Worst Search Engine: Which?

Here’s which the worst search engine is:

The worst search engine depends on the metrics you use, but in terms of search results, gogol.com is probably the very worst out there.

When it comes to violating privacy, Google is the most prolific, and for untrustworthy ad policies, Baidu is probably the very worst search engine of all.

So if you want to learn all about which search engine is the worst, then this article is for you.

Let’s dive deeper into it!

Worst Search Engine: Which? (4 Categories)

What Makes a Good Search Engine? (3 Things)

happy woman working on laptop sitting in the bed

I know. You’re asking about the worst search engine, and here I am talking about the best.

Hopefully, the logic is apparent.

If you know what makes a good search engine, then you know that the opposite would make a terrible search engine.

That’s the theory, at least.

So, with that in mind, let’s talk about some of the important metrics used to compare search engines.

#1 Good Search Results

smiling beautiful woman using digital tablet outside the building

Clearly, this comes first.

The point of a search engine is to help you sift through the countless billions of websites on the internet in order to find what you actually want.

A good search engine is able to filter results in a way that you find useful and compelling.

For this, Google has long been the king.

Anyone old enough to remember what search engines were like before Google can tell you.

Finding what you were looking for on the internet was not an easy task.

Google rewrote the book on internet searches, and these days, you have more than one good option that really will help you find stuff online.

#2 Privacy

woman serious look using laptop at coffee shop

It’s easy to overlook, but privacy matters to a lot of people.

Is your search engine spying on you?

Even worse, is it telling on you? 

Internet searches include a lot of personal information, and when that information is used against you, it can be very telling. 

The best search engines take your privacy into account.

They will work to protect your data and how you use them.

They might also put effort into anonymizing any data that is collected.

In that way, you can use the search engine without fear of being stalked by your browser, sold out to the highest bidder, or tattled to the government for searching for things they don’t like.

#3 User Controls

young female redhead working on laptop outdoor by the river in the city

Lastly, a good search engine gives you custom control over the experience.

There are a lot of ways to do this, and the most obvious is to use an interface that is easy to understand and navigate.

Beyond that, search filters matter a lot.

Once again, Google sets the standard.

Regardless of what you type into the search bar, you can filter the results to only see images, focus on published research articles, and a whole lot of other things.

You can even filter searches by copyright licensing.

The filters are deep and powerful, and other good search engines provide similar filtering.

What Makes a Bad Search Engine? (3 Metrics)

frowning woman using laptop while making a phone call

Since we know what goes into a good search engine, it’s pretty easy to guess what might make a bad search engine.

Anything that provides the opposite of good would be bad, right?

That definitely holds true, but there are some specific ways that search engines can be bad that might not be completely obvious.

So, I’ll go through these metrics, and I’ll focus on more than just what is opposite from the best search engines.

#1 Privacy

woman in a yellow shirt works on a laptop with a mug of coffee at home in the living room on the carpet

There are two ways to think about search engine privacy.

First, what data is collected?

In order to function, a search engine has to keep track of some things about you.

For instance, if you want to find restaurants in your area, it sure helps a lot if the engine knows where you are.

The engine might also benefit from remembering your preferred language.

You get the idea.

So, what is the engine actually remembering about you?

If it doesn’t remember much (like DuckDuckGo), then it can’t violate your privacy, but it also might not be as efficient.

The other issue boils down to what the search engine does with your information.

Is it simply stored to improve performance?

Is it shared with other apps on your device?

Is it sold to a bunch of companies to help them with advertising?

Does the engine report everything you do to the government?

These are the big questions, and an engine can be bad in any of these ways.

#2 Search Results

man working on laptop computer and using mobile

Obviously, if the results you get from a search query are meaningless, you have a bad search engine.

If you search for movie showtimes and get back random blogs that talk about crustacean breeding cycles, then your search engine is awful.

Once again, there are more specific problems that can arise.

A big problem with a lot of search engines is bias. 

Let’s consider a potentially controversial idea.

If you search for updates on the war in Ukraine, a Russian search engine might give you different results when compared to a German search engine.

Which is right?

There’s a good chance that neither is reliable, and that’s because a lot of search engines have problems with bias.

Biased results are less reliable, and that’s a problem.

But, bias can be even trickier.

What if the search engine allows people to purchase spots on the search results?

That also introduces biases to the results, and it can kill the value you get from using the search engine.

So, bias is a huge issue, and every search engine will suffer from at least some type of bias.

The worst search engines are so biased that the search results suffer considerably.

#3 Ads

Annoyed young adult woman in glasses using laptop in the kitchen at home

Ads are also an issue with search engines.

Now, you should expect ads on any search engine.

It’s the primary way they pay for all of the technology that goes into running searches, and that technology is not cheap.

But, when ads aren’t managed well, they can seriously hamper the user experience.

One easy problem is having too many ads.

If you used Google 10 years ago, then when you typed in a search, you might have seen up to 3 ads before you got to the organic results.

Now, depending on the search, you might see more than a dozen ads before you get to the real results.

At best, that’s frustrating.

At worst, it might prevent you from using the search engine as intended.

Another issue is that ads can reduce security and privacy.

Depending on what kinds of ads are allowed through a search engine, they can be quite invasive.

Invasive ads can be exploited by hackers and other malicious entities, and it’s not something you want.

Lastly, ads aren’t always labeled correctly.

When you do a Google search, the sponsored results are clearly labeled, so you know if you’re clicking on an ad or an organic result.

Other search engines aren’t as clear with labeling.

If you’re clicking on ads without realizing it, you might get lower-quality search results.

What Is the Worst Search Engine? (4 Categories)

attractive woman with serious expression working on the laptop at night

That’s enough preamble.

Let’s get into it.

What’s the very worst search engine of all?

It depends on which of the metrics we’ve discussed matters most to you.

So, I’m going to give you four different answers: Worst Search, Google, Baidu, and Help Rick San Francisco.

Don’t worry, I’ll explain these choices in detail.

#1 For Search Results

Search engine site on a computer screen

This is the hardest category to pick a loser.

There are some bad search engines out there, especially if we go back in time a bit.

Some of the most notoriously bad engines in terms of results are Bing, Ask.com, and Yahoo.

They all notoriously lost the search engine war to Google simply because the results weren’t good enough.

But, if we’re looking for the actual worst, they don’t compare.

You can sometimes find what you want on all three of those search engines.

Rather, the worst of all has a name that seems familiar in some way: Gogol.

It’s actually designed to be bad, and it claims to be a parody of Google.

Instead of finding what you’re looking for, Gogol redirects you to a more or less random document.

The search engine might be part parody, but mostly it’s an exercise in what poor search algorithms really lead to for an internet experience.

Whatever you search for with Gogol, you’re going to get something completely different.

It’s almost like playing search roulette. 

#2 For Privacy

male hands typing on the laptop

When it comes to privacy problems among search engines, there are a few names that really stand out.

The two that come to mind most often are Google and Baidu, and I’ll go into the problems with both of those.

First, let me go ahead and declare Google the loser here.

The reason I’m giving Google the title is not because it has the most invasive privacy policy out there.

In all honesty, Google is in the middle of the pack in this regard.

No, Google is the worst for privacy because the odds are that Google has violated your privacy more successfully than every other search engine combined.

It’s just so prolific that Google inevitably has a bunch of information on you, and the company has definitely sold that information to a bunch of other parties.

In terms of actual privacy, Google actually does put a lot of effort into anonymizing your data.

The idea is that your privacy is supposed to be violated in ways that won’t help strangers find your name or where you live.

It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the claimed goal with anonymized data.

I haven’t talked about Baidu yet.

For those unfamiliar, Baidu is the number one search engine in China, and if you know anything about Chinese internet privacy laws, then you won’t be surprised to hear about this.

In terms of raw privacy rules, Baidu is definitely one of the worst engines in the world.

That’s because it’s owned by the Chinese government, and it’s literally designed to spy on people.

Baidu doesn’t anonymize data at all, and the data it collects is given directly to the government.

That data is even used for China’s social credit system, which is a whole other conversation.

The point is that Baidu is deliberately invasive and extremely bad on privacy.

But, even with that design, it has a smaller impact on privacy around the world than Google does.

#3 For Ads

young woman is typing on a laptop while sitting in a cafe

Ok. I was pretty hard on Google and Baidu just now, and unfortunately, that’s not over.

The other reason I didn’t list Baidu as the worst search engine for privacy is that I’m giving it the title for ads.

Let’s explore this idea by talking about Google.

When it comes to search advertising, Google really wrote the book, and that’s the standard by which others are measured.

You’ll find search engines like DuckDuckGo that do better with ads, and you’ll find engines like Baidu that do a lot worse.

When it comes to advertising on Google, you can pay the company, and your website will come up at the top of searches.

It’s that easy.

But, Google only shows so many ads per search, and those ads are clearly labeled.

It’s pretty easy for users to just scroll down to the organic results and go from there.

Baidu is a completely different can of worms.

It does sell and label ads as Google does.

And, it shows a lot more ads than Google does, but unfortunately, that’s the best part of Baidu’s ad policy.

The real problem is that Baidu also sells SEO (search engine optimization).

Let’s compare to Google one more time.

If you want your site to do well on Google searches without buying an ad spot, then you have to optimize the website for the search engine.

There are different ways to do this.

Some of them do not lead to useful content.

But, Google puts a lot of effort into having a good search algorithm, and more often than not, organic Google search results are quite useful.

That’s because you can’t buy Google off.

You have to make a good website that really does answer questions or provide people with what they want.

Baidu doesn’t share this philosophy.

You can buy SEO from Baidu, and when you do, there is no label involved.

So, Baidu’s search results are heavily influenced by this purchasing scheme.

Basically, all of the search results you get from Baidu are an ad in one form or another.

There are no organic results (at least you can never be sure if there are), and the quality of search results sufferers.

#4 For Features

Happy young woman using her digital tablet

Lastly, we can see which search engines are the worst in terms of features.

Most of the mainstream search engines are actually pretty good in the features department.

I may have picked on Baidu in other sections, but you really can customize your experience, and it’s pretty user-friendly.

No, the worst engine for features is a lot more obscure.

There’s a chance there’s something worse out there that I’ve never come across, but I’m giving the award to helpricksf.com.

This is an older search engine, and it’s actually defunct now, but it was a nice meme at one point.

helpricksf.com was just a mess.

The interface was hard to navigate.

There were no real options to control.

You just typed things in and kind of hoped for the best.

If you ever want to see what a poorly designed search engine looks like, use the Wayback machine and play around with helpricksf.com.

It’s … an experience.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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