a man using binoculars to look through a window
PHOTO: Pixabay

Today’s consumers value privacy more than ever before and they’re losing trust in the tech giants that collect enormous amounts of their personal data on a daily basis. That’s why adoption for privacy-centric alternatives has been on the rise. DuckDuckGo, for example, has steadily risen in search volume from 34 million in January 2018 to over 50 million so far this year.

In 2020, therefore, search engine alternatives beyond Google could see greater adoption. So, we asked some SEO experts why consumers are adopting other search engines, and whether brands should care.

Why Consumers Are (Slowly) Moving Towards Alternative Search Engines

Consumers are adopting alternative search engines due to concerns over privacy, aggressive advertising, search manipulation and data sharing practices used by Google and other large tech companies.


“Privacy is, of course, the primary reason by far,” said Bart Turczynski, SEO manager at Zety. That’s why DuckDuckGo, StartPage, Qwant, and all the other popular alternatives, include privacy in their branding.  “Not only is the safety of our personal information imperative to us,” he continued, “but the idea that it is being used by marketers for ad targeting purposes is nauseating.”

Aggressive Advertising

"While there’s nothing wrong with ads, searchers are starting to feel claustrophobic when using Google search. Consumers are losing trust that the results are most relevant to them, and not who has paid the most for a better Google ranking," said Kevin Geary, COO of Hamon Creative. “Given these changes, search engines like DuckDuckGo are becoming more and more appealing to the average searcher.”

Search Manipulation

In addition, Geary believes consumers are concerned with search manipulation. Google is losing its reputation as the most accurate and objective search engine on the market. “Instead, they’re becoming known for the most corporate-sponsored search results which are all boxed in by paid advertising.” Paid search, featured snippets, and other sets of advertising now take up a significant portion of the content, which limits the number of organic search results.

Selling Consumer Data

“On top of that,” Geary continued, “users are tired of having their data tracked to the smallest, most intimate details and then watching that data get sold off to third parties.” The large tech companies have such size and ubiquitousness that they have a monopoly on consumer data. “We know intuitively that too much power leads to corruption and is almost never in the best interest of the client,” agreed Turczynski and “to some extent, we’re starting to see the nascent stages of this backlash against Google.”

Related Article: What Should An AI-Driven Search Engine Be Able To Do?

Should Brands Care About Search Engine Alternatives?

While alternative search platforms are seeing more adoption, they still have such a small market share that Turczynski doesn’t believe it's worth the effort yet. Google still accounts for nearly all of the total searches worldwide, and Bing follows with the second largest market share. “Thus,” he said, “the juice is totally not worth the squeeze as the volume is simply not there.”

That’s not to say marketers shouldn’t be keeping an eye on these search engines though. “With time if they do indeed take off and say break 10% to 15% market share, then it is in the interest of brands to start evaluating strategies for establishing a presence there,” Turczynski said. In addition, if your brand aligns with the privacy niche then it may be worth considering as well.

Jeff Romero, cofounder of Octiv Digital, agreed that brands and digital marketing teams need to focus on where the majority of their customers search, which is most likely Google. “However, it’s important to keep alternative search engine trends in mind, especially while reviewing Google Analytics data.” There’s a chance your brand could receive some relevant traffic on another search engine that’s worth looking into. 

“If there’s a significant bump in referral traffic from an alternative search engine, Romero said, “it could mean an opportunity to connect with more customers using that particular search engine.” But most digital marketers should continue spending most of their time focused on Google to make the most of a limited budget and resources.

Are Alternative Search Engines the New Frontier?

While it’s clear the adoption of alternative search engines is growing, their market shares still don’t compare to Google. That’s why the experts agree that focusing on these platforms at this point is not the best use of marketing resources. Search engine market shares determine the reach a brand can expect, so, for the most part, these platforms are still too small to matter. “However, say that with time they grow large enough (such as Instagram) or establish a robust footprint in a niche (i.e. Pinterest), only then will digital marketers want to give them a second look and consider including them,” Turczynski said.