Which Search Engine Should I Use?

Young woman smiling working on a laptop computer
Geri Lavrov/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Instead of reaching for the same search engine and the same search process that you always use - with limited results - why not step back a bit and see if there's a different way you can accomplish your next search task? This article is a step by step walk-through that takes you through common questions that are asked in a general search query.

Do you have a general search question that can be asked with a few keywords?

Google is always a safe bet for most search queries, and most of the time your search will be successful on the very first page of search results. Bing is also a great choice and finds a lot of stuff that Google does not necessarily pick up.

Do you need an answer quickly and don't want to search for it?

There are some search engines out there that are able to answer factual questions, such as  Wolfram Alpha, which is also fantastic for computational-based queries.

Would you like to search with more than one search engine at once?

Search engines that combine results from multiple search tools are called metasearch engines. One search engine that gives you this kind of experience is DuckDuckGo.

Do you need help in narrowing or broadening your search?

This is where learning how to really craft your searches effectively comes in handy! Read What is Boolean Search? to get a crash course in making your searches more efficient with just a few simple tweaks.

Do you need academic or research oriented results?

There are lots of great search sites that deal primarily in academic and research oriented results. Try Invisible Web Search Tips for a good look at searching within databases, How to Hack Your Way to Better Google Search Results, how to find expertly curated resources online, and how to find free textbooks online. 

Do you need to find images, photos, clipart?

Images on the Web are easy to find, especially with targeted image search engines such as Picsearch and, of course, Google has some fantastic image search capabilities. This list of public domain images is also a good choice.

Are you looking for multimedia? Sounds, movies, music?

There's so much multimedia on the Web that your main problem will be finding enough time to look at it all. A couple of good places to start:

What is the best general search engine for my needs?

There are a LOT of great search engines out there, and you're sure to find at least one (or two, or three) that will fit your unique search needs. Here are a few more resources that can help you in your search for the best search engine: