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.
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