The 20 Percent Edition Nr. 25: How Culture Corruption Shapes the Future of Search Engines – Part 1

Hello friends, and welcome to this edition of The 20 Percent.

Cultural changes and contradictions in popular opinions have always been reflected in innovation and product marketing. In the last year alone, increasing awareness about online privacy has brought new search engines into the market.

Whereas Google is still the default, I think it’s interesting to discuss what these alternatives bring to the table, how our culture shapes the demand for search features, and ultimately if you should care about how well your website performs in their search results.

Because this is a fast-evolving and information-dense topic, I decided to cover it in three consecutive parts.

Culture Corruption and Search Advertising

Without a better term, I borrow Culture Corruption to describe the bundling of unrelated ideas into polarizing ideological clusters. For example, you can expect the mainstream Bitcoin culture to equally support Austrian economics and carnivory, Feminism activist culture to be anti-capitalist, and Privacy advocates to be anti-advertising.

Of course, there are reasons behind these associations. For example, online advertising has become a vehicle for surveillance capitalism. But in my opinion, it’s perfectly compatible caring about bitcoin and opposing the meat industry or being a Feminist who sees capitalism as an enabling power for women or a pro-privacy individual who doesn’t intrinsically detest online advertising.

Nevertheless, when it comes to search engine advertising, this complicated relationship between privacy and advertising has influenced the design of three major product categories:

  • Private Search Engines with privacy-preserving advertising (DuckDuckGo, Brave Search)

  • Private Search Engines without advertising (Neeva, Brave Search)

  • FLOC, a Google technology for privacy-respecting advertising that aims to replace cookies

Private Search Engines With Privacy-Preserving Advertising

Perhaps the most popular example in this category is DuckDuckGo. It’s been around since 2008, although it didn’t start as a private Google alternative. Nevertheless, Gabriel Weinberg built DuckDuckGo around his own privacy-respecting principles.

In 2013, after the Snowden revelations, DuckDuckGo started promoting heavily their privacy-oriented design that doesn’t associate user data (IP addresses, etc.) with their search queries.

DuckDuckGo’s monetization is based on search engine ads triggered by relevant keywords, which ironically is not very different from Google’s own search network. In fact, DuckDuckGo is a partner of Microsoft Bing’s advertising network, so if you want to run search ads on DuckDuckGo, you have to use Microsoft’s ad platform.

Moreover, DuckDuckGo’s search results are based on Microsoft Bing. Although DuckDuckGo runs its own web crawlers, it uses Bing’s rankings as the base for further refinement.

Website Marketing With DuckDuckGo VS Google

Overall, DuckDuckGo’s search results have a preference for independent websites. For example, if you are an expert doing business under your personal brand, it is far more likely that DuckDuckGo will surface your own website at the top instead of your LinkedIn profile.

This has profound website marketing implications. For example, with Google, unless you claim the knowledge panel for your name (like Mark Manson), you are better off using a separate brand for your business, e.g., “Studio for Digital Growth.”

If you still decide to do business under your personal brand, your Linkedin will likely be the first search result. Knowing this, it probably makes sense to invest in Linkedin as a marketing platform.

I believe Google is stricter with name queries compared to brand queries (googling a business will rarely bring their Linkedin as the first search result) because there are reputation management implications.

Although DuckDuckGo makes it easier for personal brand websites to be found, I’ve strongly come to suspect that it’s also very easy to launch a negative branding campaign for someone and bring it to the top of DuckDuckGo’s search results.

Edition Nr. 26 Preview

In the second part of this series, we’ll discuss how website marketing will look if Neeva and Brave Search become mainstream options to warrant consideration. Since the closed Beta, I have been testing Brave Search, and I have some interesting insights to share.

Stay inspired,