Google vs. DuckDuckGo

SEO Chicago
Alex Straley
June 12, 2013

As you all are likely aware, there has been a recent concern over privacy since it was revealed that the NSA was compiling private information about people using information taken from companies like Google.  Whether or not these concerns will have any lasting effect is difficult to say, but there has recently been a sharp rise in the use of a search engine that promises to keep all of your searches completely anonymous; a claim that Google cannot make. On Monday, more than 2 million searches took place on DuckDuckGo, 400,000 more searches from the day before. It seems doubtful that this spike is unrelated to people’s concerns about their privacy.

So how do DuckDuckGo search results compare with Google’s? I conducted a simple test to find out.

I searched three different terms in both engines. The first search, a very witty and original “test search term”, resulted in the same first hit: Wikipedia. This isn’t really that surprising since Wikipedia is so popular and massive, but the following results differed slightly. Google focused on “search engine tests” for listings 2, 3 and 5. The other results were about “text search” and one listing from Urban Dictionary at position 10.

DuckDuckGo interpreted the results similarly with listing 2 and 6, but that’s where the similarities ended. Listing 3 was a definition of test from, 4 was the same urban dictionary result that was in 10 in Google, and the other results were mostly about tests at schools or testing an internet connection.

The second search was for “hat”.  On Google, Wikipedia came in first, Amazon in second, in third, Lids in fourth and Nordstrom in fifth. The rest were similarly for clothing and hats.

On DuckDuckGo, Lids placed first and Wikipedia second. Amazon didn’t come until position 9 and and Nordstrom did not appear on the first page of DuckDuckGo.

Instead, DuckDuckGo seemed very set on defining “hat” for me, ranking different definitions at 6 and 8. Plus, DuckDuckGo had a special box at the top giving me definitions and explanations outside of the search rankings.

The final search was for “perfect search media” to see how the two would perform with a brand name search. Google’s search results consisted of webpages owned or created by Perfect Search Media like main website, the Twitter page and the Facebook page.

DuckDuckGo results were similar with the exception of a few pages from outside sources that contained the phrase “perfect search media.” Overall, the results were fairly similar on both engines for the brand search term.

So what’s the takeaway here? It’s not too surprising that Google’s results seemed more sophisticated and generated more options related to the specific search term. However, DuckDuckGo performed well and gave me a wide variety of different pages, many of which were probably less common to see rank in the top ten on Google.

As Google algorithm shifts toward favoring quality content, it is interesting to see how other engines navigate the playing field. DuckDuckGo can’t personalize its results since it builds itself on not tracking people’s searches or information. For this reason it may have a wider variety of results that rank, such as webpages that define the search term and others devoted to selling products.

There’s no telling if DuckDuckGo will continue to rise in use as rapidly as it has the past few days, but if users continue to diversify their search engine usage then it will certainly have an effect on industries like search engine optimization. Search results may begin to show more diversity in the websites ranking. Who knows? However, it is clear that optimizing the content of a website is becoming more important every day, especially if searcher’s preferences become harder to track.

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