For years, marketers and web analysts have been using workarounds and custom Google Analytics configurations to track DuckDuckGo as an organic source of traffic. Despite being an organic search engine, like Bing or Yahoo, the traffic from DuckDuckGo had previously been reported in Google Analytics as a referral.

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Now, a recent change in Google Analytics designates it as organic without any additional work needed. What does this mean for you and your business’ GA data? Let’s take a look.

What is DuckDuckGo?

A search engine. More specifically, a search engine focused on user privacy. It has grown in popularity as news about security and privacy settings on social networks and search engines has become prevalent.

Should I care?

Depends, but your answer is probably yes. The overall amount of search traffic for DuckDuckGo is relatively low but has been growing fast. The privacy-focused search engine recorded more than 9 billion searches in 2018 and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. That said, that number is a far cry from the 2 trillion searches that Google did in the same year.

For additional context, in the month of February 2019, DuckDuckGo makes up about 0.38 percent of total search share. That’s far behind the likes of Bing and Yahoo, but noteworthy considering how new it is in the search game.

What changed in Google Analytics?

Before a recent change, any traffic from DuckDuckGo was placed under the medium as a referral and not as an organic source. There are configuration options in Google Analytics to add organic sources but that requires manual updates on each individual property.

Starting sometime in late January, Google Analytics began recording traffic from DuckDuckGo as an organic search source without any additional configuration steps. Unfortunately, DuckDuckGo data prior to that date is still recorded as a referral, but the numbers show a solid shift in reporting as organic after the update.

Why did Google change DuckDuckGo from referral to organic?

Despite users demanding for this change to happen for at least a few years, Google has largely ignored the requests and simply informed users how to add the search engine as an organic source via admin configuration settings. At this time, it’s uncertain exactly why Google changed Analytics to record DuckDuckGo as organic because the change hasn’t been announced officially by the company. In fact, the Google Analytics help page about organic sources still does not list DuckDuckGo as a default source.

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One potential reason for the change could be related to an upcoming update for Google Chrome. Along with quietly changing Google Analytics’ tracking, an upcoming version of Google Chrome will add DuckDuckGo as a default search option. It seems like Google is starting to embrace the idea of giving users more options to protect their privacy, without giving too much fanfare to the competition.

If you’re not sure what your Google Analytics is telling you, contact us about having our DEG Analytics & Insight team take a look.

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