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Web browser privacy concerns
Over the last few years, customer privacy has become a huge discussion point for online search engines. Google has the dominant market share in this space, with the latest figures stating a huge 92% share of search traffic worldwide.

Therefore, as you might expect, Google has been hit with a number of privacy complaints, accusations and even lawsuits. They all centre around how Google collects internet users’ personal information, tracks their data and discloses this to advertisers, third parties and governments.

This has inevitably led to more people asking if there is an alternative to Google’s monopoly – one which gives the user more control and is less invasive. Enter the rise in private search engines such as DuckDuckGo and Search Encrypt.

DuckDuckGo’s mission is straightforward: “privacy simplified – take control of your personal information online, without any trade-offs”. DuckDuckGo blocks cookies that track your online activity and doesn’t save your search history, therefore giving the user more confidentiality. Search Encrypt also has added protection – after 15 minutes of inactivity, your search history expires.

How does this affect Paid advertising?
The biggest impact private browsers have on advertising is no cookie-based tracking, ultimately making it more difficult to engage in omnichannel marketing and stopping advertisers from retargeting customers after they visit a website.

Search results will therefore be based solely on the keyword. The user’s personal profile, search history, interests and demographics won’t be considered as they are on Google. Ads therefore will be more standard, without being individually personalised.

For the user, this could be seen as both a pro and/or a con, depending on their personal preference. If privacy is of the utmost importance, then the person can protect their personal data and receive an unbiased search result each time.

However, there are also a substantial proportion of users that like having specific results tailored to their interests and behaviours. Having targeted ads allows for more advanced results, improving the customer journey and overall relevancy of the search.

As you can imagine, the benefits of showing ads on Google’s more personalised platform for advertisers are huge, as it allows you access to customer insights across Google’s range of platforms such as Gmail, Maps, YouTube, and Display network. Companies can better engage with each type of audience, retarget to them in the future and increase the returns on each marketing campaign.

How does this affect search engine optimisation (SEO)?
In terms of SEO on private search engines, there are fewer differences than for Paid advertising. The fundamentals of good SEO practices are still relevant, however, due to the lack of tracking personal data, there will still be some limitations.

For example, DuckDuckGo doesn’t collect location data, which means that local SEO is more difficult. The search engine will ask the user if they want to share their location and then pull results from Apple maps. However, if they refuse to share this data, then “services near me” type searches won’t return accurate results. The best way to combat this would be to ensure you use local keywords within your on-site content strategy.

There could also be difficulties if you have physical locations. Similar to the above, if users don’t enable location-based searches, then your actual location on maps won’t appear, thus reducing the potential footfall and traffic to your business premises.

To help maximise your local SEO options on these smaller search engines, in the event that users do opt into location targeting, you can claim your location in Apple maps and Bing places for business.

What is the actual impact on the market?
Since 2017, when the privacy debate really began to gain momentum, DuckDuckGo has seen a large rise in search volumes and market share, with 100 million searches a day in 2022, and a market share of 2.5% in the USA.

However, their global search engine market share is still only 0.6% across all platforms. Now in competition with Yahoo (1.3%) & Bing (3.6%), but still far behind Google’s overarching position.

DuckDuckGo are not afraid to aggressively advertise against Google though, recently creating TV ad campaigns to show their differences in privacy policy:

There are also other private search engines that are helping environmental and social causes with their work too, such as German-based, which promises to plant trees in exchange for searches.

That being said, these figures are tiny compared to Google’s 92% global search market share. In addition to Gmail, YouTube and other platforms that Google owns, they are still by far global leaders in this space.

This means that major advertisers will likely be staying with Google in the near future, where they have much more traffic available, in addition to the advantages of personalised and omnichannel ad campaigns. As with all technology though, industry changes can happen fast. As the community of users wanting more control over their data gets louder, this may be an area to keep an eye on.