DuckDuckGo entered the spotlight soon after the PRISM scandal scared the world.

The main selling point of this search engine is the fact that DuckDuckGo doesn’t track its users. While Google’s entire business is built around data collection and advertising, DuckDuckGo just uses contextual advertising – without the invasion of privacy.

Its slogan, “The search engine that doesn’t track you,” has only helped it to grow in popularity in the past few years. In 2012, it was getting 1 million daily searches, but that number has grown to over 7 million per day in 2015.

Though this number is a far cry from Google’s 3.5 billion daily searches, the private search engine’s market share looks set to continue indefinitely.

DuckDuckGo Grows

While most startup search engines haven’t been successful, DuckDuckGo has somehow managed to stand out and succeed. Part of the reason may be because the search engine is specifically designed to be “less creepy and less invasive” than its counterparts, according to The Verge.

Although this specific value proposition may only be enough to convert a small segment of worldwide web searchers, it’s still enough to generate revenue for the smaller search engine.

DuckDuckGo makes money the same way Google does – through contextual advertising – but, as mentioned, they don’t collect data or track users.

In September 2014 interview with Search Engine Land, CEO Gabriel Weinberg said that DuckDuckGo offers the “benefits of privacy without any sacrifice in quality.”

This interview comes a few months after the search engine performed a major design overhaul. The interface was modernized to look more “like a real search engine,” as Search Engine Land put it. Maps, local search, image search, local weather, recipe searches, auto-suggested searches, and many other functions were included in the new iteration.

And as DuckDuckGo “comes of age,” as it were, some marketers have begun to inquire into DuckDuckGo SEO best practices. Though the total number of daily searches may be smaller than Google’s, optimization for this little engine may be useful for demographic segments that fall into its user base.

How to Optimize for DuckDuckGo

If your target demographic falls inside the DuckDuckGo user base, then there are a few basic SEO strategies you can use to keep your site in front of the privacy-focused user.

The well-known search marketing specialist, Neil Patel, went over a few essential optimization strategies that hold true for pretty much any search engine you use:

Focus on the users. Websites are often the first and last point of contact with your customers, so make sure that you create a “killer website” that prioritizes the user experience.

Get backlinks. And a great way to get backlinks is by adding value. Even DuckDuckGo’s algorithm ranks sites based on the quality and quantity of backlinks.

Semantics is the way that search engines search. Like Google, DuckDuckGo uses a contextual library that attempts to understand the underlying intention of search queries. Though optimizing for semantic search and user intent (as opposed to keyword-driven queries) is outside the scope of this article, there are certainly resources that cover tips and best practices.

Get precise with your location. While DuckDuckGo does attempt to generate local results with your IP address – depending on how you access the internet and your IP’s location – users will need to be a little more specific with their queries to generate the right results. That means, then, in order to tell users exactly where you are, your website should contain “hyperlocal” search terms.

The Future of Private Search

In June of 2014, Apple and DuckDuckGo announced that they had struck a deal: future versions of Safari would include a built-in option to use DuckDuckGo. Did this deal contribute to the spike in queries?

A quick glance at the search engine’s query traffic shows a big jump after it was introduced into Safari. Between then and now, search queries have grown from an average of 5 million queries per day to over 8 million queries per day…and that number is only growing.

More queries means more advertising revenue for the search engine, so it can continue to flesh out its existing feature set. DuckDuckHack, for instance, is an open-source project that will allow users to help enhance the search engine’s functionality. People can work together to create answers that appear in search results, much like the Google Knowledge Graph appears alongside Google’s search results.

Not everyone is happy with DuckDuckGo, however. In September, Search Engine Watch reported that DuckDuckGo was 98% blocked in China. And on February 5th of this year, Greatfire.org shows that it is 100% blocked.


While DuckDuckGo may never break the back of the search giant that is Google, the smaller engine’s traffic growth demonstrates a clear demand for private search. And despite the fact that users aren’t tracked, DuckDuckGo is still able to offer up robust features and contextual advertising.

Marketers whose target audience includes privacy-focused individuals would do well to pay attention to the continued growth of this search engine.