top of each page.
The most we ever saw on a single page was 2 and that was for a generic high search volume term.
Duck’s Go Bang?
One cool feature that DDG boasts is something they have coined “Bangs”. By inserting a query in the search bar preceded by “!” it will serve up the page of that website with all the results for what I’m looking for. For example, we used the following “!w Emile Heskey”. This took us directly the Wikipedia entry for premier league legend Emile Heskey.
Now I know what you’re thinking… On what planet is Emile Heskey a premier league legend?
But seriously, this a super useful feature from DDG and with over 11,414 bangs, there is guaranteed to be at least one you can take advantage of.
Conclusion – Searches of a Ducks Back
After using DDG for 2 weeks, we have to say it’s pretty good.
Whilst we did miss certain elements of Google search (Knowledge graphs and detail-rich GMB listings), all in all, DDG did a great job. Nine times out of ten the set of results served were spot on. The fact that it did this without storing our prior search history or information is remarkable.
It’s clear that DDG is on the right track, but it will likely be some time before the hybrid engine grows to become as polished as Google currently is. Unfortunately, by that time Google should have grown exponentially more advanced and the competition will be even tougher.
Official Edge45 Rating – 7/10
I’m sorry, what’s it called?
Whilst searching for the above search engine, I was unfortunate enough to add in a rogue “S” onto the end. The set of results were not what I was looking for, but I did learn that if your dog has itchy skin, a 50/50 solution of apple cider vinegar and water will do the trick!
So, once you eventually find the DogPile Search engine you are greeted with the following stellar imagery:
How does Dogpile work?
Dogpiles claim to fame is it works by collecting the best results from Google, Yahoo! and other search engines into a single place. This means that you can search several big search engines and directories at the same time within a single place, making Dogpile a MetaSearch Engine.
On paper, this sounds brilliant. However, in practice, it’s rather underwhelming.
The design of the Dogpile search engine is not so great. Outdated clipart visuals and poor spacing between search results mean using Dogpile on a regular basis is a frustrating ordeal that leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
Dogpile does not offer any form of customisation. You are stuck with the stock look and feel. The dog, Arfie, is pretty cute though.
Another big problem that plagues this search engine is that it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the Ads and the Organic results within the SERPs. There is no clear distinction between the two and we found ourselves clicking ads we thought were organic listings.
There are no Google My Business listings or something thereabouts, no rich or featured snippets and even no map integrations.
At the time of testing, the platform didn’t even have a valid SSL certificate which is a bit worrying…
Conclusion – Steaming Pile of Dog
There is not much to say about Dogpile really. It was a chore to use for 2 weeks and searching for things took twice as long as other search engines.
We would not recommend switching to Dogpile. Sorry, Arfie.
Official Edge45 Rating – 2/10
45 Search’s = 1 Tree
Environmental awareness and sustainability are rightly at the forefront of everybody’s mind in 2018. Therefore, when a search engine comes along promising to plant a tree for every 45 searches conducted on their platform, you stand up straight and take notice.
Well, Ecosia is that Search Engine.
Their USP is that for every 45 searches conducted using their search engine, they will plant a tree in regions needing them the most.
The company says it has planted more than 7.2 million trees already, with regions such as Ethiopia seeing a number of Acacia trees being planted to help local communities.
(It pays for all this tree planting activity by using 80% of its ad revenue!)
Unfortunately, when we look at the big picture, the 7.2 million trees planted is just a fraction of the 15 billion trees estimated to be being cut down each year. However, this fact does not make Ecosia’s cause any less admirable.
Quality of Search
Overall, our experience of using Ecosia was positive. Mostly the search engine returned relevant results for all our queries but there were times where it struggled. This is likely because it uses the Bing & Yahoo! algorithms to serve its results rather than using the much more developed Google algorithm.
Much like DuckDuckGo, the times where it fell awry was location-based searches. It showed several results for varying search terms that were not relevant to my location and I had to change up my search query to return a more accurate set of results.
Ecoisa has done a good job in their design work. The search engine looks clean and easy to use right off the bat. They do have a counter on the home screen which is always increasing as people all over the world are conducting searches on the platform.
In the top right corner, you do have a counter of your own to demonstrate the number of searches you have performed. Ecosia state that on average, you must perform 45 searches in order to plant a tree.
What we didn’t like is that when we first started using the search engine, in place of the search button they have a put an identical button but instead of searching it downloads their chrome extension! This led to us accidentally downloading it without even knowing we had done so.
Conclusion – He who plants a tree. Plants a hope.
The idea behind Ecoisa is brilliant. It delivers a largely faultless experience and makes you feel like you’re making a positive change to the environment upon every search that you conduct.
Ecosia does struggle with local & more personalised results when compared to Google, but it’s easy to overlook its shortcomings when you consider the bigger picture.
Official Edge45 Rating – 8/10
Despite the Memes, Bing is no Joke.
I’m sure you’ve heard the long-standing joke that Bing is the perfect search engine if you’re looking to find Google.com. But putting all jokes aside, Bing has the highest percentage of market share of all the alternatives we tried and is striving to be taken seriously.
Bing is run and owned by Microsoft and was previously called Windows Live Search & MSN Search. It brands itself as a “Decision Engine” rather than a search engine as it aims to deliver results with more real-world context.
Just like the search engines above, we used Bing religiously for around 2 weeks. Overall, we must admit that we were pleasantly surprised by our experience and did not feel the overwhelming urge to return to Google after our test period.
Both Google and Bing look very similar in their layout, especially the search result pages. In fact, if both removed their logos from these pages, you would be hard-pressed to pick which one was which. They even have the same coloured boxes which are used on the image search page to filter your results down to a more granular level.
The only real significant difference when it comes down to design between Bing & Google is that Bing’s video search displays the results in a navigable grid with large thumbnails compared to Google’s vertical format.
Apart from that, there’s no real difference between the two in terms of design.
Searching the Depths of Bing
Out of all the search engines we tested, Bing was the only one which served us exactly what we were looking for 100% of the time. As the trial period went on, we were getting more and more personalised results and just like Google, these curated results were replicated across platforms.
Bing has adopted several of Google’s “Smart Searches”, including movie show times, local weather, celebrity information and many others. In fact, we can’t recall a time where Google delivered a “Smart Result” to us and Bing didn’t.
Overall, we found that Bing gave us the exact results we wanted. One search might be a little better on Google, while another might be better on Bing but all in all, both produced accurate results that could be relied upon.
Get Paid or Bribed to Search?
In 2010, Microsoft launched Bing Rewards as a way to incentivize the use of the Bing Search engine. With Bing Rewards, you earn credits for performing searches and other tasks on the Bing platform itself. You can then spend these credits on a variety of different things including gift cards or donations to charities.
You get 3 credits per search and there are various other rewards for performing other actions. To put this into perspective, a £10 gift card from Debenhams cost 15,200 credits. That means you have to perform 5,067 searches using Bing in order to get £10 off whatever they sell at Debenhams nowadays. Chairs?
Whilst the above figure might seem like a hefty number of searches to perform, using Bing across all your devices will quickly rack up the number of searches and you will be swaggering into Debenhams clutching your Bing Gift Card in no time.
Conclusion – Help Us Bing, Your Our Only Hope
On several occasions throughout our two-week trial of Microsoft’s search engine, we had to stop and make sure we were, in fact, using Bing and had not defaulted to Google. The two search engines are almost identical in every single way and you would be hard pressed to pick out differences that truly set the two apart. In addition to this at no point did Bing serve us an inaccurate set of results and the overall search experience was on par with Google.
The only problem is that “I’ll Bing it” doesn’t have the same ring to it.
Official Edge45 Rating – 9/10
The bottom line to all of this is that Google is not the only player in town when it comes to Search Engines. There is legitimate competition out there that is actively vying for a portion of Google’s market share and they will continue to improve their platforms until they achieve just that.
There are, of course, several search engines which we, unfortunately, didn’t get to test. Search engines like Yandex, Baidu, Start Page and Search Encrypt all have a loyal fanbase who boast their chosen platform is the one true giant killer.
Google should use this competition to continue to improve their search engine and provide an overall better service for its users. At the moment it’s still very much the market leader, but things in the digital world can change in a heartbeat.
Resting on their laurels will the ultimately lead to Google’s downfall and give a challenger a shot at the illustrious crown.