Nothing stands still in tech, and even Google's stranglehold on search might only be a fleeting one.
As the power of artificial intelligence continues to gain momentum, its application in personalising search gets ever stronger. Truly understanding what a searcher wants is the holy grail in the search world. To understand the search, says Google, one must understand the searcher. Who is he, what are his likes and dislikes, where did he go for dinner last night?
It sounds flippant, but you see it time and again - mention car insurance in passing online, and suddenly your browser is desperately trying to find you quotes. Check the price of FIFA 2019, and you'll get an endless deluge of suggestions as to who is offering it at a discount.
Is Google's approach the best one?
There comes a point where it seems less like being helpful and more like stalking - and not everybody likes it. Also, do the ranking factors that Google uses really gel with this aim to understand intent?
Anyone who knows anything about SEO is aware of factors like trust, domain authority, backlinks, and so on. That's great as far as it goes, but there is a growing tide of both users and webmasters who are tired of creating sites that perfectly respond to a user's needs, but are relegated in Google's results because they don't meet these "more important" metrics.
Gathering data from our searches, and then using this to fire targeted ads at us instead of delivering optimum search results? Put that way, you can see why some are looking for search beyond Google.
Americans love Bing
Bing is the most popular search engine after Google, with 16% of the market. It has a particularly strong following in the US, and is the only search engine that was developed specifically for Windows. What is good about it?
Bing fans wax lyrical about its excellent video search capabilities and superior autocomplete functionality. It is better than Google at tracking the correlations between individual websites, making it easier to find similar options, without Google's snarkiness towards those key ranking factors.
The rise of DuckDuckGo
However, there is a new kid in town that is really taking the world of search by storm. When Gabriel Weinberg launched DuckDuckGo in 2008, many people thought he was mad. How could this tiny, Philadelphia-based startup rival Google?
It is actually managing to do so - in two ways.
For one thing, DuckDuckGo was very much ahead of its time in seeking to provide more than just search results. This wasn't just another site that will tell you where to find what you need - it gives direct answers to people's requests instead of offering a mountain of links.
Beneath those answers are the traditional search results in the form of links, obtained from third-party companies such as Bing and Yandex, but radically filtered and reorganized to reduce the amount of spam.
Weinberg was quick to understand that the key to creating an excellent online information search experience lies in answers, not results, and this is a pattern that Google is now following. However, there is more to DuckDuckGo than a fresh approach that is easily replicated. DuckDuckGo has one advantage over Google that is difficult to copy.
DuckDuckGo's secret weapon
When you search with DuckDuckGo via its site or app, it neither knows nor cares who you are. No user accounts, no storing IP addresses, no cookies to track your actions and transactions. It doesn't even save your search history.
Simply put, the company puts confidentiality at the top of the agenda. And as 22 billion searches since it went online shows, that is something that plenty of people want to be a part of. Businesses need to take note now.
Sponsored post. Copyright © 2018 Jon Wade, content manager at FSE Online.