When every day there seems to be a breaking news story about privacy breaches and data leaks by major technology companies, more and more users are prioritising privacy as part of their online search habits.

While Google remains the market leader, more alternatives are opening up for a growing set of users who put privacy over convenience to find information and businesses online. 

The search engine of choice for an increasing number of people is DuckDuckGo. This article goes into detail about how the DuckDuckGo search engine works and how best to approach SEO for DuckDuckGo.

A Quick Introduction to DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is a privacy-focused search engine that, unlike Google, doesn’t collect user data, doesn’t use targeted advertising and doesn’t track its users across the web. 

This places the search engine in sharp contrast to Google which collects the following information: 

  • Your search history
  • Videos you watch
  • Ads you view and/or click
  • Location data
  • The websites you go to
  • The technology you use to access Google’s services

This is in addition to all of the personal information you enter when using its services, such as email and Google Docs. 

DuckDuckGo has increased in popularity since its founding in 2008, as the below graph from the company shows:

Instead of collecting the same type of information as Google to give a tailored experience to users, DuckDuckGo does not personalise search results based on user data, and as a result, shows the same results to all users based on their search query.

In 2018, DuckDuckGo’s global market share was estimated to be just 0.18%, while Google’s sits at 77.35%. The number of searches being conducted through DuckDuckGo is growing, however, and is only set to increase as data and privacy concerns become more pressing. 

Why SEOs Should Care About DuckDuckGo

Search engines and social media are still new technologies, and it is not clear how these will develop within the next 50 years, or even if they will still be around. As the global debate rages around data protection and privacy rights, it is important for SEOs to consider new players within the field, and how their methods and techniques might be incorporated into search engines of the future. 

Given its novelty, it’s possible that search engine personalisation and tracking won’t last forever, and DuckDuckGo and its growth gives great insight into how search engines may look to prioritise in the future.

DuckDuckGo itself has partnerships with different technologies including Brave, Safari and Firefox. It offers an alternative to Google competitors such as Bing and Yahoo and could be the dominant search engine for reaching privacy-focused Internet users of the future.

How DuckDuckGo Works

DuckDuckGo’s results are populated by around 400 different sources. These include:

  • Instant Answers - DuckDuckGo’s open source platform which allows users to submit answers to particular queries, which DuckDuckGo then serves based on the query.
  • Information crawled by DuckDuckBot.
  • Crowd-sourced websites like Wikipedia.
  • Results from partners including Bing and Oath (formerly Yahoo).

How Does DuckDuckGo provide local results?

When using Google, we’re all familiar with looking for local businesses, services or information. But with its commitment to privacy, how does DuckDuckGo provide local results without compromising user privacy?

DuckDuckGo uses a GEO::IP lookup to identify a user’s approximate location, in contrast to Google’s use of IP addresses and cookies. However, this process isn’t always accurate and can result in irrelevant results when DuckDuckGo thinks you’re in a completely different location. As such, DuckDuckGo does prompt users to share their current location, information which is not stored by DuckDuckGo, to provide more accurate results. 

With DuckDuckGo’s uncertainty when it comes to local results, combined with user’s experience of the search engine and likely reluctance to share location information, SEOs should look to optimise for location modifiers in search results, as opposed to relying on the search engine to provide local results for a general term. 

For example, if you’re a Kent-based digital marketing agency, and you want to appear for local results in Kent for digital marketing agency, you might want to optimise for “digital marketing agency kent” as opposed to optimising for “digital marketing agency” and relying on DuckDuckGo’s localisation to show you for geographically relevant queries. 

What Does DuckDuckGo Say About SEO?

The only explicit reference that DuckDuckGo makes to SEO is the following entry on their website:

Ranking is a bit opaque and difficult to discern/communicate on an individual query basis because of all the various factors involved (and which change frequently).

Nevertheless, the best way to get good rankings (in pretty much all search engines) is to get links from high-quality sites.

The fact that links is the only SEO factor mentioned directly by DuckDuckGo indicates its importance in the search engine, so growing your quality backlink profile. 

DuckDuckGo SEO - What You Should To Focus On

  • Submitting your site to Bing and Yahoo

As DuckDuckGo uses search results crawled and indexed in Bing and Yahoo, making sure your website is visible in these search engines is also a good way of increasing your visibility in DuckDuckGo. 

  • Submitting your !bang

A bang! is a search feature unique to DuckDuckGo that, when inserted as part of a search query, lets the user directly search another site. For example,  the search “!w shoes” would take you directly to Wikipedia’s own results for shoes. 

You can also submit your own !bang to be included as part of DuckDuckGo, which may give you a boost in direct searches on your website, particularly important for online retailers or e-commerce businesses.

  • Building a quality link profile

Given DuckDuckGo’s explicit statement that getting links from high-quality sites is beneficial to SEO, growing a quality link profile appears to be a good strategy for ranking in DuckDuckGo. 

  • Use local modifiers for page optimisation

Due to DuckDuckGo having to compromise on location tracking for the sake of user privacy, optimising specifically for local keyword variants is essential for appearing for users searching locally. 

  • Review and keep other web references updated

As DuckDuckGo uses other websites, not just Bing and Yahoo, to inform their search results, making sure your online presence is consistent will help keep your information up to date in the search engine. 

The above is key if you want to dedicate time to growing your SEO visibility in DuckDuckGo.

If you’re looking to grow your search engine visibility, traffic and sales in Google, Bing and beyond, take a look at our SEO services and contact our expert team today!


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