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Traffic trends to GOV.UK

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Data, GOV.UK

We’ve been monitoring the volume of traffic to GOV.UK since launch. We want to ensure that the people who used to rely on Directgov and Business Link can still find the reliable and authoritative information and services they need.

As the GOV.UK dashboard shows, and some followers have commented, the numbers of visits and unique visitors have fallen since the first week after launch. So what’s been going on?

I’ll start with some caveats. Firstly, GOV.UK, Directgov and Business Link all use different analytics software, implemented in different ways. The figures are not calculated in the same way. Nevertheless, our benchmarking shows that comparing trends across the three sites is a worthwhile exercise. Secondly, I’ll focus on the month or so after GOV.UK came out of beta, but before the first iteration of Inside Government and before the job search entry page moved to GOV.UK. This gives us the closest comparison of Directgov and Business Link traffic to GOV.UK.

Here’s the weekly data from the GOV.UK dashboard:

Weekly data from the GOVUK dashboard
But what do the metrics look like on a daily basis?

GOVUK visits and unique visitors from 12 October 2012 (start of the first full week)
Note: the visits to unique visitors ratio is consistent at 1.2:1.

If we compare GOV.UK data for October and November, against Directgov and Business Link a month earlier in September and October, the data looks more worrying; with visits down 12% and unique visitors down 20%.

Visits to GOV.UK in October and November compared to Directgov and Business Link one month earlier

But looking back over the past month doesn’t really give us enough context. So how did Directgov perform over the last two years?

Directgov monthly visits

Looking at the Directgov monthly visits, we noticed two things. Firstly, there’s a strong seasonal pattern with traffic falling off in the autumn. Secondly Directgov performed well in 2012.

So we overlaid the number of Directgov and Business Link visits for the month starting 19 October 2011 with the GOV.UK data for a year later, starting 21 October 2012.Visits to GOVUK in October and November 2012 compared to Directgov and Business Link 1 year earlier

Over the month, visits to GOV.UK increased by 14% and unique visitors increased by 3%.

So we think the biggest influence on traffic trends is this strong seasonal pattern. We’ll start investigating whether particular topics and services are less in demand in the autumn or whether there is a more even distribution of the tail off. This is useful insight for our content designers who ensure that seasonal topics are highlighted at the right time of year.

Of course, the launch of Inside Government and the move of additional government services to GOV.UK will impact significantly on traffic.

GOV.UK visits and unique visitors from 22 October to 22 November 2012

We’ll continue to monitor 'like for like' traffic for a while, but we'll focus on GOV.UK’s own traffic patterns as the site evolves.

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  1. Comment by Inside Government – traffic, demand and engagement numbers so far | Government Digital Service posted on

    [...] Government received 557,276 visits from 330,828 unique visitors. That’s approximately 3% of visits and visitors to GOV.UK. These figures are as the departments expected and in line with what we predicted. Following on [...]

  2. Comment by This week at GDS | Government Digital Service posted on

    [...] data on the traffic to GOV.UK to start looking at and understanding usage patterns. Peter Jordan wrote about some of this earlier in the week. In a nutshell, we were wondering why traffic to GOV.UK had been falling since the [...]

  3. Comment by Henry Carter posted on

    Traffic is falling because people do not trust the website, no once would believe that a Government designed website could look so poor, forget about the functionality the best thing people notice is how a website looks. When you come across this site it looks like a total joke. Ive seen self employed plumbers with better websites that this.

    How about some colour? Some images? Would it really be that much more expensive?

    This part of the Direct.Gov franchise is great: why are all the sites not to this standard?