The Search Engine Privacy Battle Isn’t Necessarily a Win-Win

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The argument we hear often is how different search engines offer varying degrees of privacy options and how that effects the end users. The quite straightforward jump that we often fail to make is how the search engine privacy scorecard effects content producers and search engine marketers; and in all these cases, who wins and how isn’t always clear.
In the past few months we have seen all major search engines make significant changes to their privacy policies and while many rightly argue that this is a byproduct of increased competition in the search space and will ultimately be a win for the consumer, the short-term consequences aren’t necessarily positive and are often overlooked. For example, as users shift from one search engine to another (because of better privacy offerings), what becomes of the quality of the search results they are getting?
Not only that, but since has the best privacy policy, it isn’t a stretch to assume that a fair number of privacy conscious people will start using Ask for search, at least until other search engines catch up. And since not every site is perfectly optimized for every search engine, and most people focus on one of the leading search engines for most of their search traffic, the other question you have to ask is what happens to sites optimized for Google (or others) and their short-term search traffic?
And this confusion and back-and-forth behavior on the part of the user isn’t just bad for the users looking for quality content and the content producers behind the specially optimized sites, but also for search marketers and advertisers (and the quality and quantity of their search marketing roi). So while this competition between the search engines and the race to offer the most secure and private experience is certainly promising for the long-term prospectives of search, I wouldn’t be surprised if the short-term is marked more by confusion, loss in traffic, and loss in revenue, than the sounds of people rejoicing.
While I think that this shift is going to be disruptive in the short-run, I also believe that it needs to happen and will be beneficial in the long-run, but more for the users than anyone else.

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

Cameron Olthuis

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