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September 24, 2014

How the DuckDuckGo Search Engine Could Change SEO

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The vast majority of Internet users have never heard of DuckDuckGo. And yet it could soon become an essential element of search engine optimization.

DuckDuckGo is a search engine that’s a little different from Google, Bing or Yahoo. It aims to cut through the clutter of the usual search results, delivering better answers to the questions being asked. And it also promises greater privacy than other search engines can give, a commodity at a time when so many Internet users have privacy concerns.

Obscure though DuckDuckGo may appear, it’s about to get a huge boost. Apple’s most recent operating system, iOS 8, is allowing users to pick DuckDuckGo as their preferred search engine, alongside much better-known options such as the aforementioned Google, Bing and Yahoo.

This represents a huge opportunity for the startup company. With opt-in inclusion in Apple products, DuckDuckGo will be exposed to millions of potential users, spreading the word about the search engine organically, without having to pay for advertising.

But the rise of DuckDuckGo also raises some questions for SEOs. Will this change affect how marketers who optimize primarily for Google operate? Should they be optimizing for DuckDuckGo?

Here’s a more in-depth look at what this development means.

The History of DuckDuckGo

First, a short history lesson. DuckDuckGo was founded in 2008, and it’s named, as you might have guessed, for the kids’ game “Duck, Duck, Goose.” It prides itself on not presenting the most information on a topic but presenting the best information. Its goal is to answer questions relevantly and cut out the excess results that other search engines pile up.

The site has grown quickly over the past three years. By 2011, it was averaging 1.5 million visits per day and had several employees. Here’s what really sets it apart: DuckDuckGo refuses to trade on the information it gathers from users to make money. It insists on keeping searches and information private, and it pledges not to pass along those things to increase advertising.

Among techies, the site, which was redesigned in 2014, has developed a following, and the privacy activists much prefer it over Google, for obvious reasons. Still, less than 10 percent of online users actually know about the site, giving it a relatively small audience, especially when compared to major players like Google.

Optimizing for DuckDuckGo

Given the limited reach of DuckDuckGo, most SEOs have not bothered to try to optimize for the search engine, instead focusing efforts on Google and, to a lesser degree, Bing. It may be premature to start targeting the young search engine for optimization, even with the inclusion in iOS. But it never hurts to be prepared, especially in SEO, where staying a step ahead of online habits is part of the challenge of the job.

Here are a few tips on how to optimize for DuckDuckGo. Some of these hints will be helpful no matter what search engine you are targeting, but a few of them are clearly meant to increase your chance of a hit on this “smarter” web searcher:

  • Value quality above all else. DuckDuckGo prides itself on its high standards in delivering search results. It won’t offer users a site that it considers subpar, and so the cleaner and more targeted your content, the greater chance you’ll get a hit.
  • Link to Wikipedia. DuckDuckGo highly values crowdsourced sites such as Wikipedia. Linking to them on your pages will get you better results.
  • Don’t block the DuckDuckGo bot. Yeah, seems like obvious advice, but it has to be said.
  • Use geotargeted keywords. The search engine will match you with local search results if you qualify as a local business, averaging under 10,000 visitors per month. But you still need to use smart keywords to show up in results.
  • Optimize your site for mobile. Chances are if someone new finds DuckDuckGo by using iOS 8, they’ll be doing it on a mobile device, either an iPad or an iPhone. Make sure, then, that those mobile surfers can access your site by making it mobile-friendly.

How Will DuckDuckGo Impact Google Targeting?

The answer, at least in the short term: Not much. Right now on the average day Google processes more than two times the number of searches done on DuckDuckGo in a year. That gap will probably shrink with the iOS love, but there’s very little chance that DuckDuckGo will truly infringe on Google’s traffic anytime soon.

And that means that, for now, SEOs shouldn’t be changing their current Google optimization strategy. Instead they should be enhancing it with the tips mentioned above for optimizing search results on DuckDuckGo.

There are many things SEOs can do for Google that will also pay off for DuckDuckGo. For example, putting up better-quality content and using geo-targeted keywords will pay dividends on both search engines.

But in the long run, there is one advantage DuckDuckGo holds over Google, and that’s the lack of privacy concerns. Google holds on to search data long after you’ve typed in your keyword, and that’s disturbing to a great many online users. They would prefer to have an anonymous footprint, and so eventually, with more publicity about DuckDuckGo and more outcry over Google’s complete lack of regard for privacy, there could be a backlash against the dominant search engine. That’s when SEOs need to really start tweaking their targeting.

The Bottom Line

DuckDuckGo is very promising and could be a big deal sometime in the future. That future will come a little sooner with the inclusion in iOS 8. But it’s still way too early for SEOs to be ripping up their search strategies in favor of the startup. Google’s still king, while DuckDuckGo waits in the wing.


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Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like Blanchard Machinery succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.

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