What is wrong with Google
There are a bunch of problems with “Google Search”, and if you google “why Google sucks”, you can get a glimpse of them. Here are some of the issues people are complaining about:
- Very specific searches do not return the results people hope for
- Endless ads instead of organic results, even for nuanced queries
- Blacklisting sites for no reason
- Lowering the ranking of sites that turn off ads
- Prioritizing large businesses over smaller ones
- Removing autocomplete results that involve sensitive topics like immigration, abortion, etc
- Fraud sites and doorways are ranked higher than original content
- Lack of privacy
Let me break this down and list those of the reported issues that do not bother me. You probably do not need to care about them as well:
- Endless ads are easy to fix by installing “uBlock Origin”, which removes 99.99% of all ads on the Internet. You can also install Pi-Hole in your home and enjoy ad-free content on all devices, including your smart TV.
- Lack of privacy is easy to work around by using the private mode in your browser, but it might be inconvenient. Another option is to use a proxy, like StartPage, or even install your own self-hosted proxy, like SearX.
- Removing autocomplete results that involve certain topics. Just use your brain instead of Google’s suggestions.
The rest are problems that you cannot work around and I encountered all of them as well:
- Specific queries return results to artificially boosted sites, e.g. American .gov sites
- Censorship, aka blacklisting sites for no legal reason
- Small sites with original content do not show up in Google results
- At the same time, big sites with scraped content are at the top
- Limited number of results without pagination as it used to be
Finding search engines better than Google
To find the best search engines, I will conduct two types of tests:
- Test for censorship, aka blacklisting. For this, I will search for “kiwifarms” whose original domain is kiwifarms.net and the current active one is kiwifarms.st . I expect to see either both of them or the current one at the top of the search results. The current one should be higher than the old one because it is the active one.
- Test for original content from a small site. For this, I will search for my article on this very blog. I will use the article’s header “ How to run Vaultwarden in Podman as a systemd service ” as a search. I expect my article to show up at the top.
For both searches, the higher the expected result in the list, the better.
Every request was made using a US VPN to make sure that search results were not affected by local laws. In the US, they have the First Amendment, which guarantees freedom of speech that you cannot get elsewhere. Definitely not in Europe, where I’m currently residing.
I’ve run the tests in private browsing mode without signing in to avoid any personalization search engines might do on me. This ensures that results are not affected by my browsing history, the cookies I have stored, or my personal preferences.
Why Google sucks
The results of “Google Search” are so ridiculously wrong that I couldn’t help but write about them separately.
Let’s list issues for the “How to run Vaultwarden in Podman as a systemd service” search:
- The very first result is some Chinese scraped-content site on a subdomain. You can see that the title is different because they scraped a copy of my article from Hackernoon where it has a different title.
- The next nine results are completely irrelevant to the specific query I ran.
- The 11th result is a Hackernoon tweet about my post published on Hackernoon.
- The 19th result is another big scraped-content site in Russian. At least they auto-translated it, so it’s original content to some degree. They also kept a backlink to my blog.
- There are a total of 28 results, and both my original article and the Hackernoon copy are nowhere to be found.
Yes, you got it right—Google ranks Hackernoon so low that it doesn’t even return it to me. Instead, it returns some scraped-content sites.
Let’s see how badly Google is censoring the “kiwifarms” search:
- At the top, I see anything, but not what I’m looking for. WP, Wokepedia, even TikTok.
- kiwifarms.st is in 44th place. Who will scroll that low?
Search engines competing with Google
Brave Search is a search engine created by Brave Browser’s team. They claim that it’s the most complete, independent, and private search engine. Unlike many other search engines, Brave claims to have a fully independent search index. They also claim not to filter, downrank, or censor search results. I will demonstrate that it’s not true.
Bing is a search engine by Microsoft. They admit to censoring and downranking sites if they violate “Microsoft’s policies or core values.” I could skip it at all, but I decided to still test it for completeness. You will see that they indeed censor and downrank.
Yahoo uses Bing’s search engine under the hood, with all of its downsides.
Web Archive is not a search engine per se, but can be used to search by site name. I also wanted to demonstrate that it censors results, which you wouldn’t expect from a service calling itself “archive”.
Archive Today is another archiving solution that can also be used to search by site name. Unlike the Web Archive, it does not censor the results. In other words, it behaves accordingly.
Presearch is a decentralized search engine powered by blockchain technology. Anyone can run a Presearch node and be rewarded with PRE crypto tokens. They claim they are community-driven and censorship-resistant, “similar to Wikipedia”. The reference to Wikipedia (recently called Wokepedia) indicates that they either don’t know what they are talking about or intentionally mislead people.
DuckDuckGo is a search engine that claims to value privacy above all. Its search results are largely sourced from Bing, which has its downsides (downranking and censorship).
Torry is a metasearch engine “that indexes various other search engines”. It uses the Tor network to enable anonymous search and not track users. No tracking cookies, no logging of IPs, and no other identifying information.
Yandex is one of the oldest search engines, developed in Russia. It has had its own fully independent index from the very start. Initially, it was only for the Russian language, but it’s been a long time since it covered the whole web.
For the first test, I searched for “kiwifarms” and was expecting to see kiwifarms.st at the top.
HERE GOES THE TABLE
For the second test, I searched for “How to run Vaultwarden in Podman as a systemd service” and expected to see my post on atabakoff.com at the top.
HERE GOES THE TABLE
Best search engines 2023
The overall best search engine is Yandex. It performed better than any other engine in both tests. It was quite surprising to me because it used to be subpar compared to Google.
The first test showed both kiwifarms.net and kiwifarms.st, respectively, in the first and second positions. The only other one that placed both of them in the same positions is Archive.is, which is not even a search engine. I still included it in the list because one might use it to search by a site name. The rest of the search engines didn’t even list kiwifarms.st on the first page.
For the second test, Yandex was the only one that put my post in first place. Both Web Archive and Archive.is are not applicable here. The rest of the engines performed quite well, placing my post in second place. Except for Presearch which put it in 6th place. Google was the worst and didn’t show my site at all.
I would not use Bing and all search engines that source from it because it admits to censoring its results. Those that rely on Bing are:
It also makes sense to exclude Brave Search because I demonstrated that they lied about not censoring or downranking results. Presearch seems to be simply not that great at ranking sites.
The only option left is Yandex, which showed excellent ranking performance and a lack of censorship.
I have switched to Yandex as my default search engine and will see how it goes. Hopefully, it will not disappoint me, since there are no options left.
Also published here.