DuckDuckGo Advertising: What You Should Know

Keyboard with lock representing computer security and search engine privacy

DuckDuckGo has been building a name for itself as the privacy-focused search engine, using aggressive promotion to the point of putting up billboards in major metro areas across the US. This search platform has seen exponential growth in users, with total queries increasing 53% in 2020 vs. 2019. According to Statcounter, DuckDuckGo controls 2.3% of search market share as of March 2021, up from 1.3% in March 2020.You may even use it yourself, or if you don’t, you likely know a privacy-obsessed friend or family member who’s chosen to default to DuckDuckGo as their main search engine.

How to Advertise on DuckDuckGo

Naturally, as DuckDuckGo continues to grab more search demand, marketers looking to expand beyond Google may be curious about options for advertising on DuckDuckGo. The good news is that if you have a Microsoft Advertising account, you have an easy option for placing search ads on DuckDuckGo.

DuckDuckGo serves ads through Microsoft as a search partner, meaning that if you have search partners enabled on your Microsoft Advertising search ad groups, your ads will be eligible to show there. Under Ad distribution in ad group level settings, you can either select “All Search Networks” or “Bing, AOL and Yahoo syndicated search partners only” for this option.

DuckDuckGo ad group settings panel

The bad news is that enabling search partners opens the door to other placements, which are sometimes on lower quality sites, so you’ll need to closely monitor website URL reports and exclude junky-looking or low performing placements. Microsoft technically doesn’t allow you to strictly target specific placements (so you can’t strictly target DuckDuckGo), but by continually excluding ones you don’t want, you could narrow down to showing your ads only on DuckDuckGo and other placements that are actually performing well.

Ad Formats & Appearance

Ads in DuckDuckGo bear similarities to those on other search platforms and can include both shopping feed ads as well as responsive/expanded text ads. Most ad extensions appear to show as normal as well.

Text ads are delineated with a small AD logo to the right of the headline. From what I was able to see, when a shopping feed is eligible to show, that can appear either at the top or to the right of the desktop SERP. Two text ads appear above the organic results, with a third text ad (which appears to just show two headlines and one description) in the right sidebar. Mobile search results show shopping ads at the top (if they are relevant for the particular search) and then two text ads above the organic results.

Seeing Results from DuckDuckGo

From a tracking standpoint, when a click occurs on an ad from DuckDuckGo, all UTM parameters set up through Microsoft Advertising should carry through on the ad, as well as the Microsoft Click ID (MSCLKID) which ties conversions back to the click on the backend. Data will be reported in the ad platform as usual, with the ability to break down placement-specific metrics in a report.

To review results from DuckDuckGo, run a Publisher report in Microsoft Advertising. You can access this report from Reports in the top toolbar > Reports > Website URL (Publisher) Report.

Ad results panel for DuckDuckGo Ads

Next, select a date range and the columns you’d like to include for metrics in the report. You can run the report directly within the web interface or download it as an Excel file.

Then, you can filter by Website URL to see a breakdown of DuckDuckGo performance by campaign and ad group. Note that I’ve cleared out the Account Name/Campaign Name/Ad Group columns for client privacy, but when downloading data from your own account you should see these filled in with the appropriate fields.

Ad results spreadsheet with traffic per URL for DuckDuckGo Ads

If you’re seeing DuckDuckGo spend significantly without converting, you may want to exclude it from ad groups or campaigns with lower performance. Where you’re seeing it perform, that data could be a justification for keeping Search Partners active.

Ready to Test DuckDuckGo?

While unfortunately there’s no way (as of the time of this article) to specifically target ads to DuckDuckGo, the growth of this up-and-coming search engine is a potential argument for testing search partners on Microsoft Advertising. You’ll just need to monitor placement reports closely to determine if the performance justifies leaving this setting on.

Search marketers should keep an eye on DuckDuckGo, as they continue to grow and capture more market share with no sign of slowing down. They may perhaps eventually launch their own (likely heavily privacy-focused) advertising option.

Have you seen results from advertising on DuckDuckGo via Microsoft Advertising? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!