The start of the US tax season fueled large traffic increases to tax-related websites, while unemployment drove Americans to job-search and government sites, and Facebook cracked the top-10 list for the first time in January, according to data from comScore MediaMetrix.
The Tax Site Cometh
January marked the beginning of tax season, propelling millions of Americans to the Tax website category in preparation for filing their 2008 returns. The category witnessed a 176% gain to 24.7 million visitors, making it the top-gaining category for the month.
Career and Job Search Sites Gain as Job Losses Mount
January has historically been a strong month for career sites as the beginning of the New Year causes many Americans to reconsider their current employment situations and future goals, comScore said. However, the surge in visitors this January also reflects the millions of lost jobs across the nation, resulting in significant increases to both the Job Search category (up 42% to 26.7 million visitors) and Career Resources category (up 26 % to 48.9 million visitors).
The Job Search category was led by CareerBuilder.com Job Search with 12.2 million visitors (up 34% vs. December), Monster.com Job Search with 9.5 million visitors (up 42%), and Yahoo! HotJobs Job Search with 7.7 million visitors (up 38%).
Travel Sites Gain in January as Americans Plan Spring Travel
Several travel subcategories witnessed strong gains in January as Americans looked for late-season winter travel deals and began planning their spring travel. Travel – Ground/Cruise sites jumped 46% to 13 million visitors, led by VacationstoGo.com Sites with 3.6 million visitors, while Travel – Hotels/Resorts grew 12 percent to 30 million visitors, led by Disney Travel with 4.8 million visitors. Travel – Online Travel Agents climbed 10% to nearly 40 million visitors, with Expedia Inc. ranking atop the category with 22.7 million visitors.
Taxes, Unemployment, Salmonella and Obama Drive Growth at Government Sites
Government sites grew 11% in January to nearly 90 million visitors, with tax preparation, unemployment benefits, the new presidential administration, and the peanut butter salmonella warning all contributing to the category’s gains.
IRS.gov led the Government category with 14.7 million visitors, an increase of 240% from the previous month. Government sites also saw significant traffic from millions of Americans affected by the economy, who sought information on unemployment benefits and other government assistance. This phenomenon also fueled gains at several of the larger state government sites, including CA.gov (up 10% to 7.6 million visitors), State.TX.US (up 14% to 4.4 million visitors), and State.NY.US (up 17% to 3.5 million visitors).
Other gainers in the Government category included FDA.gov, the website for the Food & Drug Administration, which grew 277% to 3.8 million visitors as news broke of a salmonella outbreak involving peanut butter products, and WhiteHouse.gov, the official online home of the new Presidential administration, which jumped 197% to 3.7 million visitors as President Barack Obama was sworn into office on January 20.
The Top 50: Facebook Breaks into Top 10
Google Sites continued to lead as the most visited property in January with 151 million visitors, followed by Yahoo Sites with 146.1 million visitors and Microsoft Sites with 125.6 million visitors. Facebook climbed one spot to capture the #10 position with 57.2 million visitors, marking the first time in its history that Facebook has reached the top 10.
Top 50 Ad Focus Ranking
Platform-A led the January Ad Focus ranking, reaching 91% of the nearly 192 million Americans online. Yahoo Network ranked second, reaching 86%, while ValueClick Networks captured the third position with an 84% reach. Traffic Marketplace moved up one position in the ranking to #5 reaching 7 7%, while Tribal Fusion jumped three spots to #8 with a 75% reach.
“January has once again seen seasonal gains in the tax, career and travel categories, reflecting the typical American’s tendency to plan for the New Year,” said Jack Flanagan, EVP of comScore Media Metrix. “This month also saw Facebook break into the Top 10 Properties ranking for the first time, reminding us that 2009 will likely continue to see growth in the adoption and usage of social media.”