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Search engine comparison: Google vs. Startpage vs. DuckDuckGo vs. Bing

Spiders, also known as web crawlers, search the internet to find results that match your search query. If you’ve ever researched the same topic on different search engines, you’ll notice the results can be drastically different.

Most people stick with the default search engine in their preferred browser. Tap or click here to find the best internet browser for your needs. A study from BrightEdge found that 68% of all online activities start with a search engine, so it’s essential to put a little thought into the one you use.

There are many ways search engines stand out compared to one another, from appearance to features. In this article, you’ll learn how search results differ from platform to platform. You’ll also see what types of results you can expect from your queries.

First, let’s look over your options

For this comparison, we compared four options. Here’s a quick overview of what some of the biggest search engines have to offer:

  • Google: This is a no-brainer. With a 91% market share, it’s the most popular search engine. It’s generally easy to find just what you’re looking for in Chrome. Unfortunately, Google isn’t exactly known for protecting your privacy. You can expect a good amount of tracking and targeting, especially compared to the options below that sell themselves on protecting your privacy.
  • DuckDuckGo: Known for prioritizing user privacy, DuckDuckGo has around 25 million users happy not to be tracked. There’s no targeted advertising and search results aren’t based on your search history. You can use it as an extension with all major browsers.
  • Startpage: Dubbed “the world’s most private search engine,” Startpage uses Google’s abilities without tracking its users. Using it feels like you’re on Google, but you don’t have to worry about the company tracking and selling your data to the highest bidder.
  • Bing: With more autocomplete suggestions than Google and better video searches, Bing is a solid (though much-maligned) search option. It also prioritizes established articles that have gained lots of traffic over time to newer articles that have tons of relevant terms. Use it here.

Now that you have a good general idea of each search engine, let’s delve into how each one performs. We’ll test the engines with two searches that have been trending recently.

Here’s how they measure up

Let’s move beyond what these search engines promise and look at the actual results. We did a couple of searches in each option to give you a better idea of what you’ll get. Note: These searches were done using an incognito window in each browser, with a VPN enabled. This allows us to get the least-targeted search possible.

Google

Pick up any newspaper or turn on TV news and you’ll run into at least one story about the Omicron COVID-19 variant. Our first search was “Omicron symptoms.”

Google didn’t display any ads at the top of the page for this search. The top results are news stories from various local, national and medical news outlets. Below that, the top organic result is a 4-day-old news story from NBC. No information from the CDC or any other official medical source was present on the first page of the results.

Then we searched “ice cream Phoenix.” Google’s results start with an interactive map, where you can filter down local options by rating, price and hours of operation. That’s handy.

Next came the organic results, made up of “best of” lists from various sites, which makes sense given this search. Further down the page are a few recipes for ice cream, which doesn’t quite make sense in this context.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo didn’t return any ads for the search term “Omicron symptoms,” either. The first result displayed is a summary of COVID symptoms, vaccination info and more from the CDC.

Below that are recent news stories, then organic results starting with a Yahoo News story. Given that the COVID variant dominates the news and that coverage will be the most up-to-date, the priority on news makes sense. We did like that DuckDuckGo returned results from the CDC right upfront.

For our “ice cream Phoenix” search, DuckDuckGo also started with a map. This one is a lot more streamlined than Google’s version, displaying locations on a map without all the frills of filtering. Still, it gets the job done. The same round-up type results come below. No ice cream recipes are found here.

Startpage

Startpage is the only option to display ads for the search term “Omicron symptoms.” Ads on this search included COVID testing and treatment for MS and sickle cell anemia symptoms. While the ads are a turnoff, consider that contextual advertising is how Startpage makes its money.

The search engine doesn’t collect info on you and sell it. Following the ads, Startpage has a round-up of recent news stories, followed by organic news results. The experience is similar to Google.

For the “ice cream Phoenix” search, Startpage has the most streamlined results. There are no maps or any other extras. This is simply a list of the same type of round-up lists the previous two search engines displayed. Depending on your preference, this could be a good or a bad thing. The simplicity is nice, but we do like having the map there.

Bing

Bing’s results for our “Omicron symptoms” search vary the most — and, surprisingly, were the most impressive. A panel of information from the CDC and the World Health Organization is on the right. News stories are on the left, followed by other relevant search terms, recent opinion pieces and a timeline of events.

For the “ice cream Phoenix” search, Bing takes a hard left from the competitors. Bing, as we said earlier, is a video-focused search engine. And the relevant video here? Jefferson Airplane’s “Ice Cream Phoenix.” It’s an odd combination of results, almost like Bing can’t make up its mind.

We have a map displaying ice cream shops, local results including ratings and hours, then options to watch and listen to the Jefferson Airplane tune. Hey, at least Bing was thorough.

Now that we’ve gone over the different results you’ll get, let’s zoom out a bit for a general overview.

We compared the pros and cons of each search engine

If you want a private search engine, keep a few things in mind. They each have different policies and techniques for protecting your privacy. Some are much more effective at protecting you than others.

Here are the privacy pros and cons of four of the most prominent search engines you can use:

Search engineProsCons
GoogleOffers Incognito mode to stop search terms from being stored to your profile, among other things

Google has detailed settings you can look through to stop different types of data and ad tracking, but be aware data tracking is still at the heart of these services.

Here are eight ways Google constantly invades your privacy — and how to fix them.
Tracks every email you type, everywhere you’ve been and everything you search (even in incognito mode)

When you use incognito, your device doesn’t store cookies, files or history, but the sites you visit might

Doesn’t hide your IP address when you browse
DuckDuckGoHas non-tracking partnerships with Amazon and eBay

Offers a Maps feature that doesn’t track your location

Doesn’t track your IP address or search history, so you don’t have to worry about search filter bubbles or targeted ads
Still shows you ads — though the ads aren’t personalized
 
Remember: When you click on an ad you’re at the mercy of the ad website’s privacy policy
 
Protects privacy but doesn’t have built-in protection from viruses and malware
StartpageDoesn’t log your personal information
 
Hides your IP address completely by changing it to 0.0.0.0.
 
Offers Anonymous View, which redirects you through a firewall
 
Encrypts all your user searches with HTTPS to stop people from snooping
Most streamlined results of all the search engines; no maps or fancy extras
 
It could be too simple for those who like maps and other tidbits
 
It works for profit, so it generates revenue from ads
 
Click on these ads and you’re at the mercy of whatever data collection tools the ad company behind it uses
BingBing doesn’t share enterprise data with Microsoft
 
Doesn’t hit you with targeted ads
 
Comes with InPrivate mode, which doesn’t attribute your searches to you. It’s like incognito mode in that your history and files aren’t saved on your device
Hackers breached its defenses in the past, exposing user information
 
Security researchers busted it for leaking user data in 2020, WCCF Tech reports. This includes GPS location, searches, websites you visited, device information and more
 
Advertisers can target you based on your OS and the device you’re working on, like a smartphone or laptop

If you’re looking for more privacy tips, we’ve got you covered. Here at the Komando HQ, we’re all about helping you keep as many cards close to your chest as you want. Not only does it give you peace of mind, but it can also limit the amount of personal data that’s leaked when hackers attack Big Tech companies.

Last year, we put together a ton of tips you could use to stay more private and secure online. You may have missed some of our most helpful guides, which is why we collected them all in one place. Don’t miss out: Tap or click here for Kim’s top security tips.

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