While it might seem impossible to imagine a world in which there is a better search engine than Google, there are a lot of strong competitors out there worth considering.
It’s hard to ignore the numbers as Google controls roughly 83% of all search engine traffic around the world. This makes it an incredibly difficult challenge for any search engine competitor to try and take on the Google behemoth and win.
However, size isn’t everything as there are search engine competitors out there with their own specific focus that helps make them attractive alternatives to Google.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the 9 best search engines you can use to find the best results.
How Do Search Engines Work?
Before jumping into the actual list of best search engines, it’s important to take a few seconds to learn how search engines work. Everything starts with a query or the question you are trying to get answered. As you type this keyword query into your search engine, it starts looking for what it believes is the most relevant answer or response.
To find this answer, or a list of answers to be more specific, search engines use web crawlers, also known as spiders and bots to index the millions and millions of websites that exist. By indexing all of the sites it can, a search engine uses its specific algorithm to rank websites and pages by how well it thinks these pages will answer your search query.
Once a search engine has searched through its index of pages and determined which sites best answer your keyword query, it presents the results back to you as a list.
#1 Best Overall: Google
Look, Google doesn’t have an 83% market share in 2023 for no reason as it’s still largely considered the world’s best search engine.
Interestingly enough, not only is Google the world’s biggest search engine, but it’s also the world’s most popular website with over 106 billion visits in June 2023 alone.
So, why is Google so good at finding stuff? Well, for starters, Google is constantly changing its algorithms, so its results are as timely and accurate as it can get for a keyword query. Not only this, but Google is often the fastest at bringing your results.
Google also finds a lot of success at finding you the best results by picking up on news faster than any of its competitors. This means any search for the latest news is most likely to have the best and most relevant result directly from Google. Part of the way Google brings you results is by indexing which sites are updating regularly, and by keeping a site active, Google ranks pages higher.
Best for Academic Material: Google Scholar
Something of an offshoot of Google, Google Scholar is a very specific version of Google that focuses mostly on one thing: academic material.
As a separate source from Google, Google Scholar is free to focus its algorithm on surfacing very different results than you might find with a similar query on Google.com directly.
Google Scholar has become a hugely popular option for students who need to locate an academic resource or professionals who want to find something other than a blog post. Google Scholar not only enables you to look at scholarly articles (hence the name) but also look at case law, which can come in very handy with college-level papers.
Having the ability to see how frequently a source is cited within Google Scholar can give you a confidence boost that the article you want to source is credible.
Within Google Scholar, you’ll find articles, books, abstracts, and court opinions of all types, all sources from academic publishers, online repositories, universities, professional societies, and other scholarly websites.
Best for Copyright-Free Material: Openverse
While search engines like Google are certainly good at helping surface copyright-free material, if you want the absolute best way to find this type of work, Openverse is the way to go.
With all of its content available under a Creative Commons license or in the public domain, Openverse offers more than 700 million creative works to search through.
Launched in 2019 by Creative Commons, Openverse is part of WordPress.org and works as a repository of images and audio files.
The primary focus is on images and audio, which means you will have an incredibly large selection of free stock photos that you can use for your new blog post, a report at work, or a college paper. With plans to add video down the road, Openverse is tracking toward collecting more than 2.5 billion pieces of Creative Commons license and public domain material over the next few years.
Best of all, every search result within Openverse helps you immediately discover the right source link, so you can accurately source any material you use.
Best Internet Archive: Wayback Machine
While not a true engine in the traditional sense, Wayback Machine is great at researching old websites.
With more than 843 million web pages saved as of September 2023, the Wayback Machine, or Internet Archive as it is more commonly known, has helped build what is arguably the largest library of Internet sites ever.
Akin to an online library, the Wayback Machine provides historians, scholars, researchers, people with print disabilities, and the general public access to the entirety of the website for free.
Starting in 1996, the original idea of the Internet Archive was to save old newspapers as no other online source was doing so. Fast forward 26 years and through a partnership with over 1,000 libraries, the Internet Archive is one of the top websites in the world.
Funded through donations and grants, the Internet Archive scans upwards of 4,300 books per day and saves them for future generations. The Internet Archive also saves selected U.S. television broadcasts of major national and world events, and everything is searchable throughout its website.
Best for Presentations: SlideShare
If the time comes when you need to learn about a topic in a hurry or need inspiration for a project of your own, SlideShare will come to the rescue.
Another unusual search tool that is unlike a traditional search engine, SlideShare is trusted by more than 80 million professionals who are all learning from other subject matter experts.
With SlideShare, you can locate and discover well-presented presentations that are put together by experts in their particular fields. Instead of searching online for a presentation or inspiration to build your own, SlideShare gives you dozens of categories to search through like Education, Engineering, Technology, Healthcare, Spiritual, Environment, Law, Entertainment and Humor, and so many more.
Within each of these categories, you can find an almost countless number of presentations across a variety of subtopics. Presentations are available as PowerPoints, Word documents, PDFs, or OpenDocument formats. All of the content can be viewed on the SlideShare website where it can be rated and commented on for additional feedback.
Best for Multimedia: Bing
Even as Bing’s overall market share in the search engine space hovers in the low single digits, it does beat Google in one key category. When it comes to multimedia results, like images and videos, Bing is the place to go to find the best overall results.
Though it’s the second-largest search engine globally, Bing has long been unable to overcome Google’s advanced algorithms. Where Bing shines is with results on its video results tab, which provides a more visual and engaging experience than Google.
The same can be said for Bing’s image results, where you are more likely to get detailed results like infographics when searching for “feeding tips for dogs” whereas Google is likely to just show you pictures of dogs.
Best of all, Bing offers you its Rewards system where you can receive points daily as you search. It’s a massively popular system that has enabled users to cash in points to earn everything from $5 gift cards to Xbox Series X consoles over time.
Best Shortcuts: DuckDuckGo
DuckDuckGo has carved out its own little niche in the search engine market by marketing itself as the anti-Google that doesn’t store, collect, or track any user data. Unlike Google, which uses your user data to help surface search engine results, DuckDuckGo looks to just surface the best results, period.
While DuckDuckGo’s overall results are largely hit or miss, one aspect of the site cannot be ignored with its “Bangs.” A Bang is a DDG shortcut that allows you to quickly search the results for another site. This makes it incredibly easy for you to use DDG to search directly on Wikipedia or Amazon to help surface the exact result you are looking for.
As of September 2023, over 13,564 Bangs exist for popular sites like eBay, Steam, Netflix, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Reddit, WolframAlpha, and so many more. For a Wikipedia search, all you have to do is type “!w DuckDuckGo” and the search engine will take you directly to the Wikipedia page for DuckDuckGo.
Best Unexpected Source: Reddit
Reddit is by no means a search engine, as it’s definitely more of a huge network of communities where discussion is the name of the game. However, Reddit acts as a search engine through its own online search function or for those who use “site:reddit.com [insert search here]” parameter searches and often get exactly the result they are looking for.
This can be a great way to utilize Google or another search engine in an unexpected way. Let’s say you are trying to fix Joy-Con drift in a Nintendo Switch. You can use your search engine of choice and find article after article that all explain different solutions.
Instead, try the same search by appending “site:reddit.com joy-con drift” to your Google search and you can immediately pass the ads and any SEO attempts to steer you away from non-relevant results.
Given the appending method, Reddit is more of a tool than a search engine, but trying the same search “Joy-Con drift” inside Reddit’s own search tool gives you a lengthy list of threads and communities where you can go to seek help.
Best Computational Results: WolframAlpha
One of the internet’s hidden gems of a search engine, WolframAlpha is an exceptionally strong search engine as long as it’s used for the right queries.
Best described as a computational knowledge engine, WolframAlpha is a search tool that allows you to plug in a variety of problems and discover the answers. Alternatively, you can also use WolframAlpha to become an expert on a variety of different subjects, including people.
By using a combination of different data points, computational methods, and algorithms, you can find an answer on WolframAlpha faster than you would by doing a similar search on Google or Bing. Even as WolframAlpha doesn’t like to describe itself as a search engine, it’s still falling into that category based on the way it’s used. Instead of your traditional search queries on Google, WolframAlpha enables you to search a computational problem directly on its site and output actual data results.
Most importantly, if you have never used WolframAlpha to do math homework of any skill level, you are missing out. Best of all, the website is updated frequently and new versions of its computational knowledge get rolled out on a regular basis.
While it’s easy to think that Google is the only viable search engine worth using today, this couldn’t be any less truthful.
While Google might offer some of the best results and have the largest market share, there are still plenty of terrific alternatives that you can use to find the best results for your specific search query. Everything from presentations and stock photos to scholarly reports is available on the internet and found easily on websites not named Google.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Grisha Bruev/Shutterstock.com.