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Alternative Search Engines: Do They Matter To Digital Marketers?

November 8, 2019 Kathy Bryan

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Privacy concerns and anti-trust claims are regularly in the news, bringing increased discussion of Google alternatives. For consumers, the option to search anonymously has obvious appeal. But searchers have yet to change their behaviors in any meaningful way, as least as it matters to digital marketers.

Do People Want Search Engine Alternatives?

DuckDuckGo claims people would choose Google alternatives if given a choice. In a recent study of 3,000 adults across the U.S., UK, Germany and Australia, DuckDuckGo presented a list of search engine choices and many respondents chose non-Google options. But there is fault in the DuckDuckGo study. In almost all instances, people have the option to choose the search engines they use, but most don’t take the action to do so.

Search Engine Alternatives

Here’s a look at some of the search engine alternatives on the market today:

  • Algolia: A French-owned, search-as-a-service platform used by Slack and other popular technologies
  • Ask: A long-standing alternative search engine previously known as Ask Jeeves and designed to be user-friendly for those less familiar with search technology
  • Baidu: The top Chinese search engine with censored results and a design and business model similar to Google
  • Bing: Owned by Microsoft, Bing has been the second most popular search engine in the U.S. since 2011
  • Disconnect: Lets users conduct anonymous searches through the search engines of their choice
  • Discrete Search: Clean, user-friendly and tracking-free search engine
  • DuckDuckGo: Popular alternative, privacy-focused search engine that leverages Yahoo! results and lets users directly search other sites (ex. Amazon) by starting queries with exclamation marks
  • Ecosia: Powered by Bing, Ecosia donates revenue toward combating CO2 emissions with approximately 45 searches equating to a planted tree
  • Gibiru: Positions themselves as similar to the early days Google product — when Google was dedicated to providing great search results without data collection
  • Gigablast: Indexing millions of websites on its own, Gigablast provides private, functional searching
  • Lukol: Powered by Google results, Lukol allows for anonymous searching
  • MetaGer: A nonprofit search engine that uses green energy to query external search engines and deliver results to anonymous searchers
  • Oath: Includes alternative search giants AOL, MSN and Yahoo!
  • Oscobo: Focused on helping searchers avoid paying for their queries with personal data
  • Qwant: A privacy-focused search engine that lets people search other sites with Qwick search shortcuts
  • Search Encrypt: Uses local encryption to completely secure searches
  • SearX: An open-source search engine focused on presenting unbiased results from multiple sources
  • StartPage: Popular in Germany, uses Google results and a URL generator that eliminates the need for cookies
  • Swisscows: A semantic, privacy-focused search engine that uses layered results that learn how to better answer individuals’ queries over time
  • WolframAlpha: Designed to showcase expert knowledge, especially in the STEM, culture and everyday life categories
  • Yandex: A top search engine in Russia, Yandex search results and functionality are comparable to Google
  • Yippy: Powered by IBM Watson, Yippy offers results for related categories in addition to its primary search results

How Dominant Is Google?

Google has remained the dominant search engine in the U.S. for the past decade. As of January 2019, 92.74% of mobile searches were performed from Google. And, as of July 2019, Google controlled a 62.5% market share of desktop searches.

Are There Any Other Well-Used Search Engines?

Though Google is by far the most popular search engine worldwide, it is not the top search engine for every country around the world.

  • Despite controlling just 0.74% of the worldwide search volume, in China, Baidu holds 61.3% of the search market.
  • Google is just the sixth-most popular search engine in China, also falling behind Sogou, Shenma, Haousou and Bing.
  • Sougou is the Chinese search engine with the highest average daily browsing time per visitor.
  • With 0.82% of the worldwide search volume, Yandex is not a big global player, but it is the most used search engine for Russian-language searches.
  • Yandex was previously the most popular search engine in Russia, but now many sources have Google and Yandex evenly split across searchers in the country.
  • Though never the top search engine, Bing is most popular in UK, France, Latin America.
  • For digital shoppers in the U.S., 79% start their searches on Amazon.

Why Do People Want Search Engine Alternatives?

In the previously mentioned DuckDuckGo study, better results and privacy are the top reasons people selected for using alternative search engines. However, in other studies about data sharing, consumers regularly state they are willing to share their personal data in return for personalization.

Across all search engines, the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) score for customer satisfaction is 77% with Google holding the highest customer satisfaction rating. Therefore, it does not appear there is great propensity for Google to lose its footing anytime soon.

Do Alternative Search Engines Matter To Digital Marketers?

Not really. Although the frequency of news about alternative search engines appears to be speeding up, the usage of alternative search engines is still a drop in the bucket.

For organic search efforts, focusing on Google with an eye on Bing is still the recommendation for most U.S. businesses. Google covers the vast majority of searches across the U.S., and many alternative search engines are powered by Google or Bing, so nearly 100% of the U.S. audience will be addressed with this approach.

For paid search, Google remains the volume play, but second-tier search engines may perform well for niche audiences. Marketers open to testing small budgets on alternative search engines may be successful at identifying low-cost, targeted opportunities.

Looking To Scale Your Search Volume?

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About the Author

Kathy Bryan

Kathy Bryan is the Chief Marketing Officer at Digital Media Solutions (DMS). In this role, Kathy is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications for DMS, the leading global martech company leveraging innovative, performance-driven brand and marketplace solutions to connect consumers and advertisers.

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