This is Why Google Search is Dead and How to Search Instead

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


Do you think Google sucks? Yes. Google search is dying.

Why that? Ads, on-site features and AI take over gradually.

In this post I reflect on how complex the Google search experience is nowadays.

To solve the problem I will suggest alternative ways to search and beyond.

Before we start take note though: I do not hate Google. I just criticize them.

That’s a big difference. Constructive criticism is actually helpful.

As an search engine optimizer for 20 years I know Google pretty well.

I hope my feedback helps improve Google or find alternatives for searchers.


Why Google search does not work

There is one straightforward reason why I prefer not to use Google search.

When you search for something you expect to see actual search results don’t you?

The Google search experience is frustrating!

It’s not even search anymore. It’s

Google does not show real organic search results “above the fold”! What fold?

That is in the visible part of the search engine results pages (SERPs).

It’s a metaphor from the newspaper era. They folded in half.

The top news were above the fold while less important ones below.

For most keywords Google displays just ads, features, overviews on top.

By 2024 Google often shows auto-generated answers created by AI.

Google is not a search engine anymore. It’s an answering machine!

Don’t believe me? Have you been looking for search results recently?

Just “search” anything on Google.com?

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 16′ 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” on top are either

  • ads aka “sponsored”
  • Google’s own properties
  • or auto-generated by AI.

When you search for [hotels] we see Google’s proprietary hotel booking tool below the adverts e.g


How to actually search the Web?

What can you use instead to search for real? There is more than one option.

Startpage

The best alternative right now or in 2024 is still Startpage. Why?

Essentially Startpage uses Google results but without the tracking, profiling and other privacy nightmares.

I covered Startpage in a separate article about private search.

Indeed the post was meant to be published on the Startpage blog itself.

I wrote it in German originally and translated it back to English as it was meant for their German blog.

So I did not get the job at the end of the day. Even though I had several interviews and was almost there.

Thus I’m not as biased as you might suspect otherwise.

Ecosia

Another viable option is Ecosia. It’s also green as in environmentally friendly. How that?

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]!

Even without trying hard: Hotels.com and Expedia are on top.

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.

Until 2023 Ecosia used mainly Bing results and showed them in a cleaner interface.

At the end of 2023 they changed their data sources and added Google results.

As of now it’s not really clear whether they exclusively use Google results like Startpage though.

It seems they are combing several data sources including Bing and Google.

The Ecosia site itself says under the subheading “Get your website listed on Ecosia within Google markets”:

If you want your website to be listed in Ecosia’s results we recommend building your website suitable for SEO. You can find out more about Google’s recommendations for search engine optimization (SEO).

To me this means that to get shown in Ecosia’s organic results you have to optimize for Google.

DuckDuckGo

Like Ecosia until 2023, privacy-first search engine DuckDuckGo uses mainly Bing search results and a clean user interface for search.

I used DDG for many years until I discovered Ecosia and later Startpage.

It’s still worth a try but the other two offer more so I gave up on DDG and moved on.

DDG is still a clean and usable alternative to Google I’d give a try if I were in your shoes.

I recommended Neeva in an earlier version of this post but sadly the search engine went defunct by now.


Are you scrolling or 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 Startpage or 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 the “ten blue links“.

Back then Google had real results in the visible area.

Now they want you to forget about it!

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 a cluttered interface to see actual results dozens of times a day?

Don’t waste your time scrolling. Start searching!

Ecosia still uses mostly Bing results so that the technology behind the results is also state of the art.

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 (when you spot tham) than Bing and with it Ecosia.

Startpage is the best solution then – it offers Google results without the

It’s not as good for the planet as Ecosia though.

I haven’t used Startpage often enough to tell whether their results always match Google.

Yet Startpage, Ecosia and DuckDuckGo do work well for most the searches. They returned very helpful results.

Take note that all of the above use Google or Bing results internally and just repackage them.

Startpage, Ecosia or DuckDuckGo take the data and clean up the interfaces.

That’s probably the most important reason to try them beyond the privacy.


Why does Google suck for search?


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 sucks] many people come here to complain.

Why? They vent about the overall Google search quality and experience in my comment section.

I assure you that once you find the actual search results they are still OK!

Search results are just hidden below a huge pile

  • pay per click ads
  • Google owned services
  • SERP features
  • AI answers

Google excels especially when searching for so called “long tail” queries with 3, 4 or more words.

Yet by 2024 you won’t easily spot them. You will most likely just see AI based summaries on top.

In most case you won’t click through to any other websites.

Do you want the “ten blue links” search back?

OK. So why exactly does Google suck for searching the Web in 2024?


Google search is sometimes worse than Bing and its derivatives.

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

Why? It’s because they show not the

  • best
  • most popular
  • authoritative

pages but instead the

  • latest
  • newest
  • most current ones.

Thus an article from 2024 may outrank a much better post from 2019 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 (or Startpage)…
  • When you are looking for some weird sentence long questions also ask Startpage or Google as well.
  • For timeless and evergreen searches Ecosia or DuckDuckGo are often better as they both use Bing results.
  • When it comes to important searches (think health, money, law, science) you want to search Ecosia or DDG because they rather show the most credible sources first.
  • Also for one word “huge” searches everybody else is also searching for Bing-based search engines like Ecosia and DDG may offer the more reliable options.

To overcome the problem of hidden organic results below the fold you can use Startpage which is based on Google results.

Apart of that some sites, think Reddit or Quora, have deals with Google to show their results on top of everybody else.

In general Google also prefers big brands over specialized independent publishers. This brand bias often leads to shallow articles surfacing on queries where topical authorities or experts would be needed.

Last but not least so-called AI Overviews overshadow all other results.

They just feature summaries created from regurgitated content then.

These AI Overviews also tend to be error-prone.

How to get rid of all that clutter and nonsense?


How to clean up Google search?


You can also use 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.

Google has been increasingly aware of disgruntled user who have been vocal about their criticism.

Thus they also now offer a cleaned up and feature free search result page again.


You have to click “Web” below the search text input on the result page to see that one!

It’s quite hidden though as you see on the partial screen shot above!

You have to search first and above the cluttered ad hoc portal you have to click “More” and then “Web”.

There are also ways to remove AI Overviews from search results using other tools.


What Google alternatives do you use?

What search engine do you use and recommend for 2024? Do you still use Google?

Why? Why not? Did you try some alternatives? Please tell me all about it below!

I’m always on the look out for new Google alternatives. So make sure to share those!