When it comes to browsing the Internet, privacy has been a constant concern, and this year is proving to be no different. In fact, could 2016 be the benchmark year for search engines that respect our privacy?

It’s no secret that users are continuing to find alternative ways to search and shop online without compromising privacy, and it is search engines such as DuckDuckGo and StartPage that offer the solution. Promising not to collect or share any personal information (including search queries, cookies and computer and location information), this appealing kind of search engine is becoming ever more popular in our transparent online world.

DuckDuckGo is extremely open with its query data and willingly offers its usage statistics to anyone who may be interested.

This is its second year of what can undoubtedly be classed as rocket growth. In January 2014, monthly searches totalled nearly 136 million, making the daily average direct search queries around the 4.3 million mark. January 2015 saw that daily average figure nearly double at 7.7 million, and January 2016 has been no different.

DuckDuckGo has nearly tripled its growth this year, with daily average direct search queries hitting 11 million and a total of 269 million searches performed to date this month. It’s important to note that some of that growth can be attributed to some major changes that occurred in late 2014, such as Apple including it as a search option in Safari and Mozilla including it as an option within Firefox.


Data: DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo has done a lot of great work, but what future effect does – or could – it have in terms of a paid search perspective?

If you’re currently running a Bing Ads account, you may already be advertising on DuckDuckGo without even realising, as it is one of Bing’s syndicated search partners. If you’re not running Bing Ads, maybe now is the time. The continued growth and popularity of these anonymity-promising search engines doesn’t look like a trend that is going to slow down any time soon.

When digging a little further through the Analytics of one of my clients, I noticed that DuckDuckGo had started to appear more, but as referral traffic. The majority of other large search engines, such as Ask, Yahoo and Bing, appear as organic traffic. Depending on what your reporting goals are, or how you prefer to report, it’s important you decide where you determine these search engines to lie – either within referral or organic. To change how DuckDuckGo appears within Analytics, all you need to do is apply an advanced filter. This can be done at either account or view level:


Field A -> Extract A campaign source should contain: (http:\/\/)?(([^.]+)\.)?duckduckgo\.com

From an SEO perspective, I suppose the more referral traffic, the better (hooray!). I know DuckDuckGo is still a fraction of the size of Google, but its rapid growth has to mean something, and for advertisers the future is set to change. I do not doubt the power behind the private search engines, and I’m sure eventually Google will class DuckDuckGo and the like as organic traffic, but it’s about being ahead of the game and doing what feels right for your client. If you have huge amounts of referral traffic which you report on and you notice DuckDuckGo is one of the largest contributors, it may be worth considering filtering this for accuracy alone. I guess it’s one of those things that rely on intuition and knowing your accounts inside out.

Regardless of reporting, it’s a worthy note for the beginning of 2016. Private search engines are here to stay and, as digital marketers, it’s our job to anticipate and adapt to them.