Optimizing for Duck Duck Go
I was asked recently how to optimize for Duck Duck Go, a new search engine. My immediate reaction was that there is no point in doing so. I checked 25 Google Analytics accounts at random — accounts in a variety of industries and in a wide range of locations with a combined total of hundreds of thousands of visits — and saw a grand total of five visits through Duck Duck Go. Our lab site, FreshPlans, had the largest number of visitors from this source of any site I checked — two out of about 8,000 visits during a two week period.
Obviously, Duck Duck Go is not the key to web traffic right now.
The next question has to be this: is it really different? Every search engine, from Google to the little search box on this website, uses an algorithm to decide what to offer to people. Most search engines now are powered by Google or Bing, and there seem to be some slight differences between the two. Is Duck Duck Go different enough that it would require different kinds of optimization?
To find out, I signed into Internet Explorer (which I never actually use for search), remained anonymous, and compared Duck Duck Go with the two major search engines on a topic with no local significance (to minimize the effects of geotargeting). This is about as close as you can get to a good comparison on the spur of the moment.
The top four answers of the three search engines are not identical, but they’re not different enough to allow us to draw conclusions.
All three give Wikipedia top billing (here’s why), two of the three give another place to Wikipedia, and the third includes a different wiki. In short, half the items on all three lists are wikis, with the grandaddy of all wikis getting 83% of the space.
All three chose the Slate article as #4 on their lists. Bing showed images at #3 and Duck Duck Go presented an ad as #2, with Google offering something more substantive with the London Olympics page of the website of the International Basketball Federation.
I tried a few more general searches of this type, with similar results. When I began looking at the kind of query people might use for a local business, though, I found lots of differences. Where my own company falls on page 1 for “fayetteville ar copywriter” varies significantly from one search engine to another. In searches for other random local business categories, from tire shops to health care providers, the same companies weren’t even on the first page.
So a local business might want to use different strategies if they wanted to show up well for Duck Duck Go than they would if they merely wanted to show up for Google.
Duck Duck Go has an official statement on the subject:
Ranking is a bit opaque and difficult to discern/communicate on an individual query basis because of all the various factors involved (and which change frequently).
Nevertheless, the best way to get good rankings (in pretty much all search engines) is to get links from high quality sites like Wikipedia.
In other words, Duck Duck Go has a complex, secret algorithm and it uses links as one of the main factors. Getting links, as you know if you’ve ever read anything on the subject here or at any other respectable source, is all about two things:
- having a quality website with good content
- quality, strategic linkbuilding
We end up where we started. The percentage of people using Duck Duck Go is so small that you probably won’t see any visitors from them if you have fewer than 10,000 visitors a month — which describes a lot of local businesses. We don’t know just how it determines rankings, but it’s not very different from the way the other search engines do it.
Our recommendation? Make sure you have a good-for-people website and that you’re communicating well with the robots, and don’t worry about the ducks.