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August 22, 2019

How Do Private Search Engines Make Money?

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In recent years, the supremacy of search engine giants like Google and Bing has begun to be challenged. Growing concerns over privacy violations have driven people to find safer alternatives in private engines like HotBot.com, DuckDuckGo, and Startpage. Unlike Google, these search alternatives don’t use tracking cookies or collect user information at all, keeping your identity safe. However, much of Google’s massive income is generated through the use of targeted ads created by the data they collect. So how do private search engines, with no saved user information, create revenue in order to operate?

  • Contextual ads
  • Affiliate links
  • Shopping search
  • Donations

Contextual Ads

While private engines don’t use targeted ads to earn income, that doesn’t mean they don’t advertise at all. Instead, they use contextual ads. The difference between the two all comes down to tracking. If you were to look up socks on Google, Google would store the information that you’re interested in socks. If you later look up brownie recipes, Google might still show you ads for socks because it knows that’s what you were interested in before. That’s called a targeted ad.

Contextual ads are based on keywords. If you look up socks, you will be shown an ad for socks. If you look up brownie recipes, you will be shown an ad for brownie recipes. As soon as you navigate away from a page, the private engine forgets what you were looking for and any other ads you see will be directly related to the search you are making. This is how we at HotBot.com earn most of our revenue.

Private Search Engines Make Money Through Affiliate Links

Many private engines earn income through the use of affiliate partnerships. With this method, they partner with a company or organization interested in increasing traffic to their website. The partner provides them with a link which contains a specific ID or username. The affiliate partner is able to log how many times the link is clicked and pays a small amount of money to the search engine for every click, as a reward for the engine generating traffic.

Shopping Search

Some private search engines are beginning to integrate shopping features into their platforms. When you make a search, they might include a sidebar that shows you where you can buy products related to that search. Every time a user clicks one of those products, the search engine earns a little bit of revenue. This method is very similar to the use of affiliate links but specifically directs to ecommerce stores, whereas an affiliate link can direct to any web page the partner wants traffic for.


Some private engines were designed as non-profit organizations and rely on donations for income instead of ads or affiliate programs. This is similar to how Wikipedia generates income to continue running.

Private search engines are still small but they’re also mighty, and growing every day.

You can start protecting your privacy today by browsing the web safely with HotBot.com.

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