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How to Optimise Your Site for DuckDuckGo

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Hallam Digital Markekting Agency

DuckDuckGoWe last checked in on DuckDuckGo almost three years ago to the day. Describing it as “an alternative to Google that has some really cool features”, we stopped short of actually offering any advice on how best to optimise your site for this ethical search engine. This might be because, in 2012, not a lot of research had taken place regarding SEO for DuckDuckGo. Back then, DuckDuckGo was an intriguing startup. Now, it has very real potential to become a major player in the world of search.

Late last year, Apple launched iOS 8, the latest edition of their operating system. Amongst the new features was the ability to select DuckDuckGo as the default Safari search engine.

In January 2015, DuckDuckGo received almost eight million direct queries per day. With a potential army of Apple users switching to its service, DuckDuckGo’s rise looks set to continue.

But why would people use DuckDuckGo when they can use Google?

Why DuckDuckGo?

DuckDuckGo describes itself as “the search engine that doesn’t track you”. Google and other search engines constantly gather data on their users, tracking such information as location, search history, and buying preferences. They ostensibly do this so that they can deliver search results that are completely tailored to the user’s lifestyle, but for many people, such behaviour is deeply and unforgivably creepy.

As The Verge so succinctly put it, “DuckDuckGo was designed to be a less creepy and less invasive alternative to Google”. It does not collect any data from its users at all. In a world where government and corporate surveillance has many running for the hills, the comparative privacy of DuckDuckGo is a gift on a plate. Indeed, a recent survey by Search Engine Land found that nearly 90% of people have some level of concern about their online privacy.

So we can expect to see the popularity of this benevolent search engine continue to grow. Perhaps it’s time you started optimising your site for DuckDuckGo?

SEO for DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo search results are not personalised at all. If you search for “Pac-Man”, you’ll see exactly the same results as everyone else. In theory, this means that every site on the internet is fighting on the same level playing field. The question is, will this make SEO easier, or harder?

Doubtlessly, as the popularity of DuckDuckGo continues to increase, the internet will become flooded with hundreds of guides on the precise steps you should take to ensure that your site will rise to the top of the search results. However, according to Search Engine Land’s Neil Patel, if you think in such terms, you may already have lost. The “trick” to ranking well on DuckDuckGo isn’t a trick at all. Rather, it’s to ensure that your website delivers “high functionality, a great user experience, and zero spam”.

Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo’s CEO, said that his search engine aimed to provide its users with “the benefits in privacy without any sacrifice in quality”. So if you want to rank well on DuckDuckGo – or any search engine, for that matter – your first step is to create a bloody good website.

Beyond that, Patel offers the following advice:

  • Don’t Build Links, Earn Links – DuckDuckGo rankings are largely built on link profile data. However, as is the case with Google, it is much better to have a low number of high quality links than it is to have a large number of low quality links. The best way to get high quality links is to create the sort of valuable content to which high quality websites will happily send their visitors.
  • Think About The Semantics – DuckDuckGo search results seem to consider the user’s intent, not just their specific search query. A firm grasp of semantic search is therefore essential. My esteemed colleague Ben Wood recently wrote a highly informative blog about semantic search, and how it might influence your digital marketing strategy.
  • Use Local Search Terms – Local SEO for DuckDuckGo could warrant a blog post of its own. But in short, as DuckDuckGo does not track user behaviour, those looking for local services are obliged to provide clearer information regarding their location. To drive lucrative local traffic, take into consideration the sort of things users might search for, and include references to districts, street names, landmarks, and other hyperlocal terms in your content.


There is no quick and easy way to rise to the top of the DuckDuckGo rankings. Rather, if you want to rank well, you should focus upon making your website as functional and valuable as possible.

You may have noticed that this is the sort of strategy that will also help you to rank well on Bing and Google. So if you have an intelligent and flexible digital marketing strategy, so long as you take the local SEO issue into consideration, your site may already have what it takes to rank well on DuckDuckGo.


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