DuckDuckGo versus Google – You gotta fight, for your right, to privacy

Google is undeniably king of the search engine world, but other engines are worth talking about, especially when it comes to privacy. I find out more about DuckDuckGo.

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Following the review of Ecosia in celebration of Earth Day, the next search engine I’m reviewing is DuckDuckGo, so get your disguise on as we’re going incognito. No, literally. This search engine sells itself on its tight privacy controls. With the roll out of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in May 2018, privacy is a subject being discussed more and more, and the conversations could lead to consumers becoming more aware of their privacy and data protection rights.

What’s it all about then?

DuckDuckGo states it will not track your IP address or user agent when you’re searching, nor does it share or collect any personally identifiable information about its users. So if you are concerned about your data being collected, and sold on for marketing purposes, or even used for criminal activities – this might be the search engine for you.

The privacy limits extend to not tracking you, as you go in and out of private browsing mode. You’re staying under the radar. Don’t you worry.

Duck, duck, wild goose chase – how is the search functionality?

You can adjust the settings, much like other search engines, to filter the results you see. You may choose seeing results that are safe, moderate, or no holds barred, to customise it to your preferences. You can further refine results by selecting your country, and by allowing content from a certain time period to appear.

DuckDuckGo vs Google - SERPs - Browser Media

It is interesting to see that the only exact replication of results is where Browser Media sits, nicely in position two. The results are different, but both SERPS are serving helpful results, except both engines did return non-UK businesses on page one – Google returned a Denver based business and DuckDuckGo served up a Delhi and Brisbane based business, as well as the same Denver business:

DuckDuckGo vs Google - SERPs 2 - Browser Media

Because your IP address is not being tracked, no specific location criteria are used in the searches via DuckDuckGo. This means you may not find the coffee shop around the corner, unless you specify where you are looking for said coffee shop within your search query.

Additionally, search history is not taken into account. So, whilst it feels much less creepy than other engines, it also won’t be so tailored to your searching habits. You will see the same page of results as the next person using DuckDuckGo when entering identical search terms.

I’ve been digging around a bit to find out what people think of the results DuckDuckGo returns, and it is a fairly mixed response.

DuckDuckGo vs Google - review - browser media

One comment referred to DuckDuckGo changing the search titles and returning incoherent results. So instead of returning pages showing the price of gold, when the user typed in GLD (the investment symbol for gold), the search title was changed to God.

Other comments referred to small irritations when getting the results back. For example, not listing the number of results found, so the searcher is not helped in regards to whether their search should be expanded or filtered differently. As well, complaints have been made about the engine hijacking results when a user tried to use a different engine. Further to this, ‘apparently’ the engine became incredibly tricky to get rid of, not showing up in the program or app lists on desktops and devices.

On the flipside, the review site has many comments defending DDG, with users stating that they found the results to be appropriate, and it was just a case of learning how to use the engine better. I would tend to agree, queries may simply need a word or two added to serve up better results.

DuckDuckGo vs Google - review 2 - browser media

There was also the usual amount of conspiracy theory talk – suggesting that certain search engines are paying folk to write false negative reviews. Such cynics…

How are they doing?

DuckDuckGo vs Google - number of search queries - browser media

It is hard to gauge how many users DuckDuckGo has since it does not track personal information…

…but we do know that it received over 16.2 million search queries on Monday 24 April.

Therefore, using some pretty basic maths, I have deduced that DuckDuckGo had 188 searches per second on average that day:

16,249,713 ÷ 86,400 (number of seconds in 24 hours) = 188.08

In comparison, Google averages 40,000 enquiries per second.

DuckDuckGo is placed next to Google Hungary, Croatia, and Nepal in the percentage market share tables – and just below Ask that has 0.14% share.

DuckDuckGo vs Google - DuckDuckGo's marketshare - browser media

DuckDuckGo vs Google - devices - browser media

Quack to the future – what impact could DuckDuckGo have on marketers?

Data from Google Analytics about DuckDuckGo will not particularly benefit marketers since no useful visitor information is tracked. It means you can’t mark your target audience based on age, gender, nor location, for example.

In addition, the engine is reported as referral traffic, rather than organic, which can be misleading when analysing traffic, but can be changed with an advanced segment. A rule is required to instruct Google Analytics that each time DuckDuckGo is seen as referral traffic, to change the medium to organic. For more on advanced segments, read Libby’s blog post on the subject. For further details specifically about the issue described above, this piece should help.

If you’re interested in paid search, bear in mind that they don’t do remarketing ads. Sponsored ads, much like all of the other engines, will appear at the top of the SERP. However, due to the audience seeing the ads being an unknown, how can anyone be sure the ads are being seen by the right audience? It seems a bit pot luck for my liking.

Although, with the GDPR roll out next year, perhaps this engine is wise not to be keeping records on its users. And if, as a consumer, you’re concerned about your privacy when browsing the internet, and do not want to be tracked when carrying out searches, this engine is the one for you.

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