What duckduckgo tells us about Google

by Jim May 15, 2019

Caught up with an old friend and industry colleague last week and the conversation turned to SEO. Yes, I know, that ranking thing. I explained how it had become a popularity contest and if you combine your strong brand with technical aspects you should dominate your category. The difference in the approaches of Google and DuckDuckGo are very different and interesting in their assumptions. I’ll be covering the technical details in greater depth at my workshop at the upcoming Retail Global event. Tickets are almost gone!

What I learned

  • SEO is a popularity contest
  • Why a strong brand can lead a category
  • The different results from Google and DuckDuckGo
  • The technical stuff that matters
  • Why changing small things can have big impacts


Hey, welcome back rankers. How`re you going? I just wanted to show you something today about SEO as it turns out. Yes, SEO, remember that? Rankings?

SEO = Popularity

So, I was explaining this to my mate on Friday night. Hi, Yvonne. I said to her, look, SEO is basically a popularity contest now, okay. I said, you’ve got to get a lot of things right, but if you`re the number one brand in your category, you pretty much don`t have to get all the other things right that everybody else has to. Now, that category can just be a small niche, a small demographic, a small geographic region, whatever it might be. It doesn`t have to be this whole fashion category or whatever. It might be a sub, sub, sub, sub fashion category that you want to dominate, okay. So, keep that in mind when I tell you this.

Here`s the extreme example. You go to Google, and do this at home. You type in the word ‘shave’, and there`s some bit of questionable content there this morning, but if we scroll down. Whoopsie daisy. Go back here to ‘All’. If we scroll down past all the other listings, so if you`re on mobile and you`re looking around for the word ‘shave’ unless you got an ad, you`re not going to probably get that many clicks. Anyway, but you can see the number one result is Dollar Shave Club right there, right, the organic result.

Now for most people, most places in the world where I`ve done this search- I`ve done it all over the world- It`s always Dollar Shave Club. You go, hmm, interesting. Now, we go across to DuckDuckGo, and you type in the word ‘shave’. They don`t even in their knowledge box talk about the word shave. They`re talking about the act of shaving, right. You can see here, this is an ad, this one here, but the first result here is a dictionary result, and then we`ve got Wikipedia, then we`ve got The Perfect Shave, and then we`ve got Dollar Shave Club.

Now, you might say, yeah, but maybe DuckDuckGo is not as good a search engine as Google. I don`t know, but one thing I can tell you is the difference here is that Google believes that when people are typing in the word ‘shave’, what they`re actually looking for is the Dollar Shave Club, and if you go and have a look at the related queries, you can see that quite clearly Google is saying in Google Trends when people are looking for the word shave, typically they`re looking for the Dollar Shave Club.

So, Google`s made it an assumption or put an added interpretation on top of the action of doing the search. It`s not just a word; where is it? What does it mean? It`s about we`re trying to guess what it is we think you want. So, the way to do that is to be the most popular, which is if URL`s are more popular on the Internet, tend to be crawled more often to keep them fresher in our index. Google 2017. Okay, remember that one. Well, that`s it, okay.

The big workshop reveal

It could just be your personal brand, if that`s what you need to rank for. It could be making sure that your personal brand is synonymous with the things that you`re trying to rank for or that your company brand is synonymous with the things that you want to rank for in your geographic region, locally, whatever, doesn`t matter.

So, the workshop when it comes to SEO, it`s about getting all the technical stuff right. So, you guess you’ve got to get all the technical stuff right, but guess what? If you`re the biggest brand on the block, you don`t have to get all the technical stuff right. In fact, you can get a lot of the technical stuff horribly wrong and still rank number one if you are the strongest brand.

However, most of us are not the strongest brand, right, so we go look at other ways. It`s not just about getting to number one. Obviously, we can see that if you`re number one on mobile, then that particular search you are probably not going to get as much traffic as the person who`s buying the ad, right.

This workshop at the end of the month at Retail Global, which is nearly sold out now, is all about that. It`s all about how do we take what we`ve learned, and we look at whether we need more traffic, or whether we need more conversions, or whether we need more … I don`t know, content even, but most of the stuff that we do now is about changing small things. Small things that have massive impacts. As I was saying to my mate on Friday night, I said, you would be shocked and stunned and amazed about the sort of stuff that we`ve learned because Yvonne’s been around, geez, a long time, Yvonne.

But, anyway, come to the workshop. It`s selling out fast. In fact, we had- This is the workshop that other SEO`s try to sneak into, okay. No kidding. We had two sneak in last year. Unbeknownst to me as I found out recently, and they were posing as retailers, which is kind of odd. They could`ve just come to the workshop. This year, they can`t. We`re not letting SEO`s in this year, right, or agencies, any sort of marketing agency. It`s only for retailers.

If you`re a retailer and you want to take your revenue to the next level, then this is the workshop for you. Hope to see you there and we`ll see you next week. Thanks very much. Bye.

Jim’s been here for a while, you know who he is.

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