23 Apr The Return of The Mind Reading Search Engine
Online privacy concerns. Everyone has them. Is my personal information safe? Am I protected from identify theft? We try to ignore these questions as we enter social media contests and conduct mobile searches, but they continue to linger.
Living in the SEO realm, we all quickly begin to worship at the altar of Google. No matter how many different search engines I try, Google is always number one. One reason for this dominance is that they tailor search results to each of us by collecting personal information on (source):
- You as a person
- Credit card information
- Online history which directs advertisement based on your history
- Which mobile phone you use
- Your location
- How you interact with websites and Google search
- IP addresses
- Directs advertisement based on your history
In a world where information is a commodity, keeping a company from spying on you is a good self-defense strategy. Duck Duck Go, another contender for search engine traffic, is filling that niche, so I gave it a try. What makes Duck Duck Go special is that it doesn’t mine your computer for personal details. Instead, it attempts to provide results based off your search alone. There is no weighing personal data against what you search, and I figured that it’d be interesting to see what a less-biased search engine could produce.
Duck Duck Go is Better Than Bing
In my Bing vs Google post, I compared a bunch of searches I performed. My favourite was when I searched for the definition of “in.” Here is the Google versus Bing’s results:
Here is Duck Duck Go:
Much better. While this is just one example, I think it’s telling of the quality of the results. Also, the Duck Duck Go UI is cleaner and easier to read. It feels familiar, almost comfortable, and tries to show you the best results; emphases on the word “tries.”
Duck Duck Go Is No Google
Often I’d search for something, give the results a scan and then type www.google.ca into my browser. It goes back to what I noticed with Bing. Google has this way of reading my mind. In fact, Google does it so well that occasionally I’d type something into Duck Duck Go and a small iron ball of frustration would lodge itself in my stomach.
I knew that I’d have to take that extra step of typing in Google’s URL and then my query again. Trivial, considering that I’m talking about millimeters of typing here, but still, that action triggered the knotted feeling.
But What About Privacy?
In the last post, I couldn’t answer the question on why Google can read my mind, but this time I have a better handle on it. Google can do it because it has been. Every text, email, even my walking habits are tracked by my phone and computers. Did you know that Google Maps predicts traffic by monitoring how fast Android users are moving in their cars (source)?
Duck Duck Go, on the other hand, is respecting privacy, thus it cannot finagle my search into exactly what I’m looking for. Duck Duck Go is handicapping itself. We agree to give Google all this information and are happy because we don’t have to expend too much energy sifting through pages of search results.
Duck Duck Go might be working towards a lofty goal but until it shows me the results I want, whatever those are, Google is going to get my business. By stating this, I’ve essentially entered into a devil’s bargain with Google. I’ll give it a significant amount of personal information in exchange for an easier online life. I just really hope that the slogan “Don’t Be Evil” is taken really seriously.
So What Does Privacy Have To Do With SEO?
My little experiment confirmed what I already suspected: Google is the engine we’re after. Unless told otherwise, everything I create is for Google.
They’re just too good. I use Google Analytics when looking at a web page’s performance, Google keyword search results to conduct keyword research, AdWords for paid click and even when writing I’m thinking about how the copy will please Google’s algorithm.
However, what Duck Duck Go does point out is that there is a market out there for a tweak in SEO strategy.
Duck Duck Go had approximately 2 billion searches last year. Compared to the ~2.2 trillion Google racks up, a tiny amount, but you have to start somewhere (source).
Also, we seem to be moving into a world where online privacy is important. Heck, even the government is dealing with these questions, and it’s slower than a 1995 dial-up. While that happens, Google is collecting more and more information on us, and we’re starting to push back. At some point we might find that creating content for algorithms beyond Google’s will become the norm.
All signs indicate that the post-Google world is far far away, yet it’s worth entertaining the idea. A strong SEO strategy that addresses the growing privacy concern and the rise of more specialized search engines could be poised to succeed.
Even if it’s only worth considering them as a way of keeping the big guy in check. SEO strategies that factor in this approach would take positive steps in becoming immune to the threat of creating monocultured content only for Google.