DuckDuckGo positioned itself as one of the most trafficked search engines in 2013 with 1 billion searches, and it’s acquiring a bigger and bigger user base thanks to its battle in defense of the web searcher’s privacy. All in all, DuckDuckGo (DDG) may as well become Google’s and Bing’s next most determined competitor.
Back on December 2012, I had an email conversation with the CEO of DuckDuckGo, Gabriel Weinberg, a small interview that Prakash Swaminathan of DDG complemented in 2013, when the search engine team implemented new features. Aside from the positive, friendly response I got from the CEO, it’s interesting to see how the DDG team serves both searchers and webmasters with useful tools without getting in the way of their privacy. It says a long way about the real ‘need’ behind other companies’ insistence on invasive technologies.
The birth of DDG and the philosophy behind the search engine
Gabriel says that DuckDuckGo began “as a collection of personal side projects with no grand ambitions”, but this humble project actually became popular over the last two years, especially after web users learned about the risk PRISM meant to their privacy.
But Gabriel “was interested in the use of more structured content like Wikipedia to improve search results as well as ridding them of all the spam that cropped up over the years.” That made the difference for DDG. In fact, just run any search and you will get clean results with no trace of duplicate content. “Only after I launched the site and started interacting with people using it,” Gabriel adds, “did I learn about and embrace the privacy aspects of DuckDuckGo.”
DDG handles search statistics while still respecting searchers’ need to keep their activity private
“We do not store personal identifiably information,” Gabriel says, “so all the searches are anonymous. However, we can still count them pretty effectively in aggregate, and we share these statistics publicly at https://duckduckgo.com/traffic.html“.
If you notice, the traffic stats are pretty accurate, an element that shows how even a webmaster can obtain detailed statistics without intruding your users’ privacy. Webmasters can anonymize statistics with open source analytics tools like Open Web Analytics and Piwik.
Where does DDG take its results from?
As Prakash said in my email interview – and as the search engine’s Sources page reports – DuckDuckGo integrates proprietary results (DuckDuckBot) with results from Yahoo BOSS, Yandex and Bing. The team knows how much money it costs to maintain a proprietary crawler – Bing and Google spend millions of dollars a year for it! – so “(i)nstead,” they say, “we’ve focused on building a better search engine by concentrating on what we think are long-term value-adds — having way more instant answers, way less spam, real privacy and a better overall search experience”.
Good SEO still matters
Webmasters turn to search engines for visibility, web searchers do it to find relevant information. Since DDG doesn’t use only proprietary results, SEO guidelines and the presence of rel=nofollow and its influence on search results depends on the sources’ behavior toward this attribute. However, Gabriel adds that good SEO is “the same as for any search engine – quality content, quality links, good titles, etc.”
In addition, DDG seems to have rely on extra services to help webmasters with their job: “We also have an open source instant answer plugin system at DuckDuckHack. If webmasters have a lot of awesome content that would make good instant answers, e.g. via APIs, they can use that platform to get featured on DuckDuckGo.”
And spammers and scrapers get the door slapped in their face – “We are more aggressive than other search engines at removing questionable content,” Gabriel adds, so do not rely on spun content and junk links to get on with your marketing campaign – there’s no chance with DDG.
When I interviewed Gabriel Weinberg, I mentioned how I noticed that DDG results seem to be incredibly clean of duplicate content. Gabriel replied that they “do try hard to reduce duplicate content. It is important to us like other searches to promote the original source, ideally in an instant answer form.”
A last word
You can read Gabriel Weinberg’s advice for both web users and webmasters to live a healthier search experience at Marketplace.org, but as long as you pay attention to the services you use and you reflect over how much information you really want to give out, regardless that you’re a web user or a webmaster, you’re safe.
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