Best Web Search | CHOICE
Google is the most powerful and widely used search engine in the world. The research company has 93% of the Australian research market. Its closest competitor, Microsoft’s Bing, has just under 5% of the market, with the others picking up the crumbs.
There are plenty of hidden ways to improve a Google search to make sure you get the fastest, most accurate results, as well as reasons to be wary of the search giant.
The best way to get the results you want is to keep your search simple and trust Google’s algorithm. Searching for “time in San Francisco” or “weather in Sydney” returns immediate results.
Privacy concerns aside, for now (we’ll get to that later) the more Google knows about you, the better the results. So if you allow Google to know your location, it can use this information to better guess the results you are looking for. For example, a search for “USD 10” will provide instant conversion to Australian dollars, while a search for “5ft 6” will show the same measurement in meters.
A few quick shortcuts to remember:
- Quotation marks Using quotes around a phrase will limit your search to that exact phrase. An amazing spider man search will return results with these three words used anywhere, in any context. A search for “amazing spider man” will only return results with that exact phrase.
- Google search on a specific site A search for washing machines at site: choice.com.au only returns results for CHOICE.
- Delete words to refine a search with minus sign A search for jaguar speed -car will exclude results containing the animal but not the prestige vehicle.
- Use the asterisk as a wildcard If you search for a phrase but are unsure of every word, “these are not the * you are looking for” should return the results you are looking for.
Google is continually improving its search to make these commands simpler, or in some cases unnecessary, so today a search for “eiffel tower wiki” will return the same information as “site: wikipedia.org eiffel tower”.
One of the most amazing and lesser-known features of Google Image Search is the reverse image search feature. Just click on the camera icon in the search bar to download an image to your computer, and Google will scan and analyze the image and try to identify what’s in the frame.
When you search for an image with Google, you have the option to filter your results based on powerful criteria. Just click on the Tools button below the search bar, and from there you’ll see a few hidden drop-down menus allowing you to specify the size, color, type, time, and usage rights for your results.
Two options to explore are usage rights and color. In the Usage rights menu, you can filter images by their license. “Reuse with modification” means that you can take the image, modify it, and reuse it on a website or in a PowerPoint presentation. Non-commercial reuse will still allow you to use the image, but as the name suggests, you will be limited to using the image in educational or non-profit situations.
These classifications are based on the Creative Commons license, so it’s worth clicking on your results to confirm that Google is giving you the correct license information and whether you need to attribute the original creator to your work.
Searching for an image with the yellow color filter will unsurprisingly return predominantly yellow images. It becomes powerful when you collect multiple images for a PowerPoint presentation or website and want a uniform color to evoke a certain emotion or to match your branding.
Google has long fought with users playing with its algorithm, primarily to rank higher in search for business purposes, but more recently to infect autocomplete results with hateful information or to promote false statements.
What makes these errors even more disturbing are those “instant responses” and “news snippets” that fuel Google’s home assistant voice search. Without the context of a conflicting screen, attribution, and results page underneath, Home’s voice responses, no matter how bogus, can sound overbearing.
Every search you do on Google is logged against your IP address, giving Google the ability to create a simple snapshot of who you are, where you live and what your interests are. If you are logged into one of Google’s other services – Maps, YouTube, Gmail – then Google has an account to assign this IP address and all the data that comes from it, further expanding its profile.
Once Google knows who you are, it will follow you around the internet, thanks to cookies and Google ads that adorn almost every popular page. Typically, if you can see ads on a website, those ads can see and follow you around the web as well.
Even more, if you’re using an Android phone, Google almost certainly has all of your physical location history from the last few years, unless you’ve specifically instructed your phone not to track you. IPhone users are encouraged to share this same location information when installing any of Google’s application suites. Yes, even the YouTube app will ask for your location.
It might sound a little scary, but this is the deal we are making with Google to access their services for free. And, of course, you can choose not to. I use Google Photos even though Google scans every image I give it to train their machine learning bots and extract location information about me because the service is great and the search is amazing. Likewise Gmail and Google Maps.
If you want to continue using Google search, but want to keep your privacy, there are a few steps you will need to take. Unfortunately, using your browser’s privacy mode is not enough. Private browsing or incognito mode is really designed to hide your search and browser history from someone looking at your browser or phone after you, not to hide your history from Google, Facebook or anyone else who is making money. money by following you on the web. The problem is that your IP address (your unique location identifier on the Internet) is always displayed, so even if cookies aren’t collected, Google can guess that the searches are coming from you.
To get truly private, you will only need to use Google in a browser that is not connected to any Google service including YouTube, Maps, Gmail. Then use a plugin like Ghostery or Privacy Badger, which will turn off Google (and anyone else’s) tracking from website to website. Finally, you might want to do all the browsing behind a VPN service that will hide your IP address from outside eyes.
If this all sounds like too much work, there are alternatives. DuckDuckGo was launched in 2008 as a Google alternative for people who care about their privacy. The service promises to never track your searches, and more importantly, it doesn’t follow you around the internet like Google does. DuckDuckGo was relatively unknown until Apple made it a default search option in iOS 8, on par with Google, in 2014. DuckDuckGo supports many of Google’s shortcuts and returns equally good results on searches. broader – topics like historical figures and places of interest, for example.
DuckDuckGo even has its own instant responses and display cards for results like flight numbers, weather, word definitions, and movie trivia. Where it lacks is in the guesswork and customization that Google does so well; knowing that when looking for a pharmacy you probably want your local pharmacist, when looking for a flight number you might want to see your upcoming flights and when looking for a movie the time of session closest to you.
As an experiment, it’s worth using DuckDuckGo exclusively for a week to see how much you rely on Google and all it knows about you. You may find that your searches improve once you step out of Google’s feedback loop, or you may realize how much of your privacy you are willing to trade for instant results.
- Bing: Microsoft’s response to Google. Both search engines are on par in terms of functionality, but it’s still worth supporting the underdog. And what a fascinating world it is where Microsoft is now the underdog.
- Wolfram Alpha: Prides itself on being a response engine and was one of the first to support natural language queries such as “how many days before Christmas” or “who wrote stairs to heaven?” “
- Mendeley: A search engine and app designed for students and academics that allows users to search the number of academic papers in which a result is presented. The accompanying application allows researchers to easily collect the sources of a final article.
- Twitter search: It’s still the fastest way to find out what’s going on with the latest news and events, although you often have to go through user jokes and “shots” before you find out what’s really going on.