Can pro-privacy search engines replace Google?


Consumers of all ages and ages are increasingly aware of their growing reliance on technology, often at the expense of their privacy.

According to the Pew Research Center, 80% of Americans think the potential risks of businesses collecting personal data outweigh the benefits, and 79% of adults are very or somewhat concerned about how businesses use that data.

As a result, Privacy as a Service (PaaS) is something consumers see less of a bonus and more of a necessity.

Search engines other than Google are fueling users’ desires for something that is lacking today: digital privacy. Search engines provide an essential service, but while financially free, they are certainly not free.

This cost represents a certain level of intrusion into the lives of users, as technology companies (namely Google) collect data on online habits and use that data to optimize their marketing efforts.

The favorite for privacy research is DuckDuckGo, but a new privacy-focused rival to Google has recently been launched – Brave.

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Brave is a sophisticated, privacy-friendly, no-tracking search engine co-founded by the inventor of JavaScript and co-founder of Mozilla, which gives it clout in the industry.

According to the “privacy-first” search engine:

“Brave Search doesn’t track you, your searches or your clicks; it is not possible for Brave to disclose information about you to anyone.

Any future ads that we may support will be anonymized (like all other Brave ads) and will not influence rankings. In the future, we will also offer paid search without advertising.

Even compared to DuckDuckGo, Brave (in some ways) outperforms the competition:

  • Brave offers its own index, which gives it independence from other search engines. Conversely, DuckDuckGo’s results are a compilation of “over 400” sources, including Bing, Yandex, Yahoo! Look for BOSS, Wolfram Alpha, his own web crawler, and more.
  • Ad-free option. Brave searchers can opt for a paid version that allows them to explore the web ad-free.
  • Better control of location. Whichever region you choose for the search results, the Brave search provides an additional option to filter the results based on location.

Should marketers care about privatized non-Google search engines?

Google has become a verb; a synonymous term to perform an online search.

This is where the vast majority of consumers research, holding about 87% use of search engines, with Bing at 7%, Yahoo at 3% and DuckDuckGo (the veteran private search engine) at 1%.

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Unsurprisingly, Brave is not yet on the charts. However, with digital privacy hitting the headlines, compromised privacy can start to worry consumers enough to take action.

The problem is that knowledge of engines other than Google is low. “Secondary” research providers face the challenge of increasing consumer awareness.

The hurdle is that they have to offer users a strong value proposition and a method to change their default search engine that is easy and without sacrifice.

At this point, search engines other than Google continue to innovate in the hope of capturing new loyal users.

Bing just announced IndexNow, a new initiative that allows site owners to ping IndexNow with new or updated content.

Only Bing and Yandex currently use IndexNow, but this initiative is clearly an offer to appeal to SEO professionals and webmasters with the ability to have faster indexing and hopefully faster rankings.

With this, Google shouldn’t be afraid of being dethroned.

But that doesn’t mean marketers shouldn’t be prepared for the future which, as we’ve learned over the past couple of years, can change its course in no time.

What should search marketers keep in mind as privacy becomes a major concern for consumers?

Use alternative search engines

You will only understand the viability of switching to non-Google search engines by trying them firsthand. You will undoubtedly find some feature gaps, especially if you are a super user.

For example, DuckDuckGo does not have the reverse image search capabilities offered by Google and Bing.

Considering the value of privacy, especially if you don’t need bells and whistles, Google can be pretty easy to forget.

Consider alternative search engines when designing marketing strategies and performance reporting

It is becoming increasingly essential for marketing teams to move away from Google when it comes to strategy and analytics, especially with organic search.

Take steps to understand how other search engines work and recognize that user demographics vary among search engines.

For example, Bing users tend to be older and use Microsoft and Alexa devices. The share of your business’s traffic coming from different engines also varies, especially if you’re operating in a niche industry or targeting a niche audience.

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Plus, by only reporting Google’s performance, you’re missing a piece of the puzzle. Monitoring performance across a wide range of engines gives you a complete picture of organic search performance.

Quality, Competition, and Relevance Often Trump Search Volume

Considering their small footprint, expect low traffic volume from smaller engines. However, the competition in the rankings is often less due to fewer SERP features and ads in the top positions.

For example, a high search volume healthcare related query appeared on page two of Google search results due to high authority aggregation sites and ads saturating the first page, but appeared in position four (page one) organic search results on Brave search (no ads to see).

While the search volume on Brave is low, the high ranking position can level the playing field and start to significantly narrow the gap between the two engines.

Often, marketers pay too much attention to search volume. But the point is (unless your marketing goal is brand awareness), even three visits with a 50% conversion rate are better than 1,000 visits without conversions.

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With a higher potential to rank higher on Brave or DuckDuckGo than Google, you have a much better chance of getting both the click and the conversion.

Conclusion

I challenge you to use an “alternative” search engine for a week or just check your top keyword rankings. See how you stack up.

Is there less competition? Fewer ads? Are you better ranked?

Maybe reciprocating engines are more viable than you think.

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Featured Image: New Africa / Shutterstock


Rosemary S. Bishop