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Can Pro-Privacy Search Engines Replace Google?

Digital privacy is increasingly important, making non-Google, privacy-focused search engines more viable. Here's why it matters to marketers.

Consumers of all ages and demographics are becoming increasingly aware of their growing dependence on technology – in many cases at the expense of their privacy.

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

As a result, privacy-as-a-service (PaaS) is something that consumers are increasingly viewing less as a bonus and more as a necessity.

Non-Google search engines are feeding user desires for something in shortage today – digital privacy. Search engines offer an essential service, but while free monetarily, they are certainly not free of cost.

That cost is a certain level of intrusion into the lives of users as technology companies (namely Google) gather data about online habits and use that data to optimize their marketing efforts.

The privacy search frontrunner is DuckDuckGo, but a new privacy-focused rival to Google was recently launched – Brave.

Brave is a sophisticated, pro-privacy, non-tracking search engine co-founded by the inventor of JavaScript and the co-founder of Mozilla, giving it industry clout.

According to the “privacy-first” search engine:

“Brave Search does not track you, your searches, or your clicks; it’s impossible for Brave to disclose any information about you to anyone.

Any future ads we may support will be anonymized (like all other Brave ads), and will not influence ranking. In the future, we will also offer paid ad-free search.”

Even in comparison to DuckDuckGo, Brave (in some ways) surpasses the competition:

  • Brave offers its own index, giving it independence from other search providers. Conversely, DuckDuckGo results are a compilation of “over 400” sources, including Bing, Yandex, Yahoo! Search BOSS, Wolfram Alpha, its own web crawler, and others.
  • Ad-free option. Brave search users can opt for a paid version allowing them to explore the web ad-free.
  • Greater location control. No matter what region you choose for the search results, Brave search offers an additional option to filter results based on locality.

Should Marketers Care About Non-Google, Privatized Search Engines?

Google has become a verb; a term synonymous with completing an online search.

It’s where the vast majority of consumers search, holding approximately 87% of search engine utilization, with Bing following at 7%, Yahoo at 3%, and DuckDuckGo (the veteran private search engine) at 1%.

Unsurprisingly, Brave does not yet make the charts. However, with digital privacy frequenting news headlines, compromised privacy may start to worry consumers enough for them to take action.

The problem is – awareness of non-Google engines is low. “Secondary” search providers are faced with the challenge of increasing consumer awareness.

The barrier is that they need to offer users a strong value proposition and a method to change their default search engine that is easy and free of sacrifice.

To that point, non-Google search engines continue to innovate in the hopes 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 use IndexNow currently, but this initiative is clearly a bid to woo SEO professionals and webmasters with the ability to have faster indexing and, hopefully, faster rankings.

With that, Google should have no fear of being dethroned.

But that doesn’t mean marketers shouldn’t be prepared for the future which – as we’ve learned throughout the past year or two – can change its trajectory at the drop of a dime.

What Should Search Marketers Keep In Mind As Privacy Becomes A Bigger Concern For Consumers?

Use Alternative Search Engines

You’ll only understand the viability of switching to non-Google search engines by trying them firsthand. You will undoubtedly find gaps in features, especially if you’re a super-user.

For example, DuckDuckGo lacks reverse image search capabilities that both Google and Bing offer.

Weighed against the value of personal privacy, especially if you don’t need the bells and whistles, Google may be pretty easy to forget.

Consider Alternative Search Engines When Devising Marketing Strategies And Reporting On Performance

It is becoming more critical for marketing teams to branch out from Google when it comes to strategy and analytics, especially with organic search.

Take steps to understand how other search engines work and acknowledge that user demographics vary by search engine.

For example, Bing users tend to be older and use Microsoft and Alexa devices. Your company’s share of traffic from different engines likely varies as well – especially if you operate in a niche industry or target a niche audience.

Additionally, by reporting only on Google performance, you miss a piece of the puzzle. Monitoring performance across a breadth of engines ensures you have a full picture of organic search performance.

Quality, Competition, And Relevance Often Trump Search Volume

Given their smaller footprint, expect little traffic volume from smaller engines. However, ranking competition is often less due to fewer SERP features and ads in the top-ranking positions.

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

While search volume on Brave is low, the elevated ranking position can even the playing field and begin to close the gap between the two engines significantly.

Often, marketers focus too much attention on search volume. But the fact is (unless your marketing goal is awareness only), even three visits with 50% conversion rate is better than 1,000 visits with no conversions.

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


I challenge you to use an “alternative” search engine for a week or simply spot-check rankings for your most important keywords. See how you stack up.

Is there less competition? Fewer ads? Do you rank better?

Perhaps the alternative engines are more viable than you think.

More Resources:

Featured Image: New Africa/Shutterstock

Heather Murphy

Heather Rist Murphy is the Vice President of Performance Content and Social Media at Collective Measures, a performance digital marketing ...

Can Pro-Privacy Search Engines Replace Google?

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