Can you replace Google Search with Reddit? I tried it for a week.

Reddit, which went public in March, is a social network with 82.7 million daily active users who gather and usually post anonymously in groups called subreddits. (AP)
Reddit, which went public in March, is a social network with 82.7 million daily active users who gather and usually post anonymously in groups called subreddits. (AP)


Googling isn’t what it used to be.

Frustrated by their Google searches, people are funneling their queries to a site that isn’t a search engine at all: Reddit. Earlier this month, that included me.

Reddit, which went public in March, is a social network with 82.7 million daily active users who gather and usually post anonymously in groups called subreddits. Users can “upvote" or “downvote" what others contribute, surfacing what are considered the best responses.

The decision to turn to Reddit is happening because many people are unhappy with their Google results. This is partly because the importance of ranking high on Google has led companies to game the system, clogging results with unhelpful links. There are misleading ads, a barrage of sponsored shopping links, and dicey websites claiming to be experts when they aren’t.

Some people turn to AI chatbots like ChatGPT for answers, but others are now adding “Reddit" to the end of any Google search string to surface comments by real people.

Ryan Bender, a publicist working in entertainment and technology in Los Angeles, views Reddit as a “two-way Wikipedia" service. You can do research and also find a community to keep chatting about a topic. Reddit isn’t great for information like when a baseball game starts, but it’s helpful when you want various viewpoints.

Bender, 35 years old and the parent of a 3-year-old, recently came across a social-media ad for a sale on toddler clothing. He googled the name of the company with “ad too good to be true." The first result was a Reddit thread where several people said they had fallen for the scam. Others pointed out site details that could indicate fraud.

“With Reddit, you are talking to like-minded people with nothing to gain outside of sharing their opinions," Bender says.

Inspired by Reddit fans, I decided to do a general Google search and a specific Reddit search for every query for a week, then compare the results. First, I sought advice from search experts and longtime users.

Trial and error

Google dominates the search market—the Justice Department brought an antitrust lawsuit against the company. Even Google acknowledges that people often turn to Reddit for advice on topics such as product recommendations and travel advice. It signed a deal with Reddit in February to use Reddit data to train its artificial intelligence, while Reddit can use Google’s AI models to enhance its own search results. (Reddit has a similar deal with OpenAI.)

Worldwide desktop and mobile visits to Reddit in May increased 39% year-over-year to 2.4 billion, according to Similarweb. In the same period, Google visits decreased 2.2% to 86.2 billion visits, the web and app analytics company says.

“Google Search satisfies an incredibly diverse range of information needs," says a Google spokeswoman. “We’re constantly innovating to help people find exactly what they are looking for."

When it comes to product recommendations, people often view Reddit groups and social-media influencers as less biased—whether that’s true or not, says Ross Simmonds, founder of a content-marketing agency based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

“People genuinely trust groups of people more than they do a singular source," he says.

Reddit’s anonymity means you may not know who someone really is, but it also can make people feel comfortable with expressing themselves.

Also important: People on Reddit sometimes joke around. A notorious AI-generated Google recommendation to add glue to pizza is believed to have started as a Reddit comment 11 years ago. (Google declined to confirm that.)

The key to searching on Reddit…is not searching on Reddit. Instead, add the word to Google searches, say power users. Reddit is working to improve its on-site search, such as by surfacing snippets of whatever you’re looking for more prominently, says Serkan Piantino, Reddit vice president of product, AI/machine learning, search and safety.

When her newborn son ended up in the intensive-care unit for 21 days in 2020, Bryanne DeGoede turned to Reddit. The founder of a public-relations firm in Hermosa Beach, Calif., discovered that people on Reddit could relate.

“It opened the door to me where I started trusting it," says DeGoede, now 37.

But after her son had several ear infections in 2022 and had to get ear tubes the following year, she found horror stories about the procedure on Reddit. It differed from her experience. She now thinks of Reddit sort of like a rating app, where people who have bad experiences tend to post more than others. She is more skeptical and quickly dismisses posts she finds unrelatable.

Results may vary

Here’s what happened during my weeklong experiment using both Reddit and Google.

Test 1: Restaurant information. Before a breakfast meeting at a local restaurant, I searched for reviews and photos to help me order. Google’s first result was a link to the menu, followed by images of some dishes.

When I added Reddit to my search, I found a few threads where most people recommended not eating at the restaurant. There were zero photos or reviews of what diners liked.

Winner: Google

Test 2: Literary fan theories. I recently read “Fourth Wing" by Rebecca Yarros for my book club. I went online to see what other people thought about the surprising conclusion. (No spoilers!) Google surfaced several websites explaining it, but Reddit turned out to have a bustling “Fourth Wing" subreddit.

Reddit proved to be better for one big reason: It helped me avoid details about the next book in the series. Reddit results show the number of comments on a thread and when the thread started. People also flag threads with spoilers.

Winner: Reddit

Test 3: Product recommendations. I’ve recently started to rethink my sleeping setup, such as whether or not I need a proper knee pillow to help with my back pain.

When I googled, I had to scroll past shopping links, sponsored related products, popular products and other questions people ask about the topic before finding what I wanted: people’s thoughts about what worked for them.

Adding Reddit to the same question, I quickly got several threads—some recent, some two years old—about pillows people have tried.

Winner: Reddit

Google says 80% of searches don’t show any ads, and shopping ads are usually only served when someone shows interest in buying something. It also changed its rankings in March to surface less spam and unoriginal content.

Test 4: Plant advice. Despite my varied Google searches, I rarely came across AI answers. Google launched them in early May but refined them later in the month because of unsafe and inaccurate responses.

A colleague suggested googling tips for propagating a philodendron. This is where Google shined. It gave a straightforward response. Adding Reddit to my search was useful in case I wanted to dig in even deeper, with additional tips from people.

Winner: Tie

As you can see, it isn’t clear-cut. But one thing’s certain: Googling isn’t what it used to be—for better or worse.

Write to Ann-Marie Alcántara at

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