DuckDuckGo Versus Google: Battle of the Search Engines

It’s a growing concern, our privacy online. Not necessarily because we’re embarrassed that we’ve been searching for memes online all day. More of the concerns around internet privacy arise when you start getting targeted PPC ads for things you searched for just once on Google or mentioned on Facebook chat to your mates. And it’s not just paid ads; algorithms also understand what organic links you click on, so SEO is also tracked. Let’s not forget that ‘free’ apps like Messenger, Whatsapp, and Viber are fodder for data giants like Google, Twitter and Facebook. Your data is a commodity to be bought and sold in exchange for free texting and phone calls.

We all know that Google tracks us. Some care, others don’t. I was stunned to find out a year or so ago that if you’ve got Google on your phone, you can find a route marking your activity for the day using the ‘Timeline’ feature on Google Maps. Yep, your commute, your trip to the shops, the pub, everywhere.

So yeah, we’re being tracked. Don’t worry- if it’s freaking you out you can disable it.

Not all of us like the thought of being tracked, both in where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing on our phones or online. It’s all a bit ‘Big Brother’ – and look how that ended.

Why Are Tech Companies Tracking Us

It’s supposed to be about the User Experience.

Looking for a hair-dresser? Google can show you a nearby one.

If you’ve been browsing a few sites for holiday clothes, each one is likely to remember what you provisionally put in the basket when you go back with a final decision.

Been comparing Savings accounts? You bet there’ll be an ad for a Savings account on the next site you visit.

These are all contributing factors to making our online experiences personalised enough so it’s as little effort as possible for us to find what we need. Years ago, consumers were peppered with ads from brands that had no relation to their interests or hobbies. The knock-on effect was advertisers got very poor click through rates and consumers were increasingly annoyed by the volume of banner ads and emails from brands they had no interest in at all.

The more sophisticated search engine and paid marketing technology get, the better targeting is available to brands. Even television is in on the trick, with Video on Demand replicating online efforts to serve ads only to households that fit a profile.

However, there are some blurred lines as to when it is, and isn’t, ok for our online activity to be tracked, and then shared with third parties for marketing purposes.


Our story so far is the preamble to the existence of DuckDuckGo.

Their website states that “getting the privacy you deserve online should be as simple as closing the blinds”.

It started in 2008, beginning as an idea for a better search engine experience, making a bold move not to track user history in 2010.

Broadening their usage to 1 million searches a day in 2012, they grew to 20 million daily searches in 2017.

In 2018, DuckDuckGo extended their privacy protection offering beyond just the search box. There are now add-ons for smartphones, Safari, Firefox and more.

Apparently, in case you were wondering, the name was inspired by the game ‘Duck Duck Goose’. Rumour has it that the company uses the verb ‘Duck it’ instead of ‘Google it’.

So, when your phone autocorrects to ‘Duck it’, it might not seem so ridiculous anymore. Who knows?

What's Better: Google or DuckDuckGo?

Well, DuckDuckGo won’t follow you around with ads if that’s what you’re after. This is simply because it doesn’t store IP addresses or search history. As a result, there’s no data to use or sell on to third parties, whether browsing in private mode or not.

Both of the sites have a similar layout in terms of appearance, the results page, sponsored posts and knowledge panels. Google always seems to know what you want to search for, often recommending search phrases the more you type in the box.

With DuckDuckGo, the knowledge panel isn’t quite as intuitive as Google.

I searched ‘the queen’ in both. Google’s knowledge panel showed me details of HRH Elizabeth II and some info pulled from her Wikipedia page. The panel on DuckDuckGo showed me an introduction to the evil queen from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

DuckDuckGo crawls mainly Bing and Yahoo for its results, but that one did make me laugh. It looks like there’s still a way to go with the capabilities to rival Google’s intelligence.

By way of comparison, as of January 2019, Google’s share of the Search Engine market was 89.95%. Bing has just under 4%, and DuckDuckGo’s share is approximately 0.22%. That is one heck of a contrast. So they’re not doing too badly to be getting 20 million daily searches.

What Algorithms are Used for SEO?

Google is constantly updating its algorithms, ranking signals and all sorts thanks to Artificial Intelligence. Having ownership of Youtube and Gmail, Google Docs and more gives them more dominance across more than just search.

Internet privacy becomes possible with DuckDuckGo.

The fact that they have their own analytics tools means they won’t be slowing down on the tracking anytime soon. After all, if it helps user experience, why stop?

Contrastingly, DuckDuckGo has no analytics tools, for obvious reasons – there’s nothing to track.

It does, however, have an element of SEO. The usual suspects such as link building from reliable sources, having an awesome website and using relevant keywords for semantic search are all needed. Because it crawls the likes of Bing and Yahoo for results, it will be their SEO models that DuckDuckGo is working with.

The only place where DuckDuckGo falls down is with local results. Because it doesn’t track your IP address, it can get a rough idea of your location but any results for ‘…near me’ can’t be expected to be precise.

The Verdict

For users who are highly concerned about their internet privacy, DuckDuckGo may be one to try. It’s easy enough to add into your browser. Optimising for any of these search engines considers the basics of on-page stuff, backlinks, organic links and so on.

As more advertising goes mobile, each mobile user should consider the data they share through their mobiles. Look at location sharing on-and-off apps and linking apps to one another, all of which you should be able to check in your phone’s settings.

After all, online tracking is there to deliver us tailored results and improve our experiences. There’s no way that it would be able to do that without data. If it gets too much, you can use DuckDuckGo for mobile.

Let’s be honest, though. If you can’t find something on DuckDuckGo, you’ll probably end up just thinking ‘duck it’ and Googling it instead. Regardless of your target audience, you should turn to a digital marketing business with the expertise to support paid and SEO strategies that get results, like ActiveWin. Get in touch today!