Olympics SEO: Google’s Gender Bias. News Box data from 8 countries offers insight.14. April 2022
The 2022 Winter Olympics weren’t just about showcasing the best athletic performances the world has to offer, but also scandal and Covid-19 restrictions. For our Olympic analysis, we looked at all our currently available European data for Olympics-related keywords Feb. 4-20 in the mobile News Boxes. This data is based on the News Dashboard’s 15-minute crawl interval for all ranking data and weighted visibility share graphs.
We were able to highlight the ranking differences of mobile News Boxes for gendered terms in German, French and Spanish, highlighting a seldom discussed SEO topic: How gender preference in keywords can directly affect visibility results.
All keywords used in this report can be found at the end.
Gender-specific keywords in three European languages
For this analysis we looked at all languages that distinguish between the female and male words for winner. These were: French, German and Spanish in Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany and Austria.
Switzerland will be our visual guide, as we were able to recover data in two languages for this country.
We recorded 1,912 rankings for the German male term “olympia gewinner” (olympic winner/s) in Switzerland and only 532 for the female term “olympia gewinnerinnen” (olympic winners). Meaning the male term was nearly 4 times as visible. Let’s look at the data for other German-speaking countries: In Germany we have 1,511 rankings for the male term, putting it at nearly 3 times the amount of the female term, which had 652 overall rankings. Even more interesting – we had no mobile News Box rankings for the female term in Austria over the whole time-span, but 750 for the male term.
Next, let’s look at the top 5 in general and for the specific terms (in alphabetical order):
Top 5 general: blick.ch; eurosport.de; spiegel.de; srf.ch; watson.ch
Top 5 winners: br.de; derstandard.at; eurosport.de; srf.ch; watson.ch
Top 5 male winners: blick.ch; br.de; derstandard.at; srf.ch; watson.ch
Top 5 female winners: bild.de; eurosport.de; luzernerzeitung.ch; sport.de; stern.de
For the male terms, the top articles surrounded specific athletes both males and mixed and other general Olympic news. The articles seldom mentioned the actual gendered keyword in any of the headlines – but one article ranking from watson.ch includes “frauen” (women) in the headline.
For the female terms, we recorded mobile News Boxes only on 4 out of 17 days. There were fewer ranking articles, but they more often mentioned specific female athletes or other definitive female terms in the headlines. The articles surrounded not only main Olympic news but also rumors and other facts – for example this portrait of a former female athlete or this athlete’s emotional outburst.
Top 5 general: eurosport.de; focus.de; spiegel.de; t-online.de; web.de
Top 5 winners: rp-online.de; br.de; eurosport.de; sport1.de; web.de
Top 5 male winners: rp-online.de; br.de; eurosport.de; sport1.de; web.de
Top 5 female winners: bild.de; eurosport.de; rheinpfalz.de; sport.de; wp.de
We see a similar picture – general news for male terms for specific male athletes and mixed groups. However, four outliers out of thirteen for example this article, surrounding a female artist criticizing a male athlete, and this portrait of an athlete. Nearly the same amount mentioned the keyword in the headline as did not.
Top 5 general: derstandard.at; eurosport.de; focus.de; orf.at; spiegel.de
Top 5 winners: br.de; derstandart.at; gmx.at; salzburg24.at; web.de
Top 5 male winners: br.de; derstandart.at; gmx.at; salzburg24.at; web.de
Top 5 female winners: –
As mentioned before there were no rankings for the female term, just for “olympia gewinner”. All in all there were 750 rankings – less than in most other countries. Web.de as part of the top 5 had only one top article mentioning all winners of the German team. Same goes for br.de. Even gmx.at mentioned only one German male athlete in their one and only top article. Only derstandard.at with a mention of the win of a male Austrian athlete and salzburg24.at mentioning several focused on the national winners while simultaneously not mentioning the keyword in their titles.
Now let’s move on to the French-speaking countries:
Top 5 general: 20min.ch; franceinfotv.fr; lematin.ch; lequipe.fr; rts.ch
Top 5 winners: ledauphine.com; leparisien.fr; lequipe.fr; lesechos.fr; levif.be
Top 5 male winners: france24.com; ledauphine.com; leparisien.fr; lequipe.fr; letemps.ch
Top 5 female winners: ladepeche.fr; lequipe.fr; lesechos.fr; levif.be
Again, we have a clear difference in mobile News Box rankings giving the male term “jo gagnants” (olympic winners) 6.75 times more rankings than the female term “jo gagnantes” (olympic winners). As explained for France, france24.com ranks for the male term only with a female athlete, while the others feature either athletes in general or male athletes in particular. For the female term, we had in total only four publishers that ranked at all on 2 days. The articles featured were an overall ranking table by ladepeche.fr; an article highlighting Norway’s performance; an article highlighting France’s performance and an article highlighting a female athlete’s performance. It is also worth mentioning that Norway and France are both countries that are female in French grammar.
Top 5 general: 20minutes.fr; eurosport.fr; francetvinfo.fr; lemonde.fr; lequipe.fr
Top 5 winners: eurosport.fr; france24.com; ledauphine.com; leparisien.fr; lequipe.fr
Top 5 male winners: france24.com; ledauphine.com; lemonde.fr; leparisien.fr; ouest-france.fr
Top 5 female winners: eurosport.fr; france24.com; ledauphine.com; lequipe.fr; lesechos.fr
Again, we see a clear focus on the male term – with nearly double the rankings. Only eurosport.fr ranked for the female-only term “jo gagnantes” (olympic winners) and as the only top publisher out of the top 5 for both winner terms with one article concerning a clothing brand. They did not mention “gagnantes” in their headline, but in their first article line. france24.com ranked for both terms with an article surrounding a doping case study on a female athlete – the first time so far that a female-only centric piece has ranked for the seemingly gender-inclusive male term. Interestingly, ledauphine.com ranked with only one article for the female-only term featuring a male athlete’s profile. Same goes for leparisien.fr and lequipe.fr featuring three articles with the same pattern with none mentioning the female plural “gagnantes” (winners) in their (paywall-free) article headlines or text.
Lastly, a few words on Spain.
Top 5 general: abc.com.py; as.com; eurosport.es; marca.com; mundodeportivo.com
Top 5 winners: as.com; cnn.com; marca.com; rtve.es
Top 5 male winners: as.com; cnn.com; marca.com; rtve.es
Top 5 female winners: –
Again, we had no rankings for the female-only term and only 165 mobile News Box rankings in total over three days by four competitors, which is fewer than in all other countries. Most rankings came from general overview articles of the Olympic gold medals for all countries.
Finally, we tried to look into search interest for the specific terms, but Google Trends did not provide enough data – so we zoomed out on the terms winners (male and female) and the difference was huge, putting the female term at a tiny fraction of the interest for the male-dominant term for all mentioned languages.
We have three national and two Dutch publishers joining the ranks for Flemish news surrounding the Olympics in Belgium. Three are general news publishers: Nieuwsblad.be, ad.nl and hln.be. Leading the pack as you might expect, we have two sports-centered publishers: Eurosport.nl and sporza.be. The most News Box Rankings were crawled for the keyword “olympische spelen” (olympic games), while “olympische spelen schandalen” (olympic games scandals) had the least. In terms of most rankings for a single keyword – “olympische winterspelen” (olympic winter games) – sporza.be was the clear winner, with 3,459 rankings – making up more than 50 percent of all News Box rankings for this keyword.
For the Olympics in France, we see three general news publishers in the top 5, 20minutes.fr, francetvinfo.fr and lemonde.fr; and two more sports-centered ones: Lequipe.fr and eurosport.fr. Furthermore, we see that two out of those are more focused on video content. By far the keyword with the most recorded rankings was “jo” (short for – jeux olympiques -olympic games) – putting an abbreviation in Google’s focus. For this keyword, lequipe.fr was able to score the most placements – 2,581 out of 8,930 – with 83 different articles ranking over 16 days.
In Germany, we see mostly general news publishers in the top 5: focus.de, spiegel.de, t-online.de and web.de. Only one sports publisher made the cut: eurosport.de. Interestingly, this is also the only broadcaster. The general “olympische spiele” (olympic games) was the keyword with the most mobile News Box rankings – 8,886 over the whole time-span. Nearly half of those were made up by t-online.de and eurosport.de. T-online.de’s most visible article for this keyword featured athletes criticising the Olympics and Olympic committee in a talkshow, while eursport.de shined with a live blog.
We had another win for general news publishers in the Netherlands, with telegraaf.nl, ad.nl, nos.nl and nu.nl. Only one sport publisher made the cut: eursport.nl. However, two publishers were broadcasters – eusport.nl and nos.nl. By far the greatest visibility had ad.nl for the whole time-span with their top 3 keywords being: “olympische winterspelen” (olympic winter games), “olympische spelen live” (olympic games live) and “winterspelen”(winter games). Only one of those was also part of the general top 3 keywords with the most recorded rankings. Ad.nl reached 39.12 percent visibility on their best day – 13.71 percent more than the second-best telegraaf.nl and 30.05 percent more than the third-placed eurosport.nl.
The Olympics in Spain were overtaken by a sports publisher: marca.es. This puts them in line with most other top 5 publishers being Spanish sport-centered ones: eurosport.es, as.com and mundodeportivo.com. The one exception is a general news publisher from Paraguay: abc.com.py. In contrast with most other countries had “juegos olímpicos en vivo” – so olympics live – only 32 mobile News Box rankings in total were crawled putting it just above the least visible keyword “corona olímpica” with 27 rankings.
Switzerland was once again divided between Swiss publishers (blick.ch, watson.ch and srf.ch) and German ones (eurosport.de and spiegel.de). All except eurosport.de focus on general news. Only one publisher had a live blog as their best article – blick.ch for the Olympics opening ceremony – no wonder that they were by far the best publisher until Feb. 11. Although “olympische winterspiele live” (olympic winter games live) was by far the keyword with the least rankings for the whole time-span. Blick.ch had no rankings for this keyword at all – even with “live” being part of three of their articles’ headlines.
Again, the field for the most visible Olympics’ publishers was divided in national and foreign publishers. The Swiss publishers were: 20min.ch, lematin.ch and rts.ch. The French publishers were francetvinfo.fr and lequipe.fr, with the latter one being the only sport-focused news distributor. Two of those were broadcasters – francetvinfo.fr and rts.ch. The last one took over the Swiss mobile News Boxes over the whole time-span with 16,686 News Box appearances in total. The second best publishers had more than 10000 fewer rankings overall. All but one of their articles surrounding the Olympics started with the keyword “pékin 2022” (beijing 2022) in the headline – no wonder “beijing 2022” and “jo pékin” (olympic games beijing) were both part of their top 5 keywords.
The UK has a lot of interesting rankings in their top 5 for mobile News Boxes concerning the Olympic games. They have two private British general news publishers: theguardian.com and independent.co.uk. Next, we have the British Broadcasting Corporation with both their international and national URL making the cut: bb.co.uk and bbc.com. Lastly, we have the official news site of the Olympics – olympics.com – as part of the top 5 for the first time so far.
Similar to Switzerland, there were both Austrian and German publishers competing for mobile News Box rankings. On the German side were: spiegel.de, eursport.de and focus.de. On the Austrian side were: derstandard.at and orf.at. Eurosport.de had by far the most rankings (14,023) and was by far the leading publisher after the 10th of February. Their best article wasn’t even a live article or an Austrian-centered one but discussed a small Instagram scandal. However, the keyword “olympia skandale” (olympic scandals) was second to last in the keyword ranking.