How to Research a Product or Service Online More Effectively
You're using (or considering) a particular product or service, like Carbonite for online backup, DoorDash for food delivery, or a physical product or gadget or local service. You're wondering whether there might be a better choice out there, perhaps because you're having problems, the cost is increasing, or you're just curious.
Searching with Google or Bing can be confusing or not very helpful, especially when you're looking for information about alternatives to a particular product or service.
Read on for a technique that I've found useful, along with some variations.
How to search for something similar to a known product or service
If you already have a specific product or service in mind called "X" that:
- You're interested in or currently using,
- Is reasonably popular,
- And you're wondering if there might be a better alternative out there,
Then here's how you can find other similar products or services. Type the following search into Google or Bing:
X review OR compare
- You must type OR using capital letters for this to work properly.
- If X contains multiple words, e.g., "Microsoft Office" or "OfficeJet 4630" you should surround them with double-quotes.
This will search for web pages mentioning X along with either "review" or "compare" (or "comparison," etc.), which will:
- Save you from doing those two searches separately,
- Hopefully lead you to other (possibly better) alternatives to X,
- And you may learn more about X as well.
- carbonite review OR compare
- doordash review OR compare
- mailchimp review OR compare
- "microsoft word" review OR compare
This also works if X is:
- A product or service category, e.g., "scheduling software" or "air fryer" in which case you should use double quotes.
- The names of multiple similar products or services that you want to compare and find alternatives to, e.g., coke and pepsi, or startpage and duckduckgo, in which case you should not use quotes.
Trying to avoid out-of-date information
I've also found that it's important to pay attention to the dates of the reviews that you find. I recently searched for an interesting product and found reviews from 2005 and 2014. However, when I tried to visit the company's website, it was gone!
So, adding the current year to your search for X might also help, e.g.:
X 2021 review OR compare
However, some websites always list their copyright notice with the current year even for their older articles, so this technique doesn't always work.
Narrowing your search to one particular website
If you want to focus your search for X on a specific website Y.com, add the "site:" operator to your search:
X site:Y.com review OR compare
- site:cnet.com carbonite review OR compare
- site:pcmag.com mailchimp review OR compare
- site:nerdwallet.com turbotax review OR compare
Note that you should not type a space between the colon in "site:" and the web address.
Combining these techniques
You can combine all of these search techniques. For example, searching for:
site:cnet.com 2021 carbonite idrive review OR compare
would look for web pages on cnet.com that mention 2021 and the product names carbonite and idrive, and either "review" or "compare" as well.
Using anonymous search engines
Note that all of these search techniques also work in "private search engines," including:
http://StartPage.com, which uses Google to get search results for you while keeping your identity private (by not revealing your IP address) and also suppressing advertisements, and
http://DuckDuckGo.com, which uses Bing in a similar fashion.
Where to go from here
To learn more about this topic: