Posted by Erin Meyer & filed under National, Search Engine Marketing.

As search engine innovator Google has continued to develop new ways to gather information and enhance its services, users have become more mindful of privacy issues.  Three years ago, this concern led entrepreneur developer Gabriel Weinberg to cry “fowl” and begin work on DuckDuckGo, a search engine that would place a priority on user privacy. Since then, the upstart engine has proven to be highly successful. In a Business Insider interview Weinberg reports that the site experienced 500% growth in 2010, increasing from 500,000 to 2.5 million searches per month.

DuckDuckGo is currently a one-man production, which Weinberg operates from his home in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. His goal was to develop a search engine that would not only protect privacy, but also decrease the problems of spam, irrelevant results, and clutter. Promotion of DuckDuckGo has largely been via word-of-mouth, however a recent a marketing campaign targeting Google launched, and includes a billboard with the message: “Google tracks you. We don’t.”

The DuckDuckGo privacy policy asserts that the search engine offers two main advantages over Google and other search engines concerning privacy:

  • User search terms and related personal data are not sent to other sites
  • User search history is not saved and cannot be traced back to individuals

Weinberg maintains that other search outlets do not protect users from what he calls “search leakage.” But Google has its own principles regarding privacy and offers a set of privacy tools to protect its users. More on this debate and the SEO implications can be found on Gabriel Weinberg’s blog, as well as in commentary by Matt Cutts of Google.

Meanwhile, DuckDuckGo is also gaining users and attention because of other benefits it boasts. A Search Engine Land report highlights many “seriously cool features” that make the new engine worth a look:

  • Browser icons are displayed next to search results for easy recognition
  • Zero-click info section displays page previews and quick info above query results
  • Categorized topic lists in the zero-click section provide a fast overviews
  • Easy site specific search results available in a drop down menu or with !bang commands
  • A selection of Free Tools and Goodies are available for enhanced functionality

However silly the URL may sound, DuckDuckGo is making a name for itself as a serious search engine option. (Besides, as far as silly names go, who would have thought that “google” would end up added to the dictionary as an actual verb?) As the privacy debate and new search innovations continue to develop, the impact on both the industry giants and the upstarts is sure to be significant.