Imagine this scenario: one day while mining referral data (which you do often because, after all, you’re a data-driven marketer!), you come across a site called DuckDuckGo. Having never heard of this site, you type it into your search browser to learn more, only to find that DuckDuckGo is actually a search engine.
If this has happened to you, or even if you have never heard of DuckDuckGo until this very moment, have no fear. We will get you up to speed on all you need to know about this trending private search engine.
Back in 2006, entrepreneur Gabriel Weinberg had the idea to create a new and improved search engine. The premise was simple: provide users with a completely anonymous search engine experience. In 2008, Weinberg personally funded and founded the company, but it wasn’t until 2010 that the project truly came to fruition. That’s when he chose to enlist a public user committee to provide input for ways to improve the site’s search experience and raise awareness among potential new users.
The model for DuckDuckGo then became self-funded in 2011, when the first investors (Union Square Ventures) bought into the idea. By summer 2013, nearly 1.7 million searches per day were performed on the engine. Then, reports of potential NSA leaks from former employee Edward Snowden hit the news. With internet privacy concerns at the top of people’s minds, traffic to DuckDuckGo doubled to 3 million searches per day, firmly establishing DuckDuckGo as a viable search engine alternative.
Unlike the big three search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo), Weinberg envisioned a completely anonymous search engine experience. As such, DuckDuckGo was created to protect searchers’ privacy, and therefore the search engine does not store IP or user information of any kind. Consistent with Weinberg’s vision, this anonymous search experience avoids what he calls the “filter bubble” of personalized search results. While personalized search results theoretically are good for the user experience (users are only exposed to the things that are likely to be of interest to them and are therefore highly relevant), criticism stems from the fact that these users are placed in a bubble and are not exposed to new or different results that could be meaningful and of future interest while still being relevant.
Without personalized search results, all searchers entering a given search term query receive the same results regardless of previous actions taken. The search engine crowdsources results from several information sources such as Wikipedia, through partnerships with other search engines and through a proprietary web-crawler called DuckDuckBot. So rather than prioritizing the collection of results from a higher volume of sources, according to Weinberg, this model prioritizes the collection of results from the best sources. The result? A better search experience.
Though DuckDuckGo’s 3 million searches per day are dwarfed by Google’s respective 13 billion, DuckDuckGo is in fact supported by advertising. In fact, the anonymous search engine is actually part of Yahoo’s syndicate network, meaning that advertisers on the Yahoo-Microsoft platform can have ads automatically appear on the DuckDuckGo engine platform as a Bing partner site. These results are shown as highlighted sponsor links above the organic search results, as seen below:
The caveat to DuckDuckGo’s privacy status is that there are limited targeted paid search marketing capabilities (due to the lack of user data collected), and the engine does not share user data with the searched websites that users ultimately transfer to. As a marketer, this certainly means less visibility into the search behavior leading to site traffic and ultimate actions taken—something to consider and weigh against any campaign goals before advertising on DuckDuckGo.
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