How to Get More-Honest Search Results

Google's search results are now suspect due to Google+-related manipulations. Here's how to get purer results in your browser.

Setting Your Browser to Get the Search Results You Want

"Google it" has become a synonym for "do a Web search." But Google recently began manipulating its search results to both favor users' own content (a puzzling choice for a default) and, more perniciously, to favor content from active Google+ users. As a result, Google's search results push down the objective results, making them harder to get to and to separate from the results promoting Google+. Fortunately, Google is not the only search engine in town. This slideshow shows you how to minimize Google's new search pollution and how to switch to a search engine less likely to have manipulated results.

Reducing Google+ Search Pollution

When you do a Google search, look for the icons at the upper right of the window. Click the globe icon to turn off the inclusion of results based on your Google+ stream and your Google+ circle members' streams -- after all, you already have these in Google+.

But this won't stop Google from favoring Web pages from Google+ users in general. To do that, you need to permanently switch to a different search engine, as I explain in the rest of this slideshow for the popular desktop and mobile browsers.

Internet Explorer: Changing Your Search Engine

Microsoft's Internet Explorer usually defaults to its own Bing search engine. But if you want another as the default, change it by choosing Internet Options in the Tools menu, then in the General pane of the Settings dialog box that appears, click Settings to the right of Search. Be sure Search Providers is selected in the list, then add, delete, and rearrange your search engines so that Google is demoted or deleted.

Chrome: Changing Your Search Engine

As you'd expect, Google's Chrome browser defaults to Google as its search engine. To change that permanently, click the toolbar's wrench icon to open the Settings window. Choose a different search engine in the Basic pane's Search popup menu.

Firefox: Changing Your Search Engine

Although several browsers let you change the search engine via a pop-up menu in their search bar, they go back to the default search engine the next time you open the browser. Thus, you need to change the search engine permanently in a Preferences or Settings window. But if you change the search engine in Firefox's search bar pop-up menu, it stays changed even after you quit and relaunch the browser. Now that's easy! (Note that Bing is not an option.) As shown here, you can add search engines by choosing the Manage Search Engines option.

Desktop Safari: Changing Your Search Engine

Despite its intense rivalry with Google, Apple still has Google as its default search engine in the Safari browser. To change that, open the Safari Preferences dialog box, go to the General pane, and choose a different search engine in the Default Search Engine pop-up menu.

Opera: Changing Your Search Engine

The Opera browser is the hardest one for modifying search engine settings. Use the search bar's pop-up menu to choose Manage Search Engines; you'll get the dialog box shown here. You can't reorder the search engines to designate something other than Google as the default. Instead, you'll have to delete Google, which makes Yahoo the new default search engine. (There is no Bing option for Opera.)

iPad Safari: Changing Your Search Engine

On an iPad, open the Settings app and go to the Safari pane. Choose a new search engine in the Search Engine pop-up menu. That's it!

iPhone Safari: Changing Your Search Engine

The process for changing the default search engine on an iPhone or iPod Touch is the same as for an iPad, but the screens work a little differently due to the devices' size difference. Open the Settings app and go to the Safari pane. That opens the Safari pane, in which you choose a new search engine in the Search Engine pop-up menu.

Android Browser and Chrome: Changing Your Search Engine

All versions of Google's Android mobile OS work essentially the same way when it comes to changing the search engine's default from the Google browser. In the standard Android Browser or in the new Chrome browser for Android, tap the Menu icon and choose Settings. For smartphones using Android Browser, tap Set Search Engine and choose the new default from the pop-up menu. For tablets in Android Browser, tap Advanced, tap Set Search Engine, then choose the new default from the pop-up menu. In Android Chrome, tap Search Engine and choose the new default from the pop-up menu.

BlackBerry 7 Browser: Changing Your Search Engine

In BlackBerry OS 6, which is in wide use, you're stuck with the search engine that Research in Motion and your cellular carrier chose. But in the BlackBerry OS 7 devices released in fall 2011, you can change the search engine, which varies from carrier to carrier. Open the BlackBerry Browser, then tap the Menu key (the BlackBerry icon) on your smartphone. Choose Options from the menu that appears, and in the General section of the Browser Options screen, tap Manage Search Engines, then tap the desired search engine's name. If the search engine you want is not listed, tap Add Search Engine and type in the search engine's name and its mobile URL.

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