Rise of Alternative Search Engines

When we think about search engines, Google is the first to come to mind. Over the decades many search engines have tried to rival Google but ultimately failed to gain enough audience reach. Although Google is the largest and most popular search engine it does not provide increased privacy and is known to track data. For people who desire more privacy, alternative search engines offer increased anonymity.

Former Google Ads boss Sridhar Ramasway presents a potentially new competitor to Google with Neeva. Neeva claims to be redefining what search does for you by being 100% ad free, eliminating tracking, and including personalization. Personalization is incorporated by integrating personal services such as email, contacts, calendar, or cloud services. This startup company joins the growing list of privacy based search engine alternatives.

Privacy Based Search Engine Alternatives

Here are some of the search engine alternatives on the market:

  • Brave: Browser blocks data-grabbing ads and trackers and loads major sites five to six times faster than Chrome, Safari, and Firefox
  • Disconnect: Allows users to conduct anonymous searches through the search engine of their choice
  • DuckDuckGo: Popular alternative engine, useful feature allows users to search within another website by including an exclamation point in front of searches
  • Gibiru: Unfiltered private search through add on
  • Gigablast: Indexes millions of websites and serves real-time information
  • Lukol: Populates results from Google but removes all traceable elements
  • MetaGer: Nonprofit organization uses green energy to query external search engines
  • Oscobo: Encrypts all traffic to deliver anonymous results
  • Qwant: Similar to DuckDuckGo in that users can easily search external sites using shortcuts
  • Search Encrypt: Uses local encryption to maintain search anonymity and automatically erases local browsing history after 15 minutes
  • StartPage: Eliminates the need for cookies with Google search results and a URL generator
  • Swisscows: Uses semantic information recognition to generate answers quickly and fully encrypt searches

Each of these privacy based search engines provide different benefits to the user. With the additional benefit of privacy can come negative tradeoffs in other areas. It is therefore important to look for three main qualities in a search engine.

  • Expansive search results
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Customized experience options

Because these qualities can be difficult to find at full strength in all privacy search engines, Google is still able to prevail as a dominant engine, despite their known use of tracking.  

Google is undoubtedly the most dominant search engine in the world. With just under 90% of search queries worldwide Google faces limited competition in terms of market share. Close competitors, Bing and Yahoo, do not carry the same volume of searches. 

Although Google is the most popular search engine overall, it does not beat out all competitors for every country.  For instance, some search engines like Baidu do not make a dent in worldwide search volume but are able to dominate in specific countries. 

Google announced at the start of 2020 a plan to phase out third-party cookies within two years. This decision will impact how planning, activation, and measurement are understood in the entire industry. In a time where users are demanding more privacy Google’s decision to kill off cookies may work in their favor to quell privacy concerns. Google claims that with changes in cookie allowances they still want to grant a form of relevant content targeting. Ultimately, these changes bring to question what industry mechanisms will be implemented to maintain ad revenue and advertising capabilities.

Do Alternative Search Engines Matter To Digital Advertisers?

Depending on who you ask you may get different answers to the question of alternative search engine power. On one hand alternative search engines directed towards privacy have little to no impact on digital advertising because of their decreased reach. While talk of new search engines is becoming more commonplace, their effect on overall search is minimal. Additionally, many alternative search engines pull results from Google or Bing, which covers the majority of U.S. users organic search results. 

In contrast, second-tier search engines should not be dismissed for all audiences and in fact may be ideal for low-cost, targeted niches. As proven by search engines such as Baidu, alternatives do not need significant market share to succeed. What is necessary is a large enough loyal user base that has the potential to increase market share over time. 

Select alternative search engines are also expanding their advertising capabilities. For example, popular privacy engine, Brave, has introduced high performance push notifications and sponsored images as advertising options. The push notifications are simple in design including a brand name, call-to-action, and landing page URL/destination. The notification option does however allow for contextual targeting, making it valuable for advertisers to reach specific audiences. Brave’s sponsored images are fundamentally first party ads with no tracking. These full screen, immersive images act more as a billboard because of their lack of targeting choices. The Brave browser is a significant example of how privacy search engines are adapting to increase appeal to both consumers and advertisers.

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About the author

Paid Media Intern, Tailwind

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