eco search

Seeds of change: the search engine that plants trees

The world’s biggest rainforest is a vital carbon store, and home to an unparalleled diversity of animal and plant life.

But some 80,000 fires have blazed in the Amazon rainforest in 2019, double the number for the same period last year, as land is cleared for grazing or crops. The blazes sparked international condemnation.

With such a massive issue, it can be hard to know how we, as individuals, can contribute to the solution. But one search engine is working to play its part. Berlin-based Ecosia is similar to other search engines, but with one key difference. It uses 80% of its profits from ad revenue and an online shop to plant trees, and so far has planted more than 67 million of them, or more than one a second. Their Ad revenue comes from running Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns similar to Googles model, what is PPC?

The remaining 20% of the company’s profits are kept in reserve, but used to fund reforestation if they are not needed.

Already, there are some eight million active users, and nearly a million followers of Ecosia’s Facebook page. Two thirds of the organisation’s fans are based in Germany or France, and a disproportionate number are younger people in larger cities. There are also more female than male users, but all share an interest in environmental issues.

It was launched in 2009 thus is approaching it’s tenth anniversary, and the topicality of reforestation, make this a highly current venture.

 Ethical search

After around 45 searches, Ecosia has enough funds to finance the planting of one tree. (However, it varies according to numbers of clicks on adverts and search ad revenue generated.)

It earns on average of 0.5 cents (EUR) per search. It costs its tree-planting partners about 0.22 EUR to plant a tree. Those 22 cents divided by 0.5 cents means one new tree can be planted around every 45 searches.

The organisation works with multiple partners in 16 nations across the world, including in Africa, Latin America (including Brazil), Asia, Europe and north Africa.

How it works

 Initially, Ecosia provided results from Yahoo while also using tech from Bing and Wikipedia. Yahoo supplied ads as part of a revenue-sharing arrangement. Now Microsoft Bing provides Ecosia’s search results, enhanced by its own algorithms. And it’s available as a web browser or on-the-go app on both Android and iOS devices.

Last year, it committed to being a privacy-friendly search engine. It encrypts all searches, and these are not stored permanently, equally data isn’t sold on to third-party advertisers. Ecosia doesn’t create personal profiles based on search history or use Google Analytics or other external tracking tools. If you’d like to support this search engine with your advertising budget then take a look at our PPC packages so we can set it up for you.

You can download Ecosia via Google Chrome’s web store and make it your default search engine. It’s also available as a default on web browsers like Brave and Pale Moon, and an option in the German version on Firefox 59.0.

However, Ecosia has said it won’t take part in the ‘search-choice’ Google-led auction to appear on Android devices. So, from 2020, European Android phone users won’t be able to set Ecosia as their default search engine.

Finally, Ecosia uses shortcuts, including #g after your search to go straight to Google, #fb to go directly to Facebook. There’s a full list here.

So this is an interesting model likely to be a particular hit with millennials concerned about the planet. And if Ecosia were to develop a video platform similar to YouTube’s, or data and cloud services, or a display ad network, who knows where it could go?

Make no mistake; ethical search is here to stay.

If you would like to chat more about search engine marketing then please contact us.