How Google is killing organic search

Another reason to switch to DuckDuckGo (the other being DuckDuckGo has a cute duck logo). How Google is Killing Organic Search (Via Nat Torkington) READ THE REST


Isn’t DuckDuckGo effectively just a Bing frontend (via Yahoo)?

Wow, I just looked at Google results for the first time in a while. You can’t even find the actual results to your search. It’s worse than trying to run in and buy just bread at the supermarket, because at least in the market you can find the aisles. I’ll stick to DuckDuckGo.

Disclosure: boingboing still uses Google custom search.

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Downside: searching for auto mechanic in that duckduckgo thing yields no information relevant to finding someone to fix my car. The first screen of results is a link describing what a mechanic is, some random repair shop a thousand miles away from me, and two matches for link farms (one of which is, one of the most useless websites on the planet).

I’ll grant that Google is spending a huge amount real estate pushing their own services, but at least they’re giving me information I care about. I got tired of refining searches by including double quotes and +'s and -'s 10 years ago.

I would appreciate a option that lets me filter out all merchant results (would be nice when digging for product reviews) but that isn’t going to be an option in today’s world.


I get the point that the maps results aren’t the normal “organic” result of web pages, but when we talk about organic it’s usually vs paid. As in, free listings, vs listings you have to pay to have your business listed in. For online marketers maps results are organic results, they’re local organic results.

Maps listings don’t cost money and they’re easier to setup/manage than a website (though not a replacement having a website, just like a Facebook page isn’t a replacement).

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I’ve switched about a year ago to duckduckgo. I even use the DuckDuckGo mobile app for my iPhone instead of safari. (If only I could use them as a default browser). Local searches on it are okay, but usually I use yelp/angie’s list to find local businesses.

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No, they use Bing as a source but they have over 50. From Wikipedia:

DuckDuckGo’s results are a compilation of “about 50” sources, including Yahoo! Search BOSS, Wikipedia, Wolfram Alpha, Bing, its own Web crawler, the DuckDuckBot, and others. It also uses data from crowd-sourced sites, including Wikipedia, to populate “Zero-click Info” boxes—grey boxes above the results that display topic summaries and related topics


In pre-google days I used metacrawler. Sounds like DuckDuckGo is a sophisticated version of that.

I’ve figured out vaguely how to wrangle google to my needs, but damned if (1) it hasn’t lived up to its potential, and (2) they don’t make it harder and harder to get what you want.

Like, they assist companies to practice geographic segmentation of markets, which is a pretty pernicious way of fingering one nation for more money per item than another. In the European Union you might figure they’d give competition a helping hand, but no, they resolutely refuse to co-operate with my searches from the regular input. I have to dig into advanced search, and specify the country I’m interested in (i.e. the country of manufacture of some mosaic tile). And I’ll be damned if they haven’t hidden that advanced search better and better over the years.

They just don’t want me doing that.

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Odd, when I do that same search on Google’s web site I don’t get a screen that looks anything like that. I get one with the blue and green boxes in the article but none of the yellow. Instead the red box, the organic search results, is the entire left half of the page (ie. 50% of the content space on the page, close to 80% of the content). So why the different results?

This is where firefox plugins like RIP really shine. I am able to use an XPath expression to remove google ads in all pages with a click on the RIP advanced tab.

“Permanently hide content from web pages using the Context Menu. Simply, click and “Remove it Permanently”. Now includes previewing of items before removal, support for IFrame as well as lots of advanced features”. Safe and low noise web browsing really calls for noscript, adblock, RIP, and Ghostery. Even with this I still leave logfile traces but at least I hold the level down to pre 21st century levels.



I use DuckDuckGo as my default search engine, but generally with !google (or !wiki) in the terms because I don’t get the search results I want from DDG (as with @xzzy, the results for auto mechanic are utterly useless if I’m actually looking for a mechanic). Am I wasting my time by doing this, or do I still get some privacy benefits?

I also have Disconnect running…

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You would get different results depending on what you search for. Google’s “marketing heavy” results tend to appear when you search for products. It does not appear when you search for general questions. For example, search for “Furniture” and you get furniture ads, followed by nearby furniture stores, with more ads on the right and a map. You have to scroll to see the actual “organic” results which are actually just more ads.

Now, search for “Why is the sky blue?” You get zero ads, and a full “organic” results page.

I think this criticism is rather specious, in truth. Most of the time when someone is searching for a product, they want to buy it, or they bought it and want more details. Usually when someone does a search, they type in a somewhat normal phrase and expect the search engine to figure it out. Google is doing that, and quite smartly. My parents use Google for shopping and will actually search for single-word nouns, and they get actual usable results. That’s better than ignoring the fact that many people search for local information or ignoring that people search for ecommerce.

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Not sure what the big deal is. All you do is scroll down a bit and there’s tons of real results.

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Hrm. Well the first result on Duck Duck Go seems to almost be exactly the same as the first result on Bing and the rest seem to be a shuffle of Bing’s in my cursory check. Plus isn’t Yahoo BOSS now powered by Bing too? It does pull extra data from wikipedia/etc and put them on the top for exact matches, but then, so do Google and Bing.

I’ve also never seen a DDG bot hit any of my websites. Are you sure it isn’t just used to fetch wikipedia/imdb/etc pages?

That’s why I ran the exact same search the article used, “auto mechanic”, so I’d be getting results comparable to the article’s. Yet I don’t get mass of paid results, it’s mostly organic. And I get the same whether I’m logged in to Google or not. I’m not sure what I’m doing differently that results in my getting none of what the article’s complaining about.

Maybe I am using DuckDuckGo wrong, but just for kicks I typed in “furniture” on both search engines. Yes. Google gave a good number of results that are stores with a map showing me where those stores including a small list of ads. At the bottom, a link to news that deal with furniture. DDG gave me links to furniture stores and a link to a wiki article on furniture. Do I need the ads in there, probably not, but not that much different than DDG giving links to just stores.

I then searched for a local restaurant. Name of restaurant, city, and state. Google gave me just a list of search results for that particular restaurant w/o map and no ads. DDG gave me a map with a list that actually had two good results and the rest had nothing to do with the restaurant.

Finally, I searched for “auto mechanic” on DDG, but all searches had no local content. Not useful me. Yeah, Google’s had the ads, but it did give me a map and list of local auto mechanics.

Welcome to the world of big data, where your preferences & behaviors are mined, and every result can be tuned specifically to the customer! The real trick when debugging these kinds of systems is figuring out why the results are different for one customer over the other. The other tack could be A/B testing, where subsets of users are presented with different UIs (complete with controls) to monitor their clickthrough behaviors and determine optimal placement of UI elements.

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The searches being used as examples here are “auto mechanic,” “italian restaurant,” and “italian food.” For the by far most common reasons for searching for the first two, and arguably a very common reason for searching for the last, Google doesn’t emphasize organic, non-local results because they probably aren’t what the user wanted. The search terms chosen are search terms that, in the vast majority of cases, are made when the user wants local results. Search for something that Google thinks organic results would be useful for, and you’ll get mostly organic results: try searching for “italian recipes.”

The other extreme here is something like DuckDuckGo. For the first two search terms, in the vast majority of cases where they would be made, the results from DuckDuckGo are almost entirely useless, as others have noted, and for the last, many users are going to get something they didn’t want.

Google has many problems. And the search tailoring can at times be problematic, for reasons other than described here. But to complain that Google isn’t emphasizing (they’re still there, after all) organic, non-local search results when it seems like the user is looking for local results that could be better presented from non-organic searches is incredibly odd. This is especially the case when the argument being made is that you’ll have to pay for all of this, when the majority of the non-organic results being described here are free, and often from databases that Google is creating organically but allowing people to correct and expand upon.


Pretty much this. I wouldn’t expect an internet search engine to give me a local car mechanic any more than I would expect IMDB to tell me about the weather.

OTOH, the fact that Google tries to do this is rather annoying. I don’t want it to.

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