What Digital Privacy Means for Paid Advertising

Lines of code that say "personal data"

KLIK Staff

March 3, 2022

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In a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, 81% of customers reported that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the potential benefits. 
So, what do companies like DuckDuckGo, Qwant, and Startpage all have in common? They all offer privacy-oriented, alternative search engines to Google. It is called “privacy-as-a-service” (PaaS) – and users of search engines are interested. DuckDuckGo currently averages more than 100 million searches each day, and it is one of the most downloaded browsing apps on Android. There is a push from users for a more privacy-centric search experience, and this trend is going to have an impact on advertisers.

How Do These Privacy-Centric Search Engines Work?

Google serves different results to different people, even if the search query is the same. These results are based on the user’s age, gender, location, and previous search history. Google search results are unique and personal to the user, and the algorithm serves results based on data that the company collects across Search, Gmail, YouTube, etc. 

The DuckDuckGo model eliminates the user from the equation when providing search results. The company does not collect data on its users, and search results depend solely on the keywords that are in the query itself. To make revenue, DuckDuckGo uses a more traditional method of sponsored ads and affiliate commissions. These ads are privacy-friendly and are solely based on your search query! 

Ecosia is a privacy-focused search engine that utilizes Bing’s search results – and they plant trees the more you use it. Like DuckDuckGo, they make money from traditional sponsored ads based on your search query. This search engine not only emphasizes privacy but also focuses on sustainability. They are transparent with their users as well – sharing monthly financial reports to highlight the amount of money that they contribute to a greater, eco-friendly mission.

What does this mean for advertisers?

Currently, Google is still where the majority of consumers search – holding around 87% of search engine utilization. DuckDuckGo currently only stands at about 1% of search engine utilization. While Google still dominates the search-engine market, they have been forced to address users’ concerns for privacy. Google recently announced that privacy is one of its top priorities for 2022. They just updated their privacy playbook to emphasize three main objectives: building direct and transparent relationships with customers,  ensuring measurement remains actionable and accurate and focusing on serving ads that are relevant to the consumer. 

As privacy becomes a bigger concern for customers, advertisers should start to consider alternative search engines when crafting marketing strategies and reporting on analytics. Take steps to understand how other search engines work and how user demographics vary by search engine. 

Alternative privacy-centric search engines have smaller traffic volume than Google – and this is not necessarily a bad thing! Ranking competition is often less on search engines like DuckDuckGo due to fewer SERP features and ads in top-ranking positions. While search volume might be low, the elevated ranking position could give you a much better chance of getting both clicks and conversions. 

The conversation surrounding privacy and data collection is just beginning, and advertisers should be aware of how these platforms are evolving

Do you need help building out your SEM strategy for privacy-focused search engines? Find out how KLIK can assist you.

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