Fix Google Search with these three steps

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash

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If you feel like Google Search has gotten worse, you’re not alone and not imagining it.

Over the past decade, the company has allowed the ads business to influence product direction, made sponsored listings increasingly difficult to distinguish from regular search results, and—much more recently—inserted AI-written answers atop many search queries, sometimes with laughably poor results. All that’s on top of the feeling of being watched by a tech giant that keeps an online record of your search history.

But while the default Google Search experience is deteriorating, a better way is possible with a few minutes of setup. Follow these three steps, and you’ll get a version of Google with no sponsored listings, less bloat, and less invasive tracking.

Step one: Use the “Web” tab by default

In mid-May, Google released a “Web” tab that strips away all the feature bloat that Google’s built up over the years in favor of just a plain list of web links. Its existence has since gone viral thanks to sites like Ernie Smith’s UDM14 and, which help people use the Web tab by default.

Below, are step-by-step instructions for setting up a custom Google Web tab search as your default in every major browser. The only difference between this and a standard Google search is a small string of additional text (&udm=14) at the end.

Choose your browser for step-by-step instructions:

Google Chrome (desktop)

  • Head to Settings > Search engine > Manage search engines, or just use this link.
  • Click the “Add” button next to Site Search.
  • Give the shortcut a name (like “Google Debloated”) and a keyword (like “gd”).
  • In the URL field, enter the following:
  • Under “Search engines,” click the vertical ellipses next to Google Debloated and select “Make default.”

Apple Safari (MacOS)

Microsoft Edge (desktop)

Mozilla Firefox (desktop)

Google Chrome (iOS or Android)

Apple Safari (iOS)

  • Install the Keyword Search app. This requires a $1 one-time purchase that works across Mac and iOS.
  • Head to Settings > Safari > Extensions > Keyword Search.
  • Enable “Allow Extension.”
  • In Safari, tap the aA button and select “Keyword Search.”
  • Select “Add new.”
  • Give the search engine a name (like “Google Debloated”) and a shortcut (like “gd”).
  • In the URL field, enter the following:
  • Check the “Make default” button, then hit “Save.”

Microsoft Edge (iOS or Android)

Mozilla Firefox (iOS)

Mozilla Firefox (Android)

Step two: Set up an ad blocker

Google results without an ad blocker (left) vs. with an ad blocker (right)

Even with Google’s Web tab, you may still have to scroll through nearly a page worth of sponsored listings before getting to the organic results. An ad blocker will fix that.

On the desktop versions of Chrome, Edge, and other browsers with Chrome Web Store support, I recommend uBlock Origin. It’s also available for Firefox and my new favorite browser, Floorp. Once installed, it will block Google’s search ads automatically.

uBlock Origin is not available for Safari on MacOS, but you can use AdGuard instead. Once installed, head to Safari > Preferences > Extensions, and check all boxes except “AdGuard Security” and “AdGuard Custom.”

On iOS and Android, blocking Google’s sponsored results is trickier:

  • You’re out of luck with Chrome. Consider using another mobile browser that supports ad blocking.
  • In Microsoft Edge, hit the menu button and head to Settings > Privacy and Security > Block Ads. Turn on “Block Ads” and turn off “Allow acceptable ads.”
  • In Safari for iOS, I’ve confirmed that AdGuard blocks Google’s search ads. Once installed, head to Settings > Safari > Extensions, then turn the first five AdGuard toggles on.
  • You’re out of luck with Firefox for iOS. Consider using another mobile browser that supports stronger ad blocking.
  • In Firefox for Android, you can install uBlock Origin. Hit the vertical ellipses button, then head to Add-ons > Add-ons Manager. Find uBlock Origin and hit the + button.
  • Brave will block Google ads if you open the browser’s settings, head to Trackers & Ads Blocking, and choose “Aggressive.”

Step three: Sign out of Google

When you’re signed into Google, the company keeps a record of all your searches, viewable through the “Your data in Search” page. Signing out restores some semblance of the privacy you get with anti-tracking search engines such as DuckDuckGo and Kagi, especially if you also turn off search customization on this page.

This does become a problem if you use Google services such as Gmail and Calendar in your desktop browser. If you sign into those services, you’ll be signed in for search as well. Same goes if you use Chrome and want to sync your browsing history across devices or rely on Google’s built-in password manager. (That’s one more reason to use a third-party password manager instead.)

One possible workaround is browser compartmentalization: Use one browser for Google services such as Gmail, then use a separate browser that’s signed out of Google for everything else.

Alternatively, Firefox and Floorp users can install the Multi-Account Containers extension, which lets you compartmentalize sites without switching browsers at all. By creating a container for Google Search, you can search privately while still using sites like Gmail and Google Calendar in the same window.

Here’s how to set that up:

  • Install the Multi-Account Containers extension.
  • Click the extension icon, then head to Manage Containers > New Container.
  • Choose a name (such as “Google Search”) and icon for the container.
  • Perform a Google search. The exact query doesn’t matter.
  • Click the extension icon, select Always open this site in, then select “Google Search.”
  • If prompted to “Open this site in your assigned Container,” check “Remember my decision” and select “Open in Google Search container.”
  • Remember not to sign into your Google account while browsing in a container tab.

Try another search engine

Instead of going through all of these steps to make Google more tolerable, you could also just check out other search engines that haven’t succumbed to “enshittification.” A few quick suggestions:

  • DuckDuckGo: The big name in private search. It does not track your search history, but it relies on Microsoft Bing for core search results, and I occasionally find that I’m missing results from Google’s index. I suggest taking the DuckDuckGo Challenge and seeing how long you last.
  • Kagi: An ad-free search engine, and the only one that hasn’t sent me running back to Google after a few months of use. It costs $5 to $10 per month depending on search volume, but you can try up to 100 total searches for free.
  • If you’re into AI-generated answers, Perplexity offers them with less clutter and more prominent citations than Google. You can set Perplexity as your default by following the custom search engine instructions in Step One this article and setting as the URL.

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