This is Why Google Search is Bad and What Engine to Use in 2021

A dead tree symbolizing the bad Google search results that only show ads above the fold.

I’m not a big friend of Google for a myriad of reasons.

These are my personal preferences. I won’t deal with them here.

This post is not about ideology. It’s purely practical.

This time I reflect on Google search and how bad it is by 2021.

To solve the problem I will suggest a viable alternative or two.


Google Search Does not Work As Expected

There is one straightforward reason why I prefer not to use Google Search though whenever possible. When you search for something you expect to see actual search results don’t you?

Google Search is bad, it’s not even search anymore, it’s Google Ads.

Google does not show real organic search results above the fold – that is in the visible part of the search engine results pages (SERPs) – for lucrative keywords. Have you been looking for hotels recently?

Just search for [hotels] on Google.com – This is what I get (searching in English from the US by using Proton VPN) and why I consider it bad:

Google search results for [hotels]: You need to scroll to see any.

Can you spot even one real unpaid or so called “organic” result? Take note that I use a clean browser here with no toolbars, only a bookmark bar.

I am not using a tablet or something with a small screen. I’m not even using a standard sized 15,6′ laptop screen. It’s a 17,3′ notebook!

OK, so Google is not a real search engine anymore. It does not work as expected.

What is it then? It’s a dynamic portal worse than Yahoo has ever been. Most “results” are either ads or Google’s own properties. In this case we see Google’s proprietary hotel booking tool below the adverts.


How Can You Actually Search the Web in 2021?

What can you use instead to search for real? The best alternative right now in 2021 is Ecosia. You may also consider Startpage.

Ecosia shows ads above the search results too but far fewer of them and you even support reforestation efforts all over the world with 80% of the ad revenue when you click their ads.

I like to plant trees to keep climate change at bay and thus I am even more likely to click ads. In the case of the [hotels] search there weren’t many though. I disabled all ad blockers and privacy tools to make sure I can see them:

Ecosia search for hotels shows organic results above the fold.

Hooray! What do we see? We recognize two relevant search results for [hotels] without trying hard: Hotels.com and Expedia. Then we’ll notice a Wikipedia entry on the right side. It’s Hotels.com again.

These results are real results determined by site authority and incoming links. The more people recommend those sites the higher they are in the results.


Are You Still Scrolling or Already Searching?

A misty forest full of very green trees symbolizing what happens when you use Ecosia.

I could go on explaining why the above Google “results” are bad and the Ecosia results are better but IMHO it’s obvious.

I do not even have to use colors to highlight like others did before me. Just compare it to the distant past of 2005.

Back then Google had real results in the visible area. Ask.com had the most ads but still fewer than Google now and where is Ask now?

A more current report from BrightEdge shows how wide-spread the “ads-only above the fold” issue was in 2016.

My advice for all those who have no stake in Google: Let’s move on to a real search engine. Why have to sift through numerous ads to see actual results dozens of times a day?

Don’t waste your time scrolling. Start searching!

Ecosia uses mostly Bing results so that the technology behind the results is also state o the art while the environmental business model and the much cleaner interface are additional benefits.

In some cases – for so called long tail searches of three or more words Google can yield better results than Bing and with it Ecosia.

Startpage is the best solution then – it offers Google results without the tracking, filter bubble and visual clutter. It’s not as good for the planet as Ecosia though.


Google Search Quality

The search result for [seo 2.0] as seen using Simple Search by The Markup

As I rank on top of Google for queries like [google is bad] many people come here to complain about the overall Google search quality in my comment section.

I assure you that once you find the actual search results below a huge pile of ads and Google owned features they are still very good especially when searching for so called “long tail” queries with 3, 4 or more words.

Google has problems with “bigger” or more popular keywords!

Why? It’s because they they show not the best, most popular or authoritative pages but instead the latest, newest or most current ones. Thus an article from 2021 may outrank a much better post from 2016 mainly because it’s 5 years younger.

Often the best results are those that have aged for a few years like good wine. Yet Google prefers “fresh content”. One way to deal with this is to constantly update your content. I do that and that’s why I keep on ranking with some pages for a decade.

  • When you are looking for the latest inside scoop on technology, politics or gossip – you might want to use Google.
  • When you are looking for some weird sentence long questions also ask Google.
  • For timeless and evergreen searches Ecosia or DuckDuckGo are often better as they both use Bing results.

To overcome the problem of hidden organic results below the fold you can either use Startpage which is based on Google results or a tool called Simple Search by The Markup that simply gets rid of all the clutter above Google search results and just shows the actual results in an overlay.

You add it to your browser (Chrome or Firefox e.g) and every time you search Google you just get to see the real search results not those someone paid for to get shown on top.

Most people do not even realize that what they see on top of Google are ads. In case you are one of them just make sure to view and click the proper results.