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Do we need to keep an eye on DuckDuckGo?


Do we need to keep an eye on DuckDuckGo?

It’s hard to think of any sector in any industry that’s as dominated by one company as online search. Statistics show Google boasts 91.38% of the global search engine market share as of December 2020, with Bing so far behind on 2.69% that it can only really be called “second placed” as a technicality.

However, perhaps what we should look at closely is some of the fastest-growing smaller search engines. Privacy-focused DuckDuckGo accounts for what sounds like a miniscule 0.6% of the market, but considering it was just 0.33% at the start of 2020, its share has almost doubled in the space of a year, and it recently reached a landmark of handling 100 million search queries in a day for the first time.

DuckDuckGo’s figures may sound modest, but what makes them impressive is that users have to make a conscious decision to let it handle their searches. While many devices and browsers use Google or Bing as their default search engine, and their users will generally go along with this without changing it, this is not the case for DuckDuckGo, with the exception of the anonymous browser Tor. In other words, 0.6% of people are going out of their way to use it, rejecting Google and Bing in the process.

Unlike other search engines, DuckDuckGo returns the same results for all users without profiling them, and although the unique selling point of increased privacy is a niche, it’s a growing niche. A 2018 study showed that the behaviour of internet companies has left 76% of Brits concerned with online privacy, and the figure in the US is even higher at 83%. Also, while a separate study last year showed Google to be the most trusted of the major tech firms, it still only got 28.7% of the vote, showing its trust levels are not as impressive as its market share.

What may propel DuckDuckGo’s rise is the fact that it is now comfortably the fourth English language search engine, and compared the three above it – Google, Bing and Yahoo – it doesn’t have a major tech company behind it. This may make it an attractive proposition for a larger company to throw its weight behind, and there has been speculation in the past that Apple could attempt to buy it out. Whether this would spell the end of DuckDuckGo’s privacy credentials is up for debate, though.

For now, Google remains the go-to search engine for most of us, and that’s why we base our search engine optimisation (SEO) around it here at Engage Web. Should that change, you can be sure that our efforts will change with it.

John Murray

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