PUNTUEUS Observatory identifies that Google searches discriminate the Basque language

  • Changes introduced by the main Internet search platform directly affect the number of visits to Wikipedia in Basque.
  • According to the Observatory’s latest analysis, however, the number of users with devices in Basque has doubled.
  • 14% of websites in the Basque Country are in Basque and, in the case of websites using the .EUS domain, the number rises to 75%.

Josu Waliño, CEO of the PUNTUEUS Foundation, and Lorea Arakistain, the marketing director, have announced today at a press conference the PUNTUEUS Observatory report for 2022. The event has also been attended by Albert Cuesta, coordinator of the Aliança per la Presència Digital del Català and Luistxo Fernández, president of Euskal Wikilarien Kultur Elkartea.

The aim of the Observatory is to investigate the situation of the Basque language on the Internet, as well as to analyse the situation and evolution of the .EUS domain. In addition to the indicators that are examined every year, the possible signs of possible discrimination of the Basque language in Google’s search service have been analysed this time.

The origin of this research is based on a recent study carried out by the organisation Aliança per la Presència Digital del Català (Alliance for the Digital Presence of Catalan). At the press conference, its coordinator, Albert Cuesta, has explained that they have analysed the influence of Google’s algorithm on the visibility of Catalan and this research has concluded that, as of spring 2022, it is prioritising results in Spanish over Catalan, regardless of the language in which the search is carried out. In this sense, a decrease in the visibility of Catalan has been detected in 66.5% of the examined websites. 

“After having studied the traffic data of 639 multilingual websites since the beginning of 2021, the Aliança per la Presència Digital del Català has determined that two of three websites in Catalan have lost visits, and that in 80% of the cases the Spanish version has been favoured. The phenomenon is independent of the user’s linguistic preferences, which the search engines have ceased to respect”, has explained Cuesta.

In the Basque Country, those responsible for Wikipedia in Basque have also detected a change in Google’s algorithm. The total number of visits shows an upward trend, but with a decrease in some areas.

In the words of the president of Euskal Wikilarien Kultur Elkartea (EWKE), Luistxo Fernández, “we are concerned because we have evidence that we are feeding Wikipedia in Basque well, we are doing well in increasing content and quality, and yet, since last year, we have been losing traffic in some specific areas. We are convinced that the key lies in the searches derived from Google”.

In the sample analysed by PUNTUEUS, this discrimination against Basque in favour of Spanish has also been identified in the Google search service, which is why there has been a significant drop in terms of the visibility of Basque on the Internet.

“Google responds to searches by Basque-speaking users with results in Spanish. This has serious consequences because it excludes Basque and leads users to browse in Spanish, reducing the visibility of our language on the Internet”, explained Waliño. The director of the PUNTUEUS Foundation has specified that they are going to carry out a detailed analysis of the impact of searches in Basque with the aim of adopting possible corrective measures.

An increasing number of devices in Basque

The latest report from the Observatory offers optimistic data on users’ language choices, and since the last report carried out by Behatokia in 2018, the number of users who have configured their devices in Basque has doubled.

The number of users using devices in Basque was last analysed five years ago, and at that time the lowest figure in history was recorded: only around 2% of devices were configured in Basque.

According to the report presented today, this number has been doubled: 4% of users in general and 15% of Basque users have their devices configured in Basque.

Lorea Arakistain has assessed this upward trend positively, despite the fact that it is small, and she has added that “this data shows that the promotion and awareness-raising actions to encourage citizens to promote the translation of devices and browsers into Basque are having a positive impact”.

Data from the Observatory and the Observatory’s website updated

If we examine the rest of the data analysed by the PUNTUEUS Observatory in 2022, 14% of the websites in the Basque Country currently have some content in Basque. Moreover, among the websites that use the .EUS domain, 75% of users publish content in Basque and, therefore, the presence of Basque is much greater compared to more widespread domains such as .COM or .ES.

In this sense, regarding the .COM and .ES domains, the use of Basque is very low, with 8% and 6% respectively. This information reinforces in the PUNTUEUS Foundation the idea that “the .EUS domain is the vital space for Basque in the digital world and also reinforces the presence of Basque on the Internet”, according to Waliño.

In addition to the situation of the Basque language, the PUNTUEUS Observatory also analyses the situation of the .EUS domain, which has registered a growth rate of 9% in 2022, reaching 14,266 domains.

For its part, the domain renewal rate was 89% in 2022, guaranteeing a high level of user loyalty for the .EUS domain. In order to measure the dimension of this high loyalty rate, it is necessary to underline that in the global domain market the growth rate has been 2.5% and the renewal rate 70%, “so the data for .EUS is very good”, has pointed out Waliño.

In terms of market presence, the PUNTUEUS Observatory also studies the geographical and typological distribution. Typologically, .EUS is present in all sectors of activity, mainly in the business sector, with 43% of the domains.

Regarding the geographical distribution, .EUS, despite having a presence mainly in Bizkaia and Gipuzkoa, is active and continues to grow in all the territories of the Basque Country, registering 9% of the domains outside the Basque Country. This geographical distribution can be seen in the new interactive map published in the PUNTUEUS Observatory, which offers detailed information on the presence of the .EUS domain, at a global, territorial and local level.

One of the main novelties of the Observatory’s report presented today is its interactivity, since after the renovation of the PUNTUEUS website, the data is now published using business intelligence technology. Thanks to this new system, all the studies carried out until now and future analyses will be available interactively on the Observatory’s website, with the possibility of filtering and visualising all the data at territorial and local level.