Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees

The UK has a search engine called Everyclick, that’s powered by Yahoo, and raises money for charity. Thanks to Everyclick I’m familiar with the concept and challenges of third sector search engines.

That’s why Ecosia caught my attention. As I search and click (interacting with income generating ads is key) it earns money and then donates that to tree planting progams.

Ecosia has planted over 3 million trees in this way. That’s about one every 12 seconds.

Bing powers Ecosia’s first page. It’s a good test of search relevancy. Without familiar logos you might well wonder whether you’re looking at Google results.

As it happens, Ecosia has a Google tab and the search engine has become a new favourite way to compare Bing to Google results. I’ve planted 5 trees with it.

Is there a catch? I noticed Ecosia wasn’t registered as a charity and asked founder Christian Kroll about that.

We believe in the power of social business. Instead of only trying to maximize our profits, we try to maximize the number of trees we can plant in the long term. We make this very transparent by publishing all our donation receipts and monthly business reports. As a social business we have the possibility to scale and generate more revenue to donate than we would as a charity. Thanks to its business model, Ecosia has been cash flow positive from the beginning. There is a lot of money in search advertising and we want to make use of that so people can do good without any further costs or effort on their side. We've already been very successful with this in the past, as the number of trees we've been able to finance, shows. Our next goal is to exponentially grow our number of users, so we can reforest the planet even faster.

So is Ecosia just an oddity and of interest to digital marketing geeks like myself? Perhaps not. The search engine’s market share is tiny but growing. Kroll was able to provide me with some stats;

Our worldwide market share might be miniscule compared to a monopolist like Google, but 10% of all non-Google users in the DACH region use Ecosia. This percentage is currently quite noticeably growing in other regions, too. Especially in the UK, probably due to Google's tax situation. The fact that users now change to Ecosia shows us, that the future belongs to tools that capitalize on a daily habit to offer an additional social or environmental benefit.

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