Since its inception in 2008, DuckDuckGo has rapidly expanded. In 2021 alone, it has amassed over 23 billion queries. But what sets DuckDuckGo apart from its competitors? And what does its success mean for the future of digital advertising?
On the surface, DuckDuckGo operates like any search engine. It crawls the internet for information, indexes that information, and serves it up in response to user queries. It allows people to search websites, news articles and shopping web pages. DuckDuckGo’s point of difference is its commitment to protecting users’ privacy.
Now more than ever, many of us are concerned about their online privacy. We rely more on the internet to meet their basic needs. This, along with increased reporting on high-profile data breaches has caused many to seriously question who they trust with their personal information. A 2021 study by Privacy Australia revealed that almost 58% of Australians have no confidence in companies working to protect their data. This distrust is only increasing, with almost 30% of people stating that their level of concern about online privacy is higher than last year.
One key way in which DuckDuckGo claims to protect its users information is the data they draw on to serve advertising. Like Google, DuckDuckGo makes money by selling advertising. The difference between how the two companies approach advertising is in how they leverage user data to serve targeted advertising. When you search for a specific term on DuckDuckGo you will be served advertisements related to that query on the results page. The same goes for Google. However, with Google, the data from your search query is compiled with all the other information Google knows about you. This means that even after exiting the results page, ads related to the search you made will continue to follow you around online.
What does the rise of privacy-focused search engines mean for the future of digital marketing? After all, user data plays a key role in the creation and targeting of digital advertising. In spite of the search engine’s recent surge in popularity, it’s market share still pales in comparison to other major players like Yahoo and Bing. However, that doesn’t mean that digital marketers should ignore this recent development. Notably, DuckDuckGo pulls many of its results from competitor search engines. Therefore, optimising for a search engine like Bing would have the effect of also optimising for DuckDuckGo. Beyond this, increased awareness of online privacy will no doubt play a role in the future of digital marketing. While we can’t expect DuckDuckGo to de-throne Google as the leading search engine anytime soon, its popularity raises questions about how we use and advertise on the internet in the future.
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