Imagine this scenario: one day while mining referral data (which you do often because, after all, you’re a data-driven marketer!), you come across a site with a funny kids’ game name: DuckDuckGo. Having never heard of this site, you type it into your search browser to learn more – only to find that DuckDuckGo is a search engine itself.

Have no fear if this has happened to you, or even if you have never heard of DuckDuckGo until this very moment; we will get you up to speed on all you need to know about the internet’s privacy search engine.

DuckDuckGo Becomes a Thing

Entrepreneur Gabriel Weinberg had the idea to create a new and improved search engine back in 2006. The premise was simple: provide users with a completely anonymous search engine experience. In 2008, Weinberg personally funded and solo founded the company, but the engine truly came to fruition in 2010 when he enlisted a public user committee to provide input for ways to improve the search experience on site and raise awareness among potential new adoptees. The model then became self funded in 2011 when the first investors (Union Square Ventures) bought into the idea. By summer 2013, nearly 1.7 million searches per day were performed on the engine; then came reports of potential NSA leaks from former employee Edward Snowden. With internet privacy concerns top of mind, traffic to DuckDuckGo doubled to 3 million searches per day, firmly establishing DuckDuckGo as a viable search engine alternative.

The Anonymous Search Experience

Unlike the big three search engines (Google, Bing and Yahoo), Weinberg envisioned a completely anonymous search engine experience. As such, DuckDuckGo was created to protect searchers’ privacy and therefore, does not store IP or user information of any kind. Consistent with Weinberg’s vision, this search experience avoids what he calls the ‘filter bubble’ of personalized search results. While personalized search results theoretically are good for the user experience (users are only exposed to the things that have a high likelihood of being of interest to them and are therefore highly relevant), criticism stems from the fact that these users are placed in a ‘bubble’ and not exposed to new or different results that could be meaningful and of future interest, while still being relevant.

Without personalized search results, all searchers entering a given search term query receive the same results regardless of previous actions taken. The search engine crowdsources results from several information sources such as Wikipedia as well as through partnerships with other search engines and through a proprietary web-crawler called DuckDuckBot. So rather than prioritizing the collection of results from a higher volume of sources, according to Weinberg, this model prioritizes the collection of results from the best sources.

What are the Opportunities for Marketers?

Though DuckDuckGo’s 3 million searches per day are dwarfed by Google’s respective 13 billion and despite being a ‘privacy’ search engine, DuckDuckGo is in fact supported by advertising. DuckDuckGo is actually part of Yahoo’s syndicate network, meaning that advertisers on the Yahoo-Microsoft platform can have ads automatically appear on the DuckDuckGo engine platform as a Bing partner site. These results are shown as highlighted sponsor links above the organic search results, as shown below:


The caveat to DuckDuckGo’s privacy status is that there are limited targeted advertising capabilities (due to the lack of user data collected) and the engine does not share user data with the searched websites that users ultimately transfer to. As a marketer, this certainly means less visibility into the search behavior leading to site traffic and ultimate actions taken -something to consider and weigh against any campaign goals before advertising on the engine.