The Impact of Google's HCU on Bicycle Guider

Google’s HCU Destroyed Our Site: Bicycle Guider Is Now Fighting for Survival

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Google Helpful content update killed our site
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Bicycle Guider has been publishing valuable guides, reviews, and articles about all things related to cycling since 2015.

It has always been owned and steered by a team of passionate cyclists motivated to share their knowledge and experience, build a community, and support their families in the process.

Our plan was to keep doing this for years in the future, grow together with our community, and keep providing value and support to fellow cyclists.

Unfortunately, Google had other plans and Google’s latest Helpful Content Update (HCU) hit us and many other legitimate publishers in the cycling niche hard.

We lost rankings for most of our top keywords, resulting in a nearly 90% drop in revenue.

We monetize our content with a combination of display ads and affiliate links, both of which have recently taken a nosedive. We provided jobs to cyclist writers during these years.

As a result, we will no longer be able to produce new content and keep Bicycle Guider alive. Sad to say, but we can’t keep our best writers who helped build Bicycle Guider!

Our Bike Size Chart Is Gone After Being Viewed 10M+ Times

Our Bike Size Charts article is a good example of how Google’s HCU has affected our website negatively.

To give you some context, this article was written in 2015 and has been viewed more than 10M times so far. In addition to that, we’ve answered over 1,000 comments below this article, helping our community of cyclists pick the right bike size for their needs.

Bicycle-Guider's Bike size stats

During all those years, our Bike Size Chart article stayed on the first page of Google, typically in the top 3 positions, because it offers detailed, helpful information, and provides value to our readers, who obviously recognized that judging by the engagement statistics shown above.

Right now, our article sits in the 42nd position, which would be page 5 of Google results. It has been replaced by rip-offs of our original bike size chart in terms of data and layouts, almost header by header.

This is just one example. Dozens of our top-ranking keywords have been displaced by big media companies, discussion forums like Reddit and Quora, and AI-generated content.

And we are not alone—the same things are happening to thousands of independent publishers just like us.

For example, the team behind analyzed 671 travel publishers and uncovered that 78% of them lost organic traffic, which translates to 8 out of 10 sites. Many of them lost up to 90% of their traffic, even though they have historically thrived on the SERPs.

Reddit, Quora, and Big Media Conglomerates Are Taking Over the SERPs

You may have noticed that no matter what you google now, there’s always a selection of the same big media publishers showing up at the top of the results page.

You may be wondering why. did a deep dive into Google results by analyzing 10,000 commercial keywords where affiliate websites are ranking, covering products in all niches. It turns out that websites owned by only 16 companies ranked on the first page of 8,574 (or 85%) of them

companies ranking on google
A visual representation of the 16 media conglomerates owning 85% of the websites ranking on the first page of 10,000 commercial keywords. (Source:

Like so many times before, the big fish is getting bigger fueled by profits and corporate greed, devouring small, independent publishers as collateral damage.

To make things worse, many of our top-ranking articles have now been replaced by Reddit and Quora pages filled with spam and low-quality anecdotal answers thanks to Google’s ‘Discussions and Forums’ SERP feature.

According to another analysis performed by on a different set of 10,000 commercial keywords, “The ‘Discussions and Forums’ SERP feature was present in 77% of searches, and Reddit was present in 97.5% of those.” Not only that, but, “…51% of Reddit’s top-ranking threads currently have spam as a top comment.”

Is this the Helpful Content that Google tells us we need and cites as their main motivation for nuking the SERPs? Something doesn’t add up.

Why Is Google Doing This? Isn’t Their Goal to Improve Our Search Experience?

In their announcement regarding the March 2024 HCU, Google says that the update is, “designed to improve the quality of Search by showing less content that feels like it was made to attract clicks, and more content that people find useful.”

This sounds nice, but we are doubtful judging by the real-world SERP results, and a few other things that have happened lately.

Let me clarify.

A series of leaked emails revealed that Google’s leadership, driven by revenue growth, prioritized advertising and engagement metrics over search quality.

This led to changes in Google’s search algorithm and ad display, ultimately resulting in a decline in the quality of search results and user satisfaction.

The emails also expose a conflict between the company’s search and ads teams, highlighting the tension between user experience and profit maximization.

Profit maximization is exactly what we got out of the whole conundrum, considering that Google reported a 15% increase in revenue for Q1 2024, compared to the same period last year.

Statistic: Revenue of Google from 1st quarter 2008 to 1st quarter 2024 (in million U.S. dollars) | Statista

To further support this claim, consider the fact that in 2019, Google replaced Ben Gomes, a long-time advocate for high-quality search, with Prabhakar Raghavan, a managerial figure focused on increasing profits.

This shift prioritized revenue growth over user experience, leading to search result changes that favored ads and engagement metrics.

Consequently, Google’s search quality declined, reflecting a broader trend of profit maximization at the expense of the search experience.

What All of Us Can Do to Fight Back

The recent Google Helpful Content Update (HCU) has made it tough for many independent publishers like us.

So far, there’s not much we can do to switch things around and regain our rankings and lost revenue.

However, if you still want to read our content and be a part of our community, here are several steps you can take.

  • Use Search Modifiers: When you’re searching for information on Google, try adding -reddit or -quora to your queries. This excludes results from these sites and helps you find more relevant and higher-quality content, including ours.
  • Use Google’s advanced search operators like site:, intitle:, or inurl: to narrow down your results. For example, bike size chart will show you all the relevant pages from our website directly.
  • Engage with Us: Leave comments, ask questions, and share our content on social media. Your engagement helps signal to Google that our content is valuable and relevant, which can improve our visibility.
  • Choose an Alternative Search Engine: Consider using search engines that support independent publishers. Ecosia is a great alternative that plants trees with its ad revenue, and Bing also provides a diverse range of results. But avoid using DuckDuckGo if you want to support publishers through ad revenue, as it blocks all ads.

This way, you can keep supporting small, independent publishers like us who share your passion for cycling, no matter what Google decides to promote.

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