Alternative search engine

A Guide to Non-Google SEO

Kerry Butters Digital Marketing 16 Comments

When we think about optimizing for search, often the only search engine that springs to mind is of course Google. The search giant is now so huge that it completely dominates the SEO landscape and so search specialists and small businesses tend to rely completely on tactics aimed at Google.

As of April 2014, market share for search engines in the US according to Comscore was:

  • Google: 67.5%
  • Microsoft: 18.6%
  • Yahoo: 10.1%
  • Ask Network: 2.5%
  • AOL, Inc.: 1.3%

So Google, as expected, has by far the lion’s share of the market.

However, as we know, it’s not the only search engine out there. So what are the tactics for the others? And should we be optimizing for all, or are the rules all much of a muchness?

First, let’s have a look at what else is out there in terms of other search engines that could help to increase your online visibility.

  • Bing
  • Yahoo!
  • Ask
  • StartPage
  • DuckDuckGo

With the exception of the latter, there’s a very good chance that you’ve heard of all of these. With that in mind, let’s first have a look at DuckDuckGo. This is a startup which tends to concentrate on quality over quantity. As of June 2014, the company had just 20 employees and used open source software for its coding. The brainchild of Gabriel Weinberg, DuckDuckGo is based in Paoli, Pennsylvania and has been dubbed a “hybrid search engine” by TechCrunch.

Alternative search engine

DuckDuckGo is powered by a community, known as DuckDuckHack, and doesn’t track those who use it for search, so is pretty concerned with user privacy too. All users that enter the same keyword get back the same result, so whilst much of the web is concerning with tracking consumer behaviour online, this isn’t a part of it.

According to Drew Hendricks writing for Forbes, DuckDuckGo will be a part of iOS8 insomuch as users can change the default search engine to choose this new kid on the block.

In 2013, the search engine saw more than one billion searches and this is growing quickly. With regards to its users, 50% are from the US, 45% in the UK and the remainder is made up by the Asia-Pacific region.

When it comes to SEO, the advice from DuckDuckGo isn’t much different to that of Google though. It recommends garnering good backlinks through quality content from sites such as Wikipedia. So a sound link building strategy is important, as it is in Google SEO.

For businesses which have less than 10,000 visitors per month, Forbes say that they should consider using “hyberlocal keywords”, so choosing keywords that are based on location and geo-targeted. Of course, this is also something that’s highly useful for local businesses with Google and Bing too. It’s important to be able to gather reviews too and ensure citations and NAPs are consistent.

The DuckDuckGo bot looks to answer search queries instantly from its own community and 100s of other web sources. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to have a FAQ page for it to index if you’re looking to optimize for this search engine. Additionally, since it’s going to be a choice on iOS, then a mobile-ready, responsive site is also going to help you win out here.

DuckDuckGo doesn’t keep personalized data in order to send targeted results like Google, Yahoo! and Ask do, so the results will be based completely on information gathered from the web and its community.

DuckDuckGo Optimization tips

  •  Optimize for local by including location tagging and local place names as keywords throughout the site. Don’t overuse the latter or create pages especially for SEO as this is considered to be bad practice.
  • Optimize for mobile and pay particular attention to iOS – you can create conditional CSS to create different layouts for various devices and CSS3 media queries to create stylesheets specifically for iOS which won’t impact how the site appears on other devices.
  • Create a FAQ section and ensure that it’s pretty comprehensive so that it’s picked up and indexed for DuckDuckGo.

Bing & Yahoo! SEO

When it comes to Bing, it’s worth bearing in mind that Facebook Graph Search is powered by this engine. If results can’t be found in Facebook’s own data, then the results that it returns from the web are powered by Bing. Worth optimizing then for that reason alone.

I’m lumping in Yahoo! here as its algorithms are much the same as Bing’s, so the same tactics will work well for both. It’s worth bearing in mind too that they are also very similar to Google, but perhaps not quite so brutal when it comes to cracking down on spam. Of course, you should never use spam or black hat tactics when it comes to SEO, this will do more harm than good in the long term.

Some points for these engines:

  • Pay attention to the age of the domain, Bing and Yahoo! give more importance to this than Google, although a good site that’s been around for a while will naturally return better results than a brand new one on any search engine.
  • Unlike Google, these engines do look at meta keywords, so you should include them as well as page titles and descriptions in your meta information.
  • They also index Flash sites, so any fancy index pages will still be taken notice of.
  • Place a higher value on inbound and outbound links than Google, so great link building tactics will pay off.
  • Weight keywords differently as to what’s competitive and not, so this can be built into your campaign with some decent research.

So whilst it’s not too much different, there are a few things that you can do to optimize further than the Google bubble to hit Bing and Yahoo!

How About Ask?

Again, there’s not a huge difference in optimizing for Ask (whatever happened to good old Jeeves?) Good content that uses keyword optimization, but not stuffing, is a must, as are quality backlinks. A sitemap is also necessary (again, as it is with the others) and I personally always recommend having one for your users on the site too as the textual links are structured and easily crawled. Whilst this doesn’t necessarily help your site climb the SERPs, what it does do is give the bots a nice, simple, logical structure to gather information.

Ask doesn’t automatically index new sites either. In order to get indexed, a new site should be attracting backlinks and should submit a sitemap (XML), although if it’s been indexed by all of the other engines, then it’s likely that Ask will get around to it. The sitemap is the only way that you can indirectly ask the search engine to crawl though.

Ask uses AnswerFarm to answer search queries, so again, a FAQ section on your site is highly useful for SEO. Whilst most major engines focus on the popularity of a site to help index it, Ask doesn’t work in the same way. As well as considering backlinks, Ask looks at related sites to see how ‘expert’ your site is in relation to others. This is due to an algorithm called ExpertRank, which is quite sophisticated, so ensure that your content betters that of the competition.

Due to ExpertRank, you also need content that is very well written as this is also analysed. In fact, Ask points out that the quality checks that it carries out means that the indexing process takes longer than the other engines.

Whilst of course keywords are always relevant, Ask also uses a semantic search technology known as DADS (Direct Answers from Databases), which is why it’s a good idea to have a FAQ section.

StartPage – Another New (ish) Entry

startpage search engine

Similar to DuckDuckGo in that it’s also concerned with privacy when searching, StartPage has been around for a little while now.

The blurb reads:

When you search with Startpage, we remove all identifying information from your query and submit it anonymously to Google for you. We get the results and return them to you in total privacy.

So basically, it’s all about the security and privacy of its users, but still uses Google algorithms in order to gather results. This means that essentially, Google SEO is going to work here too. This is where it differs from DuckDuckGo, which has its own database and that of various web sources that it uses along with its own bots to index.

So when it comes to different search engines, there are a few tactics that you can employ which will boost your chances of climbing the SERPs. However, the dominance of Google means that it absolutely can’t be ignored and whilst you should optimize for the other engines too, it’s still really all about Google.

Non-Google SEO Checklist

So to sum up, let’s look at what you should be doing to ensure that your site is optimized for **all** of the search engines.

#1 Create a comprehensive FAQ section

In order to get picked up by the smaller engines and Ask, you should include a comprehensive, well-written and structured FAQ section which answers all of the questions site visitors may have about your company.

Here, you should also include place names scattered throughout the text if you’re a local service provider or business. You can use geo-tagging and location services too on the site itself.

The FAQ section should be broken down into logical parts and it should also contain keywords and phrases for your industry niche relating to what you do. Use keywords in headers and sub headers for further optimization.

#2: Use Meta Keywords

Many designers don’t bother entering meta keywords these days are they are aware that Google don’t crawl them. However, Bing and Yahoo! do, so research your keywords and put the most relevant and those you want to rank for in the meta keyword area alongside the meta description and title, which should also contain some of the most important keywords where possible.

Don’t repeat keywords and do ensure that you choose long tail keywords too that are closely related to the most important keywords.

#3: Create Two Sitemaps

For Ask, this is especially important and most probably, for your site visitors too. You don’t tend to see site maps on every site like you used to as they are not deemed to be very important.

Make sure that the sitemap is logical and is made up of text links to make it as simple as possible for the bots to crawl and index it.

You should also submit an XML sitemap to all of the search engines direct, where possible.

#4: Optimize for mobile and iOS

When it comes to DuckDuckGo, as mentioned previously you should optimize with mobile and in particular iOS in mind. Create tailored mobile content and deliver using CSS and media queries.

Choosing to build using Responsive Web Design is the best choice. It’s also a good idea to ensure that phone numbers appear with a call button so that users can search, find and contact you whilst out and about.

#5: Create awesome content

It should go without saying these days but content should be expertly written and presented if you’re to gain a foothold with the lesser search engines. This is especially true of Ask – since the engine looks specifically for quality and ignores things like backlinks, it’s as well to get the written content done professionally if you’re not the world’s best writer.

It’s also worthwhile positioning your site as authoritative and work on becoming a thought leader. To do this will mean a lot of work of course, you will have to post on various sites, make friends with editors and really get yourself out there. However, done effectively and coupled with excellent content, this can boost your chances of becoming one of Ask’s ‘go to’ sites.

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Kerry is the founder and director of markITwrite, a published author and an established authority in the technology niche. Kerry has a background in both publishing and tech and writes extensively across corporate & business tech, web development, SEO, social and marketing and gadgets. A lover of all things internet and the written word, Kerry is an avid reader, a prolific writer and something of a geek.

Comments 16

    1. Post
      Kerry Butters

      Thanks Amy! Sometimes it does seem that there are no other search engines out there! If Google is the sheriff of the Wild West that is the internet, then there are plenty of deputies too!

  1. Janet

    This is such a great topic and I am so glad that I am on the right path. Everything I do or share with others covers all the search engines which is great. To many people just focus on google and forget these other search engines work just as good as google.

    blessings Janet

  2. Glenn D. Bearsky

    DuckDuckGo is becoming an increasingly significant traffic-driver to many of my sites that Google penalized. I love their clean open layout – and their respect for on-page metrics and keyword relevance. I feel like I really am searching the WHOLE internet, and not Google’s ever-shrinking list of Who’s-Who’s allowed onto Page 1.

    However, the folks at DDG need to seriously stop being so search engine development coding and API geeky – and get some SMART MARKETING and growth hacking personnel and strategies in place to make DuckDuckGo a household world. A look at their social media accounts show intermittent – but not daily – attempts to showcase their awesome search engine.

  3. Jose

    I agree with comments here I knew all of them but duckduckgo. Remind me that there are more search engines out there.

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  6. Sid Silhouette

    Great article. I’ve always expressed to clients, that if you optimize your site for the dominate search engines, such as Google and Bing, your site will filter down to the less popular search engines. However, DuckDuckGo is a very aggressive search engine. Generally, if your site is optimized correctly, you’ll see hits with your webmaster tools. In other words, no real need to optimize for DuckDuckGo specifically.

    1. Post
      Kerry Butters

      I think it’s safe (ish) to say that for all of the search engines, aside from the ones that do consider meta keywords which of course Google don’t. It’s a useful exercise though to think beyond Google for most businesses though as it encourages them to consider strategy in more depth.

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  9. Michelle

    I really like this post because most people just think of Google for SEO. It is nice to be reminded that there are other search engines out there that can help you with your online visibility. I knew about most of the names on the list except duckduckgo. I think it is important to still be aware of whats out there to help your website.

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