How do private search engines impact advertisers?

Every day, thousands of people switch away from Big Tech, opting instead for private Web browsers and private search engines to protect their data (and themselves) online.

This shift is significantly impacting today’s digital ad platforms. As users take steps to protect their privacy, big ad-tech platforms like Google aren’t able to collect as much user data, which in turn hampers their ability to target ads. And this has broad-reaching implications for advertisers.

In this article: how the shift to private search engines is impacting advertisers and search ad platforms.

What are private search engines?

Private search engines work much like Google, only with far less (or even zero) tracking. In general, a private search engine won’t track searches, clicks, or other user behavior, and won’t build user profiles for ad targeting.

Those who use private search engines effectively remove themselves from the pool of people who can be targeted with search ads on Big Tech ad platforms. The more people opt for private search engines, the less effective traditional search ads become.

Learn more about private search engines and how they work.

Most private search engines rely on another search index to run. DuckDuckGo (DDG), for example, uses Bing’s search index. In this case, DDG search results show Microsoft-powered Bing ads, but generally block the tracking that’s associated with clicking on them.

Alternatives like Ecosia, Neeva, and Yahoo! are also powered by Bing, though they don’t necessarily market themselves as “private” search options.

On the other hand, a search engine that’s both independent and private—like Brave Search—has a lot more freedom. Brave Search is built on its own index of the Web, meaning it doesn’t rely on other tech or other ad systems. There’s no tracking to block in the first place. Instead, Brave developed its own private alternative to search ads from the ground up: private search ads that don’t rely on data collection or invasive ad targeting.

What are private search ads and how do they work?

Private search ads work much like traditional search ads, in that they appear on search engine results pages (SERPs) based on particular queries or keywords. But unlike traditional search ads, private search ads don’t rely on tracking, data collection, or user profiling to target users. These engines aim to deliver helpful results—which can sometimes be ads—all while protecting user privacy.

Private search ads also reduce the risk of data breaches and other security issues that arise from collecting and storing personal data.

The impact of private search on advertisers and marketers

As private search becomes more widely used, advertisers and marketers will need to rethink their approach to online advertising, both on existing ad platforms and new ones.

Changes to existing search engines and their ad platforms

Many search engines (even Google) now let users change settings to protect their own privacy. Of course, Big Tech doesn’t want to offer privacy, because it negatively affects ad revenue. So they won’t offer privacy by default. But their hand is forced by popular demand.

While there’s no guarantee that changing a setting will fully disable data collection (i.e. cookies and trackers), in theory every person who adjusts their Google settings is another hit to the reach of search ads on that platform…and to Google’s profit. This is doubly true as people migrate off platforms like Google altogether, and onto private-by-design alternatives like Brave Search. Either way, the old model is becoming less effective.

Brave Search: a new private search ad platform

Brave recently implemented Search Ads into its private, independent search engine, Brave Search.

Brave Search ads are keyword-based ads, matched in response to a user’s search query. Unlike other major ad-tech providers who suck up as much personal data as they can, Brave only ever sees anonymous data. Brave can know someone clicked an ad, but not who clicked an ad (or even any tertiary data that might hint at who).

Brave Search only uses your search query, country, and device type to show you ads, and does not keep any kind of profile of your searches. This ensures that no personally identifiable data ever leaves your device. Brave Search ads provide the same utility as traditional search ads, minus all the tracking and privacy invasions.

Privacy-respecting search advertising: challenges and opportunities

For advertisers, the shift toward a privacy-first Web presents both challenges (like finding ways to target users without violating their privacy) and opportunities (like building brand trust, or reaching otherwise unreachable audiences).

With regard to private search ads in particular, there are a few key considerations for brands and advertisers:

Refine keyword targeting strategies for search ads

Private search ads require better keyword targeting strategies, since there’s less (or no) personal data to power ad targeting. Brands will need to creatively research the best ways to allocate ad spend based on keywords.

Implement new systems for tracking performance

Traditional search engines track users’ searches, clicks, and other behavior—making it easy for advertisers to measure the success of ad campaigns. Private search engines don’t track users, which means brands will need creative solutions to monitor ad campaigns and ROI—like first-party tracking or curated landing pages. Private search ads in Brave Search, for example, rely on Brave’s anonymous-but-accountable attribution model that confirms event activity, without exposing or identifying users.

Learn more about other major changes to the digital ad landscape, and how advertisers can adapt and survive.

Brave Search ads: an opportunity to connect with privacy-focused audiences

Brands should consider new ad platforms, like Brave Ads, that offer privacy-first ad formats. Not only do private ads help brands build trust with audiences, but they also offer first-mover advantages to advertisers at a time when traditional search ads are becoming passé.

Brave’s latest private ad offering, Search Ads, is designed to be a private, effective alternative to traditional search ads. It’s a new, cutting-edge ad unit, helping advertisers get in front of interested users, without collecting their data or invading their privacy. Visit Brave Ads to get started today.

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