There is a very good chance that you use Google, not just as your main search engine, but as part of your everyday work.
The fact that they've become a major part of many people's lives is a testament to how well they have done since they burst onto the scene back in the 90s and pushed aside everyone who came their way.
But as we learn more about privacy, combined with how much I know about Google (which is too much) when experimenting with SEO, I had always been concerned by the way Google is dominating the search engine market and what they do with that level of monopoly.
They may be the best one out there, but they're not the only one.In the past, I have experimented with Bing (remember them?) and Yahoo! (ah, the good ol' days), and then gradually moved to the little-known, but growing in popularity, DuckDuckGo.
And today, I can honestly say that DuckDuckGo is my main search engine and this post will explain why I use it, even though a big chunk of my work is related to SEO (which is predominantly focused on Google).
Before everyone jumps on the bandwagon or calls me a hypocrite for going against Google, I need to clarify a few things before going any further.I am not living a Google-free life. I do think they have fantastic products and provide amazing value to the world. And for me personally:
- I own an Android phone
- I share tips about using Google Analytics and use it extensively
- I have a Gmail account
- I currently pay for Google Workspace
- I still use Google when carrying out certain tasks relating to SEO like thinking of content ideas or doing some keyword research
- I use YouTube as well as create and post videos on my YouTube channel
- This site is not blocked from Google so I do benefit from them
Things may change on what products I use in the future but for now, I can't claim to be completely Google-free. But since their search engine is their primary product, it's easier to avoid using their search engine for my general searches.
Feel free to have a debate with me in the comment section at the end of this post.
Who & What is DuckDuckGo?
Founded in 2008 by Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo (DDG) describes itself as "the search engine that doesn't track you":
Unlike Google, which has trackers on almost 75% of the top million websites to track your behaviour and follow you around, DDG does not mine any data about you and sell it on. They believe that your data belongs to you and they want to provide the route to the world wide web without putting together information about you in the background.
And if you think that using incognito will make you private to Google, well think again as it doesn't.DDG have experienced a huge spike in growth after whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked stories about the NSA and the increase in state surveillance. This prompted many people to be more wary about how they engage online, not just on search engines, but on any site.
Since Google's main source of revenue is ads, which is helped by being able to use data about you to sell on to advertisers, it is no wonder that many people consider them an advertising agency disguised as a search engine.But DDG also makes money by using ads.However, instead of collecting data about you and selling it on, they just use keywords.
So if you search for "travel insurance", you get travel insurance ads. If you search for "bmw car" there will be ads for BMW cars.
Why I Use DuckDuckGo & My Concerns With Google
So let's get into the real reasons why DuckDuckGo is my default search engine and my concerns with Google after learning so much about them, whether it's because of SEO or from reading publications about them.
1. DuckDuckGo Don't Track You
Since the main selling point for DDG is about privacy, this is obviously a no-brainer for me.Yes, I still use other websites and social media so they do track you too. However, 1) I can control it via various browser extensions such as Privacy Badger, and 2) I have the option to NOT use Google as my main search engine, whereas there is no like-for-like replacement for Facebook and Twitter.
2. Get Unbiased and Unfiltered Results
Personalisation is not essential for me on most platforms.There are times when personalisation works well and it's needed.
An example would be when you subscribe to particular channels on YouTube or you are repetitively searching for the same topic over and over again.Based on those deliberate actions, particularly when subscribing to a YouTube channel, I chose to receive more information like that.
But just because I searched once for"how to fix a leaky fridge" (that genuinely did happen...and yep, I fixed it), it does not mean I want to receive more of that content or anything similar (like "how to buy a new fridge". Why would I want to do that if I fixed it?!).
Which is why it's worrying that Google/YouTube is not going to take into account any channel subscriptions when presenting content to users:
"Ummmmm Hey @YouTube @TeamYouTube @YTCreators what the heck is this? Please don’t do this. I know your data tells you most people don’t go to videos via sub box, but I subscribe to people and people subscribe to me too. “Subscribe” means I want to see the videos from that creator. pic.twitter.com/bDAy6wyJlK
— JayLiebs (@jayliebs) July 11, 2018
But I do like the fact that DuckDuckGo provides clean, unbiased and unfiltered search results, and I do find what I want pretty quickly.
3. Why Would Google Remove "Don't Be Evil"?
For 18 years, Google have been boasting about their proud "don't be evil" motto from their code of conduct. It was part of their culture for almost 2 decades and it was the backbone of what they stood for.Not anymore, as Google decided to remove it in 2018:
Now I'm not saying that other companies (and even myself) are perfect angels, sing with the birds, play the ukulele and bake cookies all the time.But even if "don't be evil" is not your number 1 motto, it's still something you should believe in, right? Why would you want to remove it? What's the harm in leaving it or even adjusting it to something more up-to-date?Or is it not possible to be good and provide at the same time?
What do you think? 🤔
4. DDG's Search Results Give Me What I Want
In their early days, a lot of people would have questioned the quality of their search results.But over time, I have noticed that they have gotten a lot better and their algorithm has improved. So much so, that I think many people would not know the difference if the branding and colours were not there.
Much like the infamous 'Bing It On' campaign where Bing challenged you to do a blind-test and compare their search results with Google:
However, it's very rare for me to search on DDG, become dissatisfied and then go to Google.(You can have that as a testimonial if you like DuckDuckGo 😁)
5. Monopoly Is Never a Good Thing
Competition is a good thing in any industry and we as consumers benefit massively from it.It pushes companies to be innovative, encourages better quality products and services for the market, maintains high standards and keeps the pricing competitive.
Even though Google do have competition, it's clear that they are the market leader by a large margin.
Of course, monopoly also means that they have to work hard to maintain that dominance, but there is a danger of having too much monopoly, as it will mean they decide on the future of the industry.
6. Forcing Users to Use Your Product Is Never a Good Idea
And the problem with having a monopoly is that you feel as if you can do almost anything.Like when Google has been trying to force everyone to use Google+ (remember them?) before creating a YouTube account or even to comment?(Since then Google+ has closed down...thankfully).
Or pushing people to Google AMP, which is concerning a lot of people.Or using other sites' content and presenting it as their own, instead of visiting the original source's website?Look, Google does provide value and I'm sure they have good intentions at times. But you have to question how much they try to force you (deliberately or otherwise) to use their products.
That's the price of having a monopoly as mentioned above. Those who are highly dependent on Google are not willing to ditch them, even if Google is too aggressive.
7. Clean & Less Distracting Results on DuckDuckGo
A lot has changed since the traditional 10 blue links of a Google search result. Even though they carry out tests all the time to make the experience better, you can't help but wonder whether it's becoming too much.
What I do appreciate with DDG is the simplicity of their search result page. It's not stuffed with features (yet) and it's more pleasing on the eye at times.
Of course, that will depend on what query you are searching for, but most of the time, you will not see lots of additional boxes on the screen.
8. Forcing Users to Remain in Their Ecosystem
Of course, Google is not just a search engine (or an advertising company, or whatever you think they are), they have dozens of free products that allow you to be more productive and help you with your business and your personal life.Write documents on Google Docs.
Get free Gmail accounts and send emails.Store your files on Google Drive.Listen to songs on Google Music.Much like Apple and other companies do, there is a benefit to using multiple products owned by one company, as it means that everything will work smoothly (and despite being cross-compatible, which does make everything easier, it's still easier to remain under one brand).
But it also means that they have even more data about you, so don't be surprised if Google reads your email or scans your documents in your Google Drive.It's free, so they need to get something out of it.
9. Be Creative with "!Bang" & Search on Other Websites from DDG
This is something that no other search engine can do, but you can search thousands of websites directly from DuckDuckGo using their unique !bang feature.Here is how it works.
Each 'bang' starts with an exclamation mark, followed by the name or abbreviation of the website and then you can search for a particular query:
- !amazon shoes or !a shoes - search for shoes on Amazon (US)
- !nf avengers - search for Avengers on Netflix
- !ticketmaster foo fighters - search for Foo Fighters on Ticketmaster
- !w solar system - search for "solar system" on Wikipedia
It sounds tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can find what you're looking for pretty easily. And you can even ask for new ones to be created if you can't find what you're looking for.
The hard part is making the time and effort to learn a few of them, which is not something that many people would do.
And if you don't, you can either use the !bang autocomplete feature or just "duck it" as normal.😁
Even though I have admitted that I still use Google products, the other reason is that I believe in learning to use different platforms and understand how they operate (which is another reason why I use Windows for my desktop, MacBook Pro as my laptop, iPad Mini as my tablet and an Android phone).
It's quite clear that I'm not loyal to one brand and even though I may have certain preferences, I'm definitely not a fanboy of any particular brand.
The same thing applies to search engines – I prefer to use DDG but I still Google for other tasks that the DDG couldn't provide for me. And having an understanding of how the search engine market and how the other search engines operate is key for anyone who spends a lot of time on SEO.
Even if it means using Bing from time to time too!
But I know that by using DDG, I get a very similar experience to Google when it comes to carrying out a normal search. And more often than not, I find what I am looking for without giving away my data.
Of course, if you are worried about your privacy when using Google's products, make sure you look at your activity, delete what's necessary and block anything that you don't want Google to see.
Just be aware that it won't make you 100% invisible to Google, and that there are many other culprits out there that take data about you, with Facebook being a major player in this.
So I'm curious to ask:
- Have you ever heard of DuckDuckGo before?
- Does the amount of data that Google gathers concern you?
- Do you ever see yourself using a different search engine (any of them)?
Let me know in the comment section below. I'd love to know your thoughts on this.