What are Search Engines? 10 Best Picks For Webmasters

The 21st century has evolved with it some of the most highly refined and best search engines in 2020 alternative to Google for the next decades.

Google may be the most popular choice in search engines, but there are other alternative search engines you can – and should – try. On a clear note, Google has transcended from being just another search engine. It has become ubiquitous, often used as a transitive verb.

If you have any doubts, just Google it! With its ever-evolving algorithms, a dominant online advertising platform, and personalized user experience, Google has amassed a global market share of 87%.

SERP or Search Engines Result Pages

I can bet on it that no other search engine serves up better keyword search results than Google. At least that’s a common perception. But, is that always the case? Google’s easy-to-use interface and personalized user experience come at a cost.

It’s no secret the search engine giant catalogs the browsing habits of its users and shares that information with advertisers and other interested parties. Now that you’ve got a kickstart there, let’s explore more.

What are Search Engines?

Basically, search engines are online tools that search for results in their database based on the search query (keyword search) submitted by internet users. The results are usually websites that semantically match with the search query.

Eventually, search engines find the results in their database and then sort them. They make an ordered list of these results based on the search algorithm. This list is generally called the search engine results page (in short SERP).

What are Search Engines?

As I am about to explain to you below, you’ll learn and realize that there are many search engines on the market at the moment. Bearing in mind, the most widely used of them all is the Google search engine.

It’s important to remember, many website browsers such as Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Edge usually come with a default search engine set as a home page or starting page.

How do Search Engines work?

Eventually, since there may be some differences in how these search engines work, the fundamentals remain the same. And each of them has to do several tasks such as web crawling, web indexing, creating search results, and generating web browsing history.

Firstly, search engines work by crawling hundreds of billions of pages using their own web crawlers. These web crawlers are commonly referred to as search engine bots or spiders. A search engine navigates the web by downloading and indexing web pages.

Keyword Tool | #1 free Google Keyword Planner alternative

By so doing, they follow links on these pages to discover new pages that have been made available. And that’s how webpages that have been discovered by the search engine are added into a data structure called an index.

As a rule, the indexed and downloaded web pages include all the discovered URLs. Along with a number of relevant key signals about the contents of each URL.

The key rules include:
  • Keywords: Discovered within the page’s content – what topics does the page cover?
  • Content: The type that’s being crawled (using microdata called Schema) – what is included on the page?
  • Freshness: The page freshness on the website – how recently was it updated?
  • Engagement: If previously visited by users of the page and/or domain – how do people interact with the page?

The aim of the search engine algorithm is to present a relevant set of high-quality search results.

Particularly, that will fulfill the user’s query/question as quickly as possible. Whereby, the user then selects an option from the list of search results and this action. Along with subsequent activity, then feeds into future learnings.

All this can affect search engine rankings going forward. And as I mentioned earlier, search engines have three primary functions.

The three functions include:
  1. Crawl: Scour the Internet for content, looking over the code/content for each URL they find.
  2. Index: Store and organize the content found during the crawling process. Once a page is in the index, it’s in the running to be displayed as a result of relevant queries.
  3. Rank: Provide the pieces of content that will best answer a searcher’s query, which means that results are ordered by most relevant to least relevant.

What is Search Engine crawling?

Crawling is the discovery process in which search engines send out a team of robots (known as crawlers or spiders) to find new and updated content. Content can vary — it could be a webpage, an image, a video, a PDF, etc. — but regardless of the format, content is discovered by links.

Googlebot starts out by fetching a few web pages and then follows the links on those webpages to find new URLs. By hopping along this path of links, the crawler is able to find new content and add it to their index called Caffeine — a massive database of discovered URLs — to later be retrieved when a searcher is seeking information that the content on that URL is a good match for.

What is Search Engine indexing?

The various known search engines like Google and Bing process and store information they find in an index. A huge database of all the content they’ve discovered. Above all, they must be deemed good enough to serve up to searchers.

In short, search engine indexing is the process by which search engines chronologically organize information before a search. This, in the end, enables super-fast responses to queries.

Searching through individual pages for keywords and topics would be a very slow process. Especially for search engines to identify relevant information. Instead, search engines use an inverted index, also known as a reverse index.

What is an Inverted Index?

Alternate names for ‘inverted index’ are ‘postings file’ and ‘inverted file’. In computer science, this is an index data structure that stores a mapping from content, like words or numbers. Its place of storage is its locations within a document or set of documents.

Therefore, an inverted index is a system wherein a database of text elements is compiled. Along with pointers to the documents which contain those elements. Then, search engines use a process called tokenization to reduce words to their core meaning.

Web Browser | How is It Different from a Search Engine?

Thus, this reduces the number of resources needed to store and retrieve data in a much faster approach. Than listing all known documents against all relevant keywords and characters

This is in stark contrast to a ‘forward index’, whose purpose is to map from documents to content. Simply put, it’s a hashmap-like data structure that guides you from a word to either a document or a web page. You can see the main difference between the Inverted Index and Forward Index here.

What is Search Engine ranking?

When someone performs a search, search engines scour their index for highly relevant content. And then orders that content in the hopes of solving the searcher’s query. This ordering of search results by relevance is known as ranking.

In general, you can assume that the higher a website is ranked, the more relevant the search engine believes that the site is to the query. It’s possible to block search engine crawlers from part or all of your site. Even so, instruct search engines to avoid storing certain pages in their index.

While there can be reasons for doing this, if you want your content found by searchers, you have to first make sure it’s accessible to crawlers and is indexable. Otherwise, it’s as good as invisible.

What happens when I Perform a Search?

Whenever you enter a search query into a search engine, all the relevant pages are identified from the search index. An algorithm is then used to hierarchically rank the relevant pages into a set of results.

On the contrary, the algorithms used to rank the most relevant results differ for each search engine. For example, a page that ranks highly for a search query in Google may not rank highly for the same query in Bing. In addition to the search query, search engines use other relevant data to return results.

The relevant data used includes:
  • Location: Some search queries are location-dependent e.g. ‘cafes near me’ or ‘movie times’.
  • Language detected: Search engines will return results in the language of the user if it can be detected.
  • Search history: Search engines will return different results for a query dependent on what the user has previously searched for.
  • The device used: A different set of results may be returned based on the device from which the query was made.

There are a number of circumstances where a URL will not be indexed by a search engine.

This may be due to:
  • Robots.txt file exclusions – a file that tells search engines what they shouldn’t visit on your site.
  • Directives on the webpage telling search engines not to index that page (noindex tag) or to index another similar page (canonical tag).
  • Search engine algorithms judging the page to be of low quality, have thin content, or contain duplicate content.
  • The URL returning an error page (e.g. a 404 Not Found HTTP response code).

Which are the Best Search Engines to use?

If you are unwilling to trade privacy for convenience or have specific search needs, there are a number of Google alternatives that offer a better search experience. Many of these alternative search engines can provide a better user experience than Google.

Whether you are concerned about privacy or just want to explore your options, there are plenty of search engines to experiment with. Below are some of the topmost search engine alternatives to Google you could give a shot.

1. Bing

Bing Webmaster Tools

After Google search is Bing. As of January 2020, Microsoft sites handled a quarter of all search queries in the United States. One could argue that Bing actually outperforms Google in certain respects. For starters, Bing has a rewards program that allows one to accumulate points while searching.

These points are redeemable at the Microsoft and Windows stores, which is a nice perk. In my view, the Bing image search GUI is superior to its rivals and much more intuitive. Bing carries that same clean user experience to video, making it the go-to source for video search without a YouTube bias.

You can see more information about Bing Webmaster Tools | How to Verify your Site Ownership.

2. Yandex

What is Yandex?

Of all other alternatives, and besides Google and Bing, Yandex is one of the popular search engines you could consider using.

Yandex is a Russian multinational corporation specializing in Internet-related products and services. Including transportation, search, and information services. As well as eCommerce, navigation, mobile applications, and online advertising. In total, Yandex provides over 70 service solutions.

The search engine has Yandex Webmaster Tools similar to Google Search Console (previously known as Google Webmaster Tools). And, therefore, adding your website to the service can be beneficial for SEO purposes. So, Are you looking for a search perspective outside of the United States?

Yandex is used by more than 45% of Russian Internet users. It is also used in Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Ukraine. It’s an overall easy-to-use search engine. As an added bonus, it offers a suite of some pretty cool tools.

3. CC Search

CC Search Engines Guide

CC Search should be your first stop on the hunt for nearly any type of copyright-free content. This search engine is perfect if you need music for a video, an image for a blog post, or anything else. Without worrying about an angry artist coming after you for ripping off their work.

In other words, CC Search is a tool that allows openly licensed and public domain works to be discovered and used by everyone. Creative Commons, the nonprofit behind CC Search, is the maker of the CC licenses, used over 1.4 billion times to help creators share knowledge and creativity online.

The way CC Search works is simple – it draws in results from platforms such as Soundcloud, Wikimedia, and Flickr and displays results labeled as Creative Commons material. Read and learn more About CC Search.

4. Swisscows

Swisscows

Family is the most important cell of our society! If morality and decency disappear, then neighborliness and love also disappear. The digital media are indispensable and yet pose a threat and challenge to the not yet formed perceptions of children and adolescents. Even parents and schools are not prepared for it.

Swisscows is a unique option on this list, billing itself as a family-friendly semantic search engine. They also pride themselves in respecting users’ privacy, never collecting, storing, or tracking data. It uses artificial intelligence to determine the context of a user’s query. Over time, Swisscows promises to answer your questions with surprising accuracy.

According to Swisscows, our children grow up in a digital environment that has many benefits, but also many dangers. It is the responsibility of parents and guardians to engage with this topic intensively. The digital transformation has not only arrived swiftly but is also driving forward at a rapid pace.

You can download their free brochure on “Digital Media Education” or even learn more About Swisscows.

5. DuckDuckGo 

Welcome to DuckDuckGo

 

DuckDuckGo is an internet search engine that emphasizes protecting searchers’ privacy and avoiding the filter bubble of personalized keywords search results. It distinguishes itself from other search engines by not profiling its users. And by showing all users the same search results for a given search term.

As of its privacy policy, it doesn’t collect or store any of your personal information. Meaning, you can run your searches in peace without having to worry about the boogeyman watching you through your computer screen. It’s the perfect choice for those who wish to keep their browsing habits and personal information private.

According to DuckDuckGo, they don’t think the Internet should feel so creepy. And getting the privacy you deserve online should be as simple as closing the blinds. You can choose to start as soon as you add DuckDuckGo Privacy Essentials to Chrome.

6. StartPage

About StartPage Search Engines

Startpage is a web search engine that highlights privacy as its distinguishing feature. Previously, it was known as the metasearch engine Ixquick. At that time, Startpage was a variant service. Both sites were merged in 2016.

StartPage serves up answers from Google. Making it the perfect choice for those who prefer Google’s search results but aren’t keen on having their search history tracked and stored. It also includes a URL generator, a proxy service, and HTTPS support.

The URL generator is especially useful because it eliminates the need to collect cookies. Instead, it remembers your settings in a way that promotes privacy. You can engage with it here.

7. Search Encrypt

Search Encrypt

Search Encrypt is a private search engine that uses local encryption to ensure your searches remain private. It uses a combination of encryption methods that include Secure Sockets Layer encryption and AES-256 encryption.

When you input a query, Search Encrypt will pull the results from its network of search partners and deliver the requested information. One of the best parts of Search Encrypt is that your search terms will eventually expire. So, your information will remain private even if someone has local access to your computer.

Search Encrypt respects and protects the privacy of consumers, and is committed to delivering a privacy-safe search environment. When you use Search Encrypt, you trust it with your searches and it understands and values this trust. That’s why they have provided you with a Privacy Policy to explain how it protects your privacy while searching.

Its privacy policy also defines what information it collects and some of your privacy rights regarding that information as can be found here. Even before you start using it, please read more about it in this article.

8. Gibiru

Gibiru

According to its website, “Gibiru is the preferred Search Engine for Patriots.” They claim their search results are sourced from a modified Google algorithm. So, users are able to query the information they seek without worrying about Google’s tracking activities.

Because Gibiru doesn’t install tracking cookies on your computer they purport to be faster than “NSA Search Engines.” Verizon Media launched its privacy-focused search engine, OneSearch, in January 2020.

It promises:
  • To of a high end encrypted search terms.
  • No sharing of personal data with advertisers.
  • No cookie tracking, retargeting, or personal profiling.
  • Unbiased, unfiltered search results.
  • No storing of user search history.

Looking for crowdsourced search results? Then try it here!

9. Wiki.com

Wiki.com

“A wiki is a database of pages which visitors can edit live.” The building blocks of wikis are the “comments” from visitors.

You can generally edit a page in real-time, search the wiki’s content, and view updates since your last visit. In a “moderated wiki,” wiki owners review comments before addition to the main body of a topic. Additional features can include calendar sharing, live AV conferencing, RSS feeds, and more.

Wiki.com pulls its results from thousands of wikis on the net. It is the perfect search engine for those who appreciate community-led information as found on sites like Wikipedia. You can read and learn more about it here.

10. Boardreader

Boardreader

If you’re interested in finding a forum or message board about a specific subject, Boardreader should be the first place you turn to.

This search engine queries its results from a wide variety of message boards and forums online. You should be able to find the forum you want with just a few keystrokes.

11 Privacy Oriented Alternative Search Engines To Google

More so, do you prefer search engines with a mission of doing social good? Check out for:

  1. Ekoru
  2. Ecosia
  3. Ixquick
  4. GiveWater
  5. Twitter Explore
  6. SlideShare
  7.  Internet Archive

What is a Meta Search Engine?

It’s important to remember, a metasearch engine, otherwise known as an aggregator, is a search engine that sends queries to several search engines. It either aggregates the results into one master list or categorizes the results by the search engines they come from.

There are dozens of metasearch engines across the Internet, and Dogpile is one prominent example. In essence, a metasearch engine allows a user to enter a single query and field results from several sources. The idea is that this breadth of information allows users to get the best answers as quickly as possible.

You’ll find more details about the metasearch engine here. Below are more resourceful and related to the topic links;

  1. What are Bots? Everything you should know about them
  2. Search Engine | Why is It so Important to Webmasters?
  3. SERP | How do you Improve your Google Search Results?
  4. WhatsMySerp | A free SERP Ranking Tracker for your Site
  5. Content Creation | A Simplified Step-by-step Starter Guide

Important Note:

When it comes to Keywords Search, I find the Keyword Tool to be the best alternative to Google Keyword Planner and other keywords search tools. And also, I know that this tool will help you equally if you’re in the process of rolling out a new website. Even if you are a pro webmaster, this keyword tool comes handy whenever your keyword plan runs dry.

But, why am I so confident? Simply, because as you know, there’s a lot that goes into the process. From the basics of website design to website development. Or even, from content creation to your online digital marketing strategy. In a nutshell, there’s not enough time in the day to tackle every website task.

Ideally, you want each page on your site to target unique primary keywords. And while there’s sure to be a lot on your mind, make sure that you spend enough time on keyword research to guide your content strategy. Read and learn more about What is Keywords Search? A Step-by-step Beginners Guide.

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