Date Posted: 30/10/19

There’s no doubt that Google is a powerhouse. As the leading search engine worldwide, it holds a whopping market share of approximately 92%. What’s more, with a new study from Salmat suggesting that Australians turn to search engines for recommendations over their family and friends, the strength of Google search for advertisers couldn’t be more evident.

What Google does best is deliver on convenience; you’d be hard pressed to find another search engine that is so highly intuitive and returns such rich, relevant and personalised search results. Google’s digital platforms are top-of-class, allowing digital marketers to reach their desired audiences with fine-tuned accuracy. In terms of performance, there aren’t many alternatives that come close to rivalling Google Search.

However, the growing and widespread concern about how our activities are being tracked and our data recorded, used and sold means that many are starting to seek out these alternatives, trading convenience in favour of search engines whose value proposition is, instead, privacy protection.

The rise of alternative Search Engines.

Recent instances of data breach and misuse sparked outrage, Cambridge Analytica being a prime example. Consequently, people are taking steps to become more informed about how their data is being accessed, recorded and used by large corporations, such as Google and Facebook, for advertising purposes.

Private search engines existed long before it was common knowledge that Google tracks our online movements, so that marketers can deliver accurate and highly personalised results. However, recent scandals have given more reason to make the switch from Google to search engines that block tracking networks.

There are a surprising number of alternatives that promise user privacy, while also creating revenue through ads. Unlike Google, the ads that are served in search results don’t draw on previous search activity, browser history or personal information. Instead, private search engines rely on contextual ads, which are directly related to the keywords used in a search. Once a searcher exits a page, this information isn’t stored.

One of the more successful private search engines is DuckDuckGo, a popular alternative in the US market. In 2017, it achieved 10 billion searches since its creation in 2009. A year later, the figure stood at 16 billion.

The appetite for privacy protection is evident around the world, with private search engines emerging in France (Qwant), Switzerland (Swisscows), Denmark (Givero), StartPage and Searx to name a few.

Based on search figures alone, it would be easy to disregard the many alternatives; as an example, where daily search estimates for DuckDuckGo stand at around 33 million, this is dwarfed by Google’s 3.5 trillion.

Google certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. What’s more, as this article points out, ‘existing’ online is difficult without large technology platforms such as Google, due to their massive control of ‘infrastructure, online commerce and information flo

Regardless, I can’t help but reflect on recent developments, which increasingly point towards a shift in digital marketing that is hard, and possibly negligent, to ignore. Signals such as private alternatives now being listed as default in Chrome, recommended reforms by the ACCC, and democratic front runner Elizabeth Warren promising to break up tech giants indicate that the preferred choice of search engine is becoming an increasingly political one, and not just a matter of convenience.

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Written By: Carina Mancinone

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