SEO News You Can Use: SEMrush Study Reveals Fascinating Traffic Growth Statistics

SEO News You Can Use

It’s no secret that the pandemic has affected virtually every facet of daily life in one way or another. The results of a recently released SEMrush study give insight into how it impacted traffic growth rankings for major U.S. websites. With the majority of internet users staying home, internet usage also shifted – and the traffic for several already well-performing sites suddenly exploded. 

Using its Traffic Rank tool and a 500,000 sample of U.S. domains, SEMrush analyzed traffic growth rankings for January 2020 compared to January 2021 to see how much of an effect the pandemic had on user demand and search habits. The results were vastly different: A year of quarantines and lockdowns made a notable impact on browsing habits and traffic growth by industry.

One standout example is that the Law and Government sector’s traffic surged by 4,300 percent, thanks to citizens regularly heading to the CDC website or local travel advisories for COVID-19 updates. This was, unsurprisingly, the industry with the highest average traffic growth, followed by People and Society at 2,700 percent, Sports at 2,200 percent and Games at 1,400 percent.

Between 2020 and 2021, overall internet usage increased by 22 percent. The average daily time spent browsing the internet reached historic highs: 155 minutes on mobile (which was over four times the 37 minutes spent on desktop.) Things got even more interesting when SEMrush looked at the top 20 U.S. websites for traffic growth. 

Coming in hot at number one? Zoom, of course, with unprecedented traffic growth from 26.5 million in January 2020 to 475.9 million in January 2021. Other sites rounding off the top 20 belong to TikTok, OnlyFans, Twitch, Slack and DoorDash. Distance-learning software like Schoology and Infrastructure also grew significantly, as did online stock trading sites. Smaller domains in the 100,000 to 1 million site visitors range also saw a major shift. Streaming service HBO Max grew its traffic from 126,000 in 2020 to  20.2 million in 2021. Among sites with fewer than 100,000 visitors, illegal streaming sites reigned supreme, with three, in particular, growing from a few thousand visitors to millions.

When you look at these stats, none of them should come as too much of a surprise. But seeing it in numbers really drives home how much the internet has changed in the past year. User demand in the year 2021 changed, and, as a result, so did traffic growth. As an SEO, it could be useful to analyze these trends and determine any takeaways that can help you refine your own strategies for 2021. And if not? It’s still interesting to be reminded how a single event (not just a Google algorithm change) can totally transform the SEO landscape in a matter of months.

More SEO news you can use

Maybe Site Speed Isn’t as Important as We Think: Site speed is a ranking factor, and with the upcoming Page Experience update, it’s about to hold even more weight. Having said that, exactly how much weight is “more weight,” anyway? In the latest Search Off the Record podcast, Google’s John Mueller, Gary Illyes and Martin Splitt hinted that maybe site speed isn’t such a big deal after all. In a hypothetical scenario, the three of them suggest that page speed might end up being nothing more than a tiebreaker between two equal-ranking sites. Hmm. Illyes also said tiebreaker situations are surprisingly common, and it’s not unusual for them to come into play (HTTPS was dubbed a “tiebreaker” a few years ago, so this isn’t unfamiliar terminology.) Hmmmm. So, is it possible that the Page Experience update could be more of a tiebreaker than anything else?

Microsoft Advertising Will Start Treating Phrase Match in the Same Way Google Ads Does: Microsoft is taking a page out of Google’s book. In an announcement posted to its blog on Tuesday, Microsoft Advertising said that starting in mid-May, it will expand phrase match to include broad match modifier traffic. If this feels like deja vu, it’s because this is precisely the announcement Google Ads made back in February. The change simply means that advertisers’ ads will also be shown for queries with the same meaning as the keyword used. The example Microsoft uses is that the keyword “Miami vacation” would now be matched with a query like “winter vacation in Miami.” Now that these two platforms will be treating ads in the same way, the change might encourage advertisers already using Google Ads to start advertising on Microsoft, too. 

More Content Doesn’t Always Mean Better Google Rankings: Yes, “content is king,” and regularly posting relevant, optimized content is SEO 101 – but what if the content being posted isn’t particularly good? Search Engine Land analyzed a case study to find out whether quantity of content has an effect on rankings. A personal injury law client was not ranking well for the main keywords they were targeting. The content was there, but all these low-performing pages had a few characteristics in common: Each page had very similar content, with only the location name changing, and none of the pages had any links. In short, these pages were only created to rank, not to answer to the needs of users, and so they were not performing. There you have it: More content doesn’t mean more traffic, and you need a well-thought-out strategy if you want your content to have maximum impact.

Here’s the Content That Earns the Most Engagement and Links: On the topic of content, let’s talk about the types of content that work hardest for your website. In a Search Engine Journal (SEJ) article, contributor Julia McVoy lists the top seven types of content that drive engagement and earn those precious backlinks. These are: authority content, eBooks, standout opinion pieces, how-to content, original research pieces, trending content and videos. If your content strategy is stagnant and your hard work isn’t driving the results you want, check out the article for more information on the full list and valuable tips for investing in quality content that gets you the return on investment (ROI) you want. 

Here’s How Google Deals With Spam: Spammers, beware! Google has announced a bunch of artificial intelligence (AI) tools to help fight spam. According to Google, the AI has “unprecedented potential to revolutionize” spam fighting, and it’s so effective that it has the ability to block 99 percent of all spam. Google also published a diagram highlighting the three levels at which it encounters, diagnoses and rejects spam: crawled spam, indexed spam and spam caught by manual action. Everything about Google’s spam-fighting superhero is in a Search Central blog released on Thursday, and it’s worth a read to understand how Google is dealing with spam now and in the future. 

Editor’s Note: “SEO News You Can Use” is a weekly blog post posted every Monday morning only on, rounding up all the top SEO news from around the world. Our goal is to make a one-stop-shop for everyone looking for SEO news, education and for hiring an SEO expert with our comprehensive SEO agency directory.

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