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Hands up, who has heard of DuckDuckGo? No, not the playground game duck duck goose but a search engine that promises to empower you, the user to take control of your personal information online with no tradeoffs. Maybe you have noticed DuckDuckGo gradually creeping into your consciousness? Maybe you have even tried this search engine for the first time in the last 12 months?
Why DuckDuckGo SEO is Important
Maybe the reason you’re becoming more aware of it is that DuckDuckGo has been embarking upon an aggressive PR and advertising campaign for almost a year now. This is a company looking to shine a light on what they see as Google’s shadier practices in a bid to draw market share away from the search giant whose name is so synonymous with search that “to Google” has become a verb.
For months, I have been seeing adverts for DuckDuckGo everywhere! Billboards, ads/questions on Quora, Reddit as well as noticing the mainstream news articles that have been popping up in some pretty authoritative places - the BBC, Wired and the Guardian to name a few.
I wanted to find out if all of this was changing user behaviour and if we as Internet Marketers had better start paying attention to this new “underduck”.
Methodology: How We Investigated DuckDuckGo SEO
Working with our Assistant IT Director, Chris Rutter and our snazzy new reporting system, Datorama, we have managed to process thousands of data streams to get a holistic view of not only all of our clients but also being able to segment individual clients or groups of clients to see the Source / Medium data from Google Analytics so we can observe trends in a matter of minutes. It’s pretty cool actually.
The date range we have used from a cross section of client data comparing 01/01/2020 - 26/08/2020 to the same period in 2019.
Unfortunately, the global pandemic that must not be named will have scuppered a true and fair year on year (YoY) but as with everything in 2020, this is what we’re working with and like everyone, we’re doing our best to make lemonade.
Show me the numbers!
Total number of sessions analysed 20197,359,672Total number of sessions analysed 202010,488,963Sessions Source / Medium = DuckDuckGo in 20198,769 (0.119%)Sessions Source / Medium = DuckDuckGo in 202017,225 (0.164%)
These aren’t huge numbers on the scale of things but this works out as a 37.82% increase in DuckDuckGo traffic for the clients included in this sample data.
When I originally started looking at this in February 2020, comparing 2018 to 2019 the increases across all clients were huge - one client went from 16 sessions from DuckDuckGo to 1,023 which is +6,293.75%.
DuckDuckGo has been operating since 2008, but during 2019 putting the pressure on Google hasn’t yielded a significant shift in user behaviour yet. However when you look at the figures Month on Month (MoM), this shows sustained but small increases. DuckDuckGo is waging a war of attrition and it’s going to be a slow burner for them in acquiring search engine market share. Something crazy will need to happen to knock Google off its feet first.
Is DuckDuckGo really a contender for Google?
According to Search Engine Land, DuckDuckGo is handling 50m searches per day. Small fry in comparison to Google’s 5.8bn searches per day.
You then have Statcounter reporting that Google holds 92.59% of Search Engine Market Share in the UK and DuckDuckGo holds 0.7% (July 2019-July 2020). Factoring in the data we are seeing at Adtrak, DuckDuckGo has a long road ahead to there is going to have to be a seismic shift in user behaviour for DuckDuckGo to make a bigger dent in Google’s search market share than they already have. But could times be changing?
DuckDuckGo has made a ballsy move in the light of Google’s move to present search alternatives to Android users when they set up their devices.
Not only was DuckDuckGo successful in making a bid to be featured here, but they have released user research that suggests that Google could lose up to 20% of their search market share in the UK if they adopt the set-up screen that they suggest.
What is interesting was that it didn’t matter where Google was in the list of alternative search engines, most people still scrolled down all the way to select Google.
Do users really care about privacy?
“They counter the assumption that we’ve all been socialized to accept: that it is normal to hand over all your information. DuckDuckGo shows that doesn’t have to be the way.”
- Gennie Gebhart, Researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation via New York Times
GDPR and the Cambridge Analytica scandal should have highlighted the seriousness of privacy to consumers but it seems as though we just don’t care about handing over our data, or people don’t realise it’s value.
Personalisation, the relevancy of adverts that we see and the generally useful results that come in Google Search means that in the absence of any other issues, there is no incentive to change our preferred search engine - it’s great!
Ultimately, Google has pumped billions of $$$ into infiltrating our lives and sorry DuckDuckGo, I love your principles but Google’s results are just better.
Testing DuckDuckGo for myself
Because DuckDuckGo is focussed on privacy, the search engine doesn’t know exactly where you as the searcher is located but it can find out through a GEO IP lookup. I did my own little small scale test starting with a subject close to my heart: food.
I searched for “restaurants near me” 1st Feb 2020 at 12:13pm in Woodville, Derbyshire on mobile and the search engine returned results near Chester. When I performed a search 2 minutes later for “plumbers near me”, DuckDuckGo returned a couple of plumbers near Chester and a pub called The Plumbers Arms. I performed a search for “washing machine repairs near me” and results were returned between Stoke on Trent, Warrington and Bradford. Even before the pandemic, I wasn’t about to schlep out to Chester when I know that there should be better results much closer to me! Admittedly, when I tested the same searches on 26th August, the results were a little closer but not really that much better as they were generic and mostly big companies.
Ok, give me some alternative search engines to try
- Ecosia: If I’m pretty confident that the result I want will come up straight away, I use Ecosia as a secondary browser on my phone where the home page is the Ecosia search engine. The ads generate income for the company which they use to plant trees. I think that is pretty nice! https://info.ecosia.org/what
- Bing: It looks almost the same as Google except it feels a lot cleaner and tidier. The Maps results are better defined and the video results don’t have the same YouTube bias and again just look much tidier. http://www.bing.com/
- Yandex: Google doesn’t have a stranglehold on search market share everywhere in the world - Russia and China being notable exceptions. Yandex doesn’t have the same US-centric feel. https://yandex.com/
- Swisscows: I really wanted to include this one because I like the name but also this search engine promises to return results based on semantic data recognition but they also say they have all their DataCenter and servers positioned geographically outside of the EU and the US. Swisscows is considered the safest data center in Europe with all facilities in what they call Swiss Fort Knox. https://swisscows.com/en/datacenter