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The Basics of DuckDuckGo SEO Marketing

The Basics of DuckDuckGo SEO Marketing

Recently you might have heard about DuckDuckGo – the search engine that emphasizes giving its users privacy and a tracking-free experience. The whole point of DuckDuckGo is that the search engine doesn’t permanently track user sessions or store their browsing info.

So how does this search engine work, how can marketers use this search engine to expand their marketing efforts? How does DuckDuckGo SEO marketing work?

It is possible market your business on their platform, and many businesses already know how important organic search traffic is. Search engine traffic is the largest channel for internet traffic in the world, driving more than half of all internet traffic, and about 40% of all internet revenue. With a good SEO strategy, businesses know they can gain a great amount of website traffic and boost their revenue – but how does that work with DuckDuckGo? And how does this relatively new search engine compare to Google or Bing and is SEO any different for DuckDuckGo?

We’ll go over a few of the key elements of the search engine as well as its ranking factors and what good optimization strategies might work for you.

What is DuckDuckGo?

The DuckDuckGo homepage

DuckDuckGo isn’t actually that new. The search engine was created in 2008, and now gets about 2 billion searches every month. Their goal is very straightforward “no tracking, no ad targeting.”

A lot of internet searchers are uncomfortable with how Google has famously run and improved its search engine over the years by tracking the way people use it and by collecting data on search behavior. But according to DuckDuckGo, their search engine is truly private, while still giving users everything they expect from the other dominant search engines.

Since people are more and more concerned about internet privacy, DuckDuckGo has become a lot more popular. In 2013 they were getting barely 2 million searches yearly, by 2018 they were getting 21 million searches and now they claim to get more than 2 billion every month (the true amount is hard to know for certain without tracking user-based data). Their reported yearly revenue is about $26 million – coming from their paid-ad options similar to the pay-per-click ads on Google and Bing.

Is DuckDuckGo SEO worthwhile?

It could be.

The truth is that DuckDuckGo SEO is a little unclear and there’s not as much information about how this search engine indexes and ranks websites compared to other search engines.

Plus, DuckDuckGo has a much smaller search audience compared to other search engines. As recently as this year it’s U.S. search market share is a respectable but still tiny 1.7%, compared to Google which has about 88% of the search market and Bing which – despite the business power of Microsoft – has only about 6.7% of searches. DuckDuckGo even comes after Yahoo which sources its search results from Bing and represents just over 3% of searches.

Despite its small share though, it has grown rapidly recently. Its share of all internet searches has doubled since 2017 along with a 55% increase in search queries. It also has a larger share in mobile search than Bing does (1.66% and 1.15% respectively). In fact one of the biggest markets for DuckDuckGo SEO could be for mobile search – where it’s exploded in popularity. In Q2 2019, DuckDuckGo caught up with Google for a percentage of organic searches from mobile devices – meaning that its mobile usage has also improved. It’s also partnered with companies like Samsung for phones, and it’s now a default search engine option for iOS on iPhones.

Finally, over a third of its traffic comes from the US. All this means that a DuckDuckGo marketing strategy could be useful for some businesses. Plus, if you’re are already doing SEO for Google or Bing, you’re already doing some SEO for DuckDuckGo!

In fact DuckDuckGo sources some of its search results (in part) from Google and Bing. This means that if you’re already doing search optimization for these engines, then DuckDuckGo marketing and SEO might be worthwhile.

DuckDuckGo SEO lessons from Bing and Google

To understand how SEO for DuckDuckGo works we have to discuss how the search engine itself works and how it sources and ranks its results.

DuckDuckGo uses over 400 sources to provide results for searches – including other search engines like Yahoo, Bing, and Google. This makes it different than Bing or Google which maintain their own isolated “indexes” and determine their own rankings. They create and add to their indexes using indexing bots. This means that a big part of SEO for DuckDuckGo is going to be the same strategies for Google and Bing.

This can mean a lot, but if you’re already doing SEO for these platforms than you’re already half-way there. DuckDuckGo has stated that it uses the underlying APIs of these sources and that it may re-rank and sort on top of that. This means that the best DuckDuckGo SEO strategy is going to be the same as any strategy you’d use for other search engines.

Following on-page SEO best practices is going to help improve your rankings, and your traffic across all three major search engines. These represent the core of SEO:

  • High-quality, authoritative content.
  • Keyword research and keyword-based content optimization.
  • Meta data optimization, for titles and descriptions in search results.
  • Internal linking and backlink profiles.
  • Site-structure and user-friendly website design.
  • Technical SEO and UX improvements.

Attracting quality backlinks

This is one of the suspected algorithmic ranking singles that the search engine might use. Not a lot is known about what sort of ranking and search-sorting algorithm the engine uses.

Backlinks are one of the most important SEO ranking signals – and it seems that DuckDuckGo is no different. If you want to get involved with DuckDuckGo marketing than you’ll have to keep this in mind. You’ll also need to know that there’s no legitimate way to get backlinks manually or fast. They can only be gained naturally.

Buying backlinks, faking them, using personal blog networks, or otherwise trying to cheat is a good way to get penalized on Google for a bad backlink profile. Which will only hurt rankings, not improve them.

There are legitimate ways to get to get backlinks though:

  • Create and optimize high-quality, honest, and unique content that’s built to satisfy your customers.
  • Complete on-page SEO to help improve content rankings in search. This can act as a feedback loop were the better your SEO, the better you rank, the more backlinks you get, and the better your SEO.
  • Increase your content shares with other inbound marketing strategies like social-media.

Since DuckDuckGo SEO is known to use Bing and Google results, it helps to know how inbound links for those search engines.

In Bing the number of links seems to have a greater effect on ranking, and exact-match anchor text plays a greater role compared to Google. This means that links coming to your site with anchor text keywords that you want to rank for, will be more valuable. Google is different since it prioritizes quality links over the amount of links

Keyword optimization

Like Google and Bing, DuckDuckGo seems to have a high-tech understanding of keyword context and semantics. This means that semantic search strategies and understanding keyword “search intent” will be important for DuckDuckGo SEO.

Here’s what that means.

Search engines used to only be able to provide results based on matching pages against the exact language of the search query. Now search engines are sophisticated enough that they can understand closely related words, synonyms, conjugations, and different (but semantically related) keywords. For DuckDuckGo marketing and SEO here’s another area where businesses can adopt the same strategies they’d use for other search engines.

Perform keyword research to establish the keywords that are valuable to your business (including head-keywords and long-tail keywords), optimize your on-page content with relevant keywords, and include LSI keywords where fit. But most importantly write naturally, the best SEO content should prioritize quality content written for users – not algorithms. The concept of search intent marketing is becoming increasingly important as businesses understand the value of search psychology for better ROI.

How DuckDuckGo’s local results are different

Because of its privacy-first focus, DuckDuckGo’s main drawback for its users is that its local search engine results are far less precise.

Because their search is completely anonymous, they don’t store IP addresses or identifying browsing info in their server logs, that means users don’t have “sessions” or search histories when they use DuckDuckGo. Even though they don’t store this info or use it to create a user profile, they do still use a browser’s shared location info (if available) or your IP address to get an approximate location.

Vague, but locally intentioned queries won’t get the same results as Google/Bing. Searches like:

  • “restaurants near me”
  • “what’s the weather forecast for my area”
  • “directions to highway 80”
An example of a DuckDuckGo local search

What this means is that local-focused SEO for DuckDuckGo will be more keyword/content reliant. Especially for businesses where local SEO is important – if you want to rank, you’ll have to put in more effort. Keyword research focused on local search queries and local-specific content will help your business rank better for these results. You’ll also want to include local-keywords in your on-page SEO strategy – namely meta title-tags and meta-descriptions.

Including a NAP on your site’s pages (like in your footer) can also help contextualize your business with your locations. Google’s My Business location results make this largely unnecessary but for local results on DuckDuckGo it may help to include your NAP (name, address, phone-number).

Maps results

Similar to how local SEO for DuckDuckGo works, they source their map results from Apple maps. A good strategy to get your business to appear locally for searches here is to optimize your site to make sure it appears on Apple Maps.

Like Google’s My Business, Apple gives marketers an option to manage their brick-and-mortar’s online presence with a portal called “Small Business.”

Meta data optimization

A search result example on a DuckDuckGo SERP

Businesses should also follow Google and Bing best practices for optimizing meta-data on their site. Meta data is one of the single most common SEO strategies and one of the most important, since search algorithms use these to understand what webpages are about and what keywords they should rank for.

For DuckDuckGo SEO then, your strategy should be no different.

Follow best practices for optimizing title-tags to target your most valuable search keywords.

Title tags will appear as the page title list in Google, Bing, Yahoo, and of course now, DuckDuckGo. It’s not possible to have separate meta data for each platform, so what you write for one will be used on all of them.

There’s isn’t a single right or wrong way to write title-tags but some ways have become the norm. Write your title-tags naturally, include your target keywords, include your branding, and keep it under about 60 characters.

Title-tag examples might look like:

  • Target Keyword 1 | Target Keyword 2 | Branding
  • Target Keywords 1 & 2 – Branding!
  • Target Keyword 1 (and Target Keyword 2)
  • Target Keywords 1, 2, 3 & 4 | For Sale
  • Including Target Keywords In a Sentence | Branding

The meta description appears right underneath the title in search results.

Meta descriptions are not used as a ranking factor by any major search engine – including DuckDuckGo. These are merely descriptions used to tell human readers about your page. A common SEO strategy is to include keyword here as well in order to boost click-through-rate, but the only major rule is to keep meta-descriptions under 160 characters (in order to prevent them from being truncated).

Content marketing and DuckDuckGo SEO

If SEO had a holy trinity, backlinks and meta-data would be the first two and content would be the third.

Building out and optimizing content for your website is crucial if you want to perform on any search engine – and since DuckDuckGo gets its results from other sources you’ll need high-quality content for DuckDuckGo SEO the same that you would for other search engine content strategies.

Here you can refer to Google’s webmaster guidelines on creating SEO optimized content:

  • Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.
  • Think about the words/phrases searchers would type to find your pages, and make sure that your site actually includes those words within it.
  • When using a content management system, make sure that it creates pages and links that search engines can crawl.
  • To help Google fully understand your site’s contents, allow all site assets that would significantly affect page rendering to be crawled: for example, CSS and JavaScript files that affect the understanding of the pages. The Google indexing system renders a web page as the user would see it, including images, CSS, and JavaScript files.
  • Make pages primarily for visitors, not for search engines, and don’t deceive your site visitors.
  • Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
  • Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.

These are the best basic practices for writing and creating content which is the most important first step for SEO optimized content marketing with any search engine – including DuckDuckGo. Businesses should start with keyword research and then go from there.

Content-focused SEO for DuckDuckGo marketing will work best when content is written for EAT, and to help shoppers reach their goals. Create content that helps searchers get what they are looking for.

Indexing health and crawlability

Get your site or your pages into DuckDuckGo is a bit of a different challenge than other search engines – since DuckDuckGo doesn’t operate a unique, isolated search database. Its index is a combination of results from hundreds of other sources (including Google and Bing).

Because its results are sourced from other platforms – you’ll have to rely on strategies used for optimizing a site for Googlebot or Bingbot. DuckDuckGo does have its own bot “DuckDuckBot” but this index bot isn’t used for crawling and adding pages to its index – it mostly improves the index by looking for and removing spammy/low-quality URLs.

Since its known that their index relies on 3rd party search results – a good strategy for DuckDuckGo SEO here is to follow Bing’s indexing rules (as Well as Google’s though they are mostly the same):

  • Set up your site for Bingbot with a sitemap, and with robot meta commands to help search engines understand your site’s structure.
  • Do not block resources necessary to understand the page or to provide user experience (this means making sure that JavaScript is render-able by Bingbot).
  • Submit URLs or sitemaps to Bing directly through Bing’s Webmaster Tools or submit your sitemap to Google’s Search Console.

The truth is, as long as sites can be rendered properly by search engines, they can be indexed and ranked accordingly. Proper site development, mobile-friendliness, JavaScript renderability, 404-redirects, and site-load metrics can all also improve your site’s crawlability and – hopefully – your DuckDuckGo SEO performance.

Mobile friendly SEO

Because DuckDuckGo’s users are predominantly mobile, a good thing to do is to make sure your site is optimized for mobile SEO.

There’s a lot that goes into make a site optimized for mobile search – but it’s an increasingly important area of marketing. More than 3/5ths of DuckDuckGo’s searches come from mobile devices, and for mobile it’s the third most popular option, beating out even Bing.

Mobile friendliness for user-friendly search engine optimization should focus on text that is not too small, proper meta viewport tags (with the device-width property that can help the page fit mobile phone screens), avoiding content that’s too wide, and having buttons too close together. Likewise page-load time and UX SEO are critical for better SEO on popular search engines – meaning they’re important for SEO with DuckDuckGo as well.

Businesses can use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool to learn more about their site’s mobile usability.

Learn more

DuckDuckGo SEO strategies start with optimizing your site for Google and Bing. Learn how to improve your site’s search performance and how to grow success online with strategic SEO services.

Contact our team to learn more or check out our client testimonials to see how we do it.

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