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Parsely Growth Pageviews by Content Category Mar2021In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic had many people worried about their health as a virus spread and their careers and finances as the economy took a nosedive. Indeed, data [download page] from Parse.ly shows that among domains in its customer base, total pageviews of the Health & Fitness category grew by 307% year-over-year in 2020, while pageviews related to Careers grew by 188%.

In total, Health & Fitness pageviews in 2020 totaled 9.6 billion (up from 2.4 billion in 2019), making it the second most popular category. Prior to the pandemic, the second-most popular category had been Technology & Computing, which fell to sixth place in 2020 despite pageviews growing by 37% y-o-y to hit 4.2 billion.

But 2020 also was an election year, which largely explains why the Law, Government & Politics category remained in the top spot. In total, this category attracted 15.7 billion pageviews, up 71% from 9.2 billion in 2019.

These figures come from sites using the Parse.ly platform and include both “media” domains (i.e. sites where the primary business model is in producing content, such as news or magazine companies) and “non-media” domains (i.e. those where the business model is in another vertical, such as e-commerce).

For the analysis, Parse.ly breaks down the domains’ referral sources into five different areas: direct, internal, search, social and other. Each one of these categories saw growth in total referral traffic in 2020 as content consumption soared, a fact confirmed by several studies featured on the MarketingCharts Coronavirus Data Hub. But some significant changes occurred.

March 2020 saw direct referrals overtake search as the top source, growing 56.8% over February 2020. Beyond March, direct traffic, which is traffic that comes directly to a site or through so-called “dark sources” including email/messaging or apps that don’t send referral information, remained high throughout the rest of the year, keeping its lead over search and internal referrals.

For search, the top referring source, as expected, was Google. For sites on the Parse.ly platform (which over-indexes for media businesses), the search engine was responsible for 27.2 billion media pageviews in 2020 (up 41% y-o-y) and 977 million non-media pageviews (up 54%).

Among social media sites, Facebook remained dominant despite algorithm changes in recent years that affected publishers. It accounted for 14.6 billion media pageviews (up 51%) and 156 million non-media pages (up 15%).

The “other” referral sources consist largely of aggregators. Among these Google News was responsible for the most media pageviews at 2 billion (up 56%).

Finally, throughout 2020, mobile was consistently responsible for the largest number of daily pageviews, accounting for 66% of media referrals and 50% of non-media referrals. Desktop accounted for 27% of media referrals and 46% of non-media referrals.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: Figures come from domains using the Parse.ly platform. Domains are fixed between years to eliminate the effect of any changes.

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