What’s the first thing you think about when you think about threats to your privacy online? Phishing scams? Hackers? The Darknet? Secret programs? How about the browser on your computer or smartphone?
The way that companies such as Facebook and Google track consumer data and harvest it as part of their business models has come under increasing negative attention recently — but many consumers are still not sure what to do about it.
However, they’re learning — and looking for ways to combat it. This is where alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo are finding their niche (and growing).
What Is DuckDuckGo?
In order to understand what DuckDuckGo is, you first need to understand what it isn’t.
How Other Search Engines Use Your Data
It isn’t a traditional search engine or platform that stores bytes after bytes of information from everything you do online, cataloging it, analyzing it, and deciphering it. It doesn’t build a model of you, or any consumer, out of data and try to predict your wants and needs almost before you’re aware of them.
Traditional search engines use sophisticated algorithms to figure out what you like. They use your past searches, most of the websites you’ve touched, many of the past purchases you’ve made, and every cookie your computer’s accepted. When you type a set of keywords into Google or a similar search engine, the SERPs you get may bear very little resemblance to the SERPs that someone else (with different search habits and interests) would get using those exact same keywords.
Why do Google and other search engines do this? They use your data to tell advertisers who to follow around from site to site. That’s why, if you search on Google for “a new mattress,” you suddenly find yourself viewing ads from mattress stores everywhere you go online that’s supported by advertising.
That’s also why you’ll suddenly find yourself looking at ads for related products as well, like bedroom furniture and sheets. The data lets the search engines predict that if you’re buying a mattress, you may need a bed, a dresser, pillows, or sheets to go with it.
How DuckDuckGo Uses Your Data (It Doesn’t)
When you use DuckDuckGo, you get the exact same SERP that anyone else using the same keywords would get. Their personal browsing habits — and yours — cease to matter. You still get ads (because that’s how DuckDuckGo makes money), but those ads are directly related to just your keywords.
While you lose the constantly-customized (and re-customized) features of search on sites like Google, you gain back your privacy.
For many consumers — and businesses — the trade-off is increasingly worth it. It may be especially so in light of the fact that sites like Google store your information and searches forever. Not only does that information have the potential for misuse in the wrong hands, it can also be subject to search through governmental subpoenas.
Why Should You–As A Business Owner–Care?
How important are sites like DuckDuckGo going to eventually be to business owners? Consider this: DuckDuckGo launched back in 2009. At the start of 2017, it was just celebrating its 10-billionth search. A year later at the start of 2018, it had already counted its 16-billionth search — which is a 50% jump in just a year’s time!
That’s a sign that consumers are growing sensitive about their loss of privacy online — and are educating themselves about how to take more control over the situation.
DuckDuckGo Impacts Your SEO
For businesses of all kinds, however, it means rethinking (yet again) how your brand approaches SEO — at least when it comes to those consumers who are actively trying to reduce their digital footprints.
On one hand, your business doesn’t have to worry about paid search and advertisement features to get at the top of the SERPS for DuckDuckGo and similar search engines. On the other hand, you do have to worry about organic interest and SERP rankings a lot more. The highest ranking brands in any given industry are going to pop up for every consumer that uses the same relevant terms in a search.
That means going back over your both your regular and mobile website design and all your social accounts and making adjustments that refine your keywords. It also means keeping organic interest alive in your brand by consistently posting on social, updating your brand’s blog, running contests and making noise that will attract the right kind of consumer attention. Make sure that you provide content that will naturally rise to the top when a consumer asks an industry-relevant question.
Where do you begin? Probably the best place to start is on DuckDuckGo’s site itself. You can do some searches and see where your business falls in the SERP — and start your strategy from there!