Google vs. DuckDuckGo: Diversifying Your SEO Strategy for Privacy-Conscious Users

by | Mar 21, 2022 | blog, Business, Content Marketing

To many people, Google has long been synonymous with searching the internet, and for good reason. Google’s advanced web search functionality does a lot of clever things, employing complex algorithms and artificial intelligence to help users connect with the information they need. Google’s popularity and ubiquity aren’t built solely on its own merits and history of success, however. Today, Google search is not just built into our cultural lexicon but also hard-coded into websites, browsers, and internet-enabled devices around the world, making it nearly inescapable. In fact, it’s estimated that over 90% of all internet experiences begin with a web search, and 90% of web searches are done through Google.

Just as many web users have come to see “Google” and “web search” as interchangeable terms, businesses who operate online run the risk of thinking SEO (search engine optimization) is synonymous with Google ranking. While Google results are critical to any web-based business, there are many other search engines available, and they all work a bit differently from one another.

Who’s Not Using Google?

Before we talk about alternatives to Google, it’s important to recognize that all other search engines combined still only handle a single-digit percentage of overall web searches. Google is in no immediate danger of falling from its perch at the top of the heap, consistently accounting for around 90% of all search activity worldwide. To be blunt, any SEO strategy that does not place substantial focus on Google is unlikely to succeed.

That doesn’t mean Google is the only thing people are using, however.

  • Bing. Microsoft’s search engine is one well-known alternative to Google. Although Bing is ostensibly Google’s biggest competitor, it hardly seems a competition at all, with Bing pulling in about 3% of searches to Google’s 90%. Sadly, “Binging” never caught on as a verb the way “Googling” did, and for many millennials, we still associate Bing with Chandler and Monica more than we do with finding information online.
  • Web 1.0 Throwbacks. You might know people, often older folks, who remain partial to classic homepages like Yahoo!, AOL, or Ask—which they might still charmingly refer to as “Ask Jeeves” in honor of everyone’s favorite y2k-era cyber-butler.
  • Adware and Malware. Less computer-literate users may get swerved into using search engines whose names they don’t even know, such as when malware changes their search settings or when they unwittingly install an ad-supported search bar plugin alongside other software. Unsurprisingly, such search engines tend to serve up a lot of obtrusive ad placement.
  • Protest Users. A growing segment of the internet population is focused on privacy and limiting the influence of mega-corporations on their lives. These users are turning in ever-increasing numbers to a powerful web search tool called DuckDuckGo.

These are all valid reasons to diversify your SEO strategy, although there is certainly a cost-benefit analysis that needs to be made before devoting time and resources to capturing the relatively tiny user bases of lower-tier search engines. When taking your SEO tactics beyond Google, you’ll naturally want to focus on search platforms whose online buzz and market share are growing rather than dwindling. In doing so, you’ll realize that DuckDuckGo and its privacy-conscious users need to be a priority.

Duck Duck What Now?

Many advanced, well-informed users who’ve become wary of Google are looking for a very specific sort of alternative. Google’s search technology does many clever things to connect users with the information they’re looking for, but many of these advanced functions rely on data collection practices that some users find intrusive. It can be easy to gloss over tedious, lengthy terms of service when using products like Google’s—nobody’s going to read ten pages of legalese when they just want to search for an address—but those who dig into the details are often shocked at the level of personal detail Google could potentially harvest just by way of you using their flagship products.

Privacy-conscious users are often some of the same folk concerned with topics like corporate overreach, censorship, and net neutrality. These people may come to see using Google products as a philosophical or ethical concern. In this way, Google’s own success has paradoxically contributed to a backlash against the stranglehold-like domination it now has over the web search market.

Another reason users are turning from Google to DuckDuckGo is distaste for paid advertisements that seem to overwhelm search results. When users run a web search, they want the best information near the top of the page rather than seeing whatever advertisers paid Google for that spot. While Google search has become more and more sophisticated, many people’s satisfaction with search results has actually gone down due to this perceived focus on ad-supported content over quality search results. While DuckDuckGo is also supported by inline advertisements in their search results, ads are clearly labeled and often relevant to the search being conducted.

An Alternative to Google, Maybe?

For such users, DuckDuckGo has emerged as a top Google alternative. Now in its second decade of operation, DuckDuckGo broke an impressive threshold in January 2021, logging 100 million searches in a single day for the first time.

DuckDuckGo was built with privacy and transparency in mind. Per their mission statement, the project exists to both “show the world that protecting privacy is simple” and to make that privacy “accessible for all.” There are several ways this makes DuckDuckGo’s search fundamentally different from Google’s:

  • DuckDuckGo does not use tracking cookies to keep records of how you use the internet or what websites you visit.
  • DuckDuckGo does not interface with your social media or e-mail to harvest details about your lifestyle and web use.
  • DuckDuckGo does not use your search history to target you with specific content.
  • DuckDuckGo does not collect any data about your location.
  • Lacking any of the above data, DuckDuckGo cannot use it to serve you those eerily specific advertisements you might see on Google or Facebook.

Using DuckDuckGo is as simple as visiting and typing your query, much like any other search engine. DuckDuckGo can also be installed as a browser extension to offer Google-like built-in search capability. (It’s even available for Chrome if you happen to like Google’s web browser but not their privacy practices.)

Because DuckDuckGo is privacy-oriented, it is difficult to say who exactly is using it. DuckDuckGo itself is happy to admit it doesn’t even know how many unique users it has. After all, not retaining information about users is the whole point.

What we do know about DuckDuckGo users is promising:

  • DuckDuckGo’s share of web search activity has now crept above 2.5% in the United States and 0.5% worldwide
  • DuckDuckGo users spend an average of nearly 10 minutes visiting a website
  • DuckDuckGo users have a lower-than-average bounce rate (meaning the number of users who abandon a website after viewing only one page)

SEO for DuckDuckGo

If you want to tweak your approach to SEO to make your website or products more visible to the dedicated and growing DuckDuckGo user base, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • DuckDuckGo serves advertisements and search results based on whatever the user is doing in that exact moment rather than referencing an ever-growing database of a user’s interests, opinions, and internet activity to try to intelligently interpret searches.
  • DuckDuckGo does not geographically tag its users (i.e., request location data), so SEO and advertising strategies based on user location become largely irrelevant.
  • DuckDuckGo’s search algorithm seems to favor zeroing in on direct, specific answers to user searches—this means you can attract visitors by hosting a blog with how-to content and useful, actionable information relevant to your business or products.
  • DuckDuckGo’s search routine is, to put it bluntly, not as advanced as Google. This means that some of those keyword-heavy SEO tactics that have fallen out of favor in this late Web 2.0 era of Google dominance might be worth revisiting. Just make sure to employ keywords tastefully and not in an overbearing or artificial way that damages your Google rankings.

Quality Writing for Your SEO Campaign

If you need help creating and implementing a multi-faceted SEO strategy that provides results across multiple search engines, Better Content Matters can provide world-class, custom content that empowers your users, increases your visibility, and converts visitors to customers.

Leo Siren

Leo Siren

Leo Siren is a freelance content creator from Michigan's Upper Peninsula drawing on his multifaceted experience as a public librarian, assistant harbormaster, financial software systems analyst, and forklift operator to deliver innovative, high performing content in a range of text and audio formats. His personal interests include the electric banjo, referencing Elder Scrolls lore in everyday conversations, attempting to identify wild mushrooms, and various other things that upset the people around him.