This July: Try Google-Free Fridays!

Back in 2002, I called Google the "Marcia Brady" of search. Fans of the Brady Bunch know that Marcia was one of six children, and middle daughter Jan felt Marcia got all the attention. "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia," she’d often complain, just as today, it often seems to be "Google, Google, Google" that’s all you hear about in search.

There’s more to search than Google, of course. To encourage people to understand this, I’m resurrecting an idea from 2003: Google-Free Friday. In July, each Friday, we’re encouraging everyone to try a search engine other than Google.

Understand that this is most definitely NOT motivated because Google is somehow now too big, too scary or bad in anyway. Sure, plenty of that sentiment is going around right now. John Battelle blogged today about perhaps hitting a "Google saturation point" and not wanting too much of his life going through one source. Last week, Google took fire for privacy issues. Everyone Fears Google (Again) & Will The Last Googler To Leave Turn The Lights Out? covers more fear of Google that seemed to hit a new height in May (and 14 "Is Google Evil?" Tipping Points Since 2001 covers other fear benchmarks over time).

Instead, I was inspired by the Day Without Google effort that Alt Search Engines tried earlier this month. I felt that fizzled for a few reasons:

  • It seemed to be suggested without little advance notice for people to prepare.
  • Rather than be a day without Google, it was really a day without using any of the major search engines — which was going to inevitably be an impossible option for many people. As David Berkowitz remarked, "The top 5 are the top 5 for a reason," with the two chief reasons being that they offer comprehensive web listings with high relevancy.

So let’s try it again, with a new twist. In July, on each Friday, use a different major search engine that is not Google. Here’s the schedule, with a different service to be used, in alphabetical order:

While I’m calling this Google-Free Friday, it doesn’t mean you have to be entirely Google Free. It’s mainly applicable to searching. On these Fridays, feel free to use Gmail, Google Analytics, AdWords, Google Docs or whatever Google products you might normally use that aren’t specifically search related.

However, when it comes to seeking information from the web, on each day, use these alternatives. This also includes not just general web search but also vertical/specialized searching. Try Yahoo Maps on July 27, rather than Google Maps. Use Windows Live Image search on July 20, rather than Google Images.

To help you, on each day for a specific search engine, we’ll post a solid list of various search offerings available from that service. You’ll likely be surprised to see how much they offer. On the following Monday, we’ll also provide a place for people to share reactions and remarks.

I started out saying this isn’t designed to be anti-Google. It really isn’t. To echo what Richard MacManus wrote:

Note that our intent wasn’t to "boycott" Google – Google is number 1 for a reason, which is that it’s the best search engine around. The reason behind the ‘Day Without Google’ was purely to encourage people to experiment with and test out some of the hundreds of Google competitors; maybe even catch a glimpse of the future dominant search engine.

Agreed. This isn’t a boycott Google exercise. It’s an attempt to help people open their eyes to alternatives. In fact, the days might even help Google itself. Ever tried a particular product, such as a toothpaste, then wonder if you perhaps should be using something else? This often happens to me. Then I try the alternative and decide I’m happy with my original choice.

If you’re the biggest Google fan, using an alternative might help reassure you that you’ve got ever reason to continue loving Google. If you’re nervous about Google, trying an alternative might help you discover that if they are a dominant search player, this might be down to having earned that dominance through satisfaction. And, of course, you might discover that there’s something else out there you like better — a particular feature, a particular vertical search or perhaps an entire new service. Time to check things out!

Finally, I said earlier that I was resurrecting this idea. I was thinking about the name "Google-Free Friday" yesterday, then decided to check today and make sure it was original. It wasn’t. Back in 2003, Pete Prodoehl of RasterWeb wrote a short Google-Free Friday post, saying:

I was considering trying an experiment. Switching search engines for a day. I mean, we used to have Microsoft-Free Fridays, right? What about a Google-Free Friday? Will you still find what you’re looking for? Let’s find out!

Is AlltheWeb the successor to Google? I dunno, but there’s some interesting stuff in FAST News…

Oh, if you don’t want to use AlltheWeb, there’s always Teoma, or Yahoo! or… Hmmm, I suppose you could search Google for other search engines – wait, don’t do that…

I’m sure I must have seen mention of Pete’s post those years ago (probably via Dave Winer, who himself proposed Microsoft-Free Fridays in 2001), so the name and idea must have percolated back up in my mind. It was fun to think about then, and it remains as relevant if not more so today.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Critics | Search Engines: Other Search Engines | Search Features: General | Search Resources


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Caydel

    As much as I personally don’t like everything in my life being filtered through Google servers somewhere, I’ve tried using other engines in the past and taken a productivity hit for my pains. While I am sure that some of that was due to not knowing how to search *well* on these alternative engines, I do believe that Google still returns some of the best results.

    So moving to another will likely impact my business productivity, and I am not sure I would want that…

  • Todd Mintz

    I’m sure most of us got the chain e-mail that stated that in order to get back at the greedy gas companies, we should all not buy gas on a certain day.

    We all know how effective a tactic that was.

    I don’t see this being much different…though I’m sure the Search Engine Land gang will give us some good content from this effort.

  • evilgreenmonkey

    Erm, how is using AOL Search not the same as using Google? I know they have a few custom tweaks, although it is basically no better than using someone’s “AdSense for Search” box for a day. Maybe I’m just being dumb?

  • Greg Jarboe

    I love the idea, Danny. Can I suggest an add-on to your Google Free-Fridays? How about Google News Free-Fridays, too? There are other news search engines out there, but hard-core news junkies seem hooked on Google News. So, here would be the schedule:
    * July 6: AOL News
    * July 13: News
    * July 20:
    * July 27: Yahoo News

  • chris boggs

    nice link bait. :)

  • joe

    I have been using Y! Search and never had to fall back on Google — I was a bit unhappy with the speed to start with but that does seem to have improved quite a bit off-late!

    Competition is good and Y! despite the mgmt screwups has a very solid search service, IMHO!

  • DavidDalka

    would using AOL really be Google free?

  • bontb

    Is google evil ? Sure it is :) It;s like WG.Bush, only promotes business with money to PR #1 even tho their SEO sux.

  • Joe Duck

    Good idea if people leave feedback about their experiences. But Danny after this are you still getting invited to the Google Dance?

  • David Berkowitz

    This blog caters to search engine marketers, right? Whether one is client-side, at a search engine marketing agency, or even from another search engine, it’s in everyone’s best interest to check out other search engines from time to time. If you only use one engine, no matter what that engine is, you’re not doing your job. Why we need a schedule for this is beyond me.

  • Danny Sullivan

    David, the blog caters to both search marketers and to searchers. Both groups probably need to consider alternative search engines more. And sadly, even too many search marketers fail to check out the world beyond Google.

  • RajG

    Hey Danny, just a minor note that your MSN Live and Yahoo! links are transposed in the post. As a Yahoo, I want to protect folks from getting an MSN search experience when they were expecting a Yahoo! Search experience ;-)

  • gary price

    As you know, we’ve been writing about a wide variety of search tools for years. Both when I was with you and Chris at SEW and for the past 6 years on ResourceShelf.

    While I currently work at Ask as Director of Online Info Resources, ResourceShelf and my speaking presentations, continue to focus on all sorts of search tools in a wide variety of areas.

    There isn’t just one book or database in the library and online searchers should be aware and use a variety of resources. It’s all about using the right tool at the right time. Do I use all of these tools daily. Nope. But it’s good to know they are their when needed.

    I’ll add that the ResourceShelf team is always appreciative of the coverage you give us on SEL.

    In the past few days, we’ve (ResourceShelf is now more than a one person operation) posted about:

    + Exalead, a general purpose web engine. Cool stuff.

    + Two 3D digital globes

    + Two real-estate verticals offering pricing info via SMS

    + The new science database project

    + The new Global Science Gateway from the U.S. Dept of Energy and The British Library.

    + In the past, we’ve written about the many free “special collections” offers.

    + and the new “Chronicling America” Newspaper Project from the Library of Congress. Now with more than 310,000 digitized pages.

    Two more quick notes:
    1) Don’t forget about the importance and usefulness of what I call non-commercial web directories where quality trumps quality.
    and subject specific services like

    2) Remember, most public libraries offer FREE full text access to a number of databases from home, office, anywhere. All you need is a library card for a specific library. Not much effort for lots of content. More info here.

  • David Berkowitz

    Thanks for the feedback, Danny. I think we’re both ultimately of the same mind in terms of all sorts of people needing to expand their horizons (it’s why we spend so much time writing about all this stuff, right?), even if we have some different approaches. This will come up in the next column due out Tues 7/3, so perhaps you’ll get some other feedback then.

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