3 months of lockdown website traffic – it’s not all doom and gloom

Our latest research article shows that during the first 3 full months of lockdown in 2020, many websites had more visitors than during the same period in 2019. Which sites performed well, and which performed badly? Were there good sectors? What made the good ones good?
28 Jul, 2020


There is no denying that 2020 has been a tough year for many businesses and their websites. The pandemic has thrown down challenges not seen in modern times.

It hasn’t been universally bad for businesses though. Some sectors have fared better than others. In some badly hit areas, there have been businesses that have adapted their business models quickly, in order to take advantage of new opportunities. Many companies in the digital space are still doing well – and in some cases, much better than before the lockdown.

Digital presence has become more important over the years, as businesses seek effective ways to market and sell more of their product, to more people, in more locations. All of this, whilst reducing their reliance on footfall in physical bricks and mortar locations.

The pandemic, and accompanying lockdowns, have accelerated this move.

We wanted to see what effect all of this was having on web traffic. Having access to stats for 50 websites, we thought it would be interesting to see whether the lockdown had resulted in more, or less, traffic to these websites, whether there were any clear winners and losers, and why.

So, we set about comparing the traffic for all of these sites during the main 3 months of the lockdown (April to June 2020) compared to the same 3 month period in 2019.

Ups and downs overall

As you can see from the infographic, overall website traffic for the 50 sites we cover went up.

58% of sites had higher traffic than they had in the same period in 2019. The average change in traffic across all sites was a 15% gain, and the total change in traffic for all 50 sites was +18%.

This represents all traffic (direct, organic search, paid search, referrals), and worldwide. Only sites that already had established traffic in 2019 were included.

Winners and losers?

Of the 10 best-performing sites:

  • B2C and B2B are split 50/50;
  • 40% are health/wellness websites;
  • 20% are e-Commerce sites;
  • 50% are sites that are adding regular new content;
  • None lost organic search traffic;
  • 50% are businesses that would have most definitely been impacted by lockdown and social distancing measures;

Of the 10 worst-performing sites:

  • B2C and B2B are split 50/50;
  • None gained organic search traffic;
  • 20% gained social referral traffic;
Website traffic growth during the coronavirus lockdown

Drawing lockdown website traffic conclusions

Our sample size of 50 websites is pretty small. There are clear outliers – for example, sites that have disproportionately low traffic, where even a small actual change can result in a large percentage change.

Some sites would also have had unusual peaks or troughs, which might skew results from one year to the next.

So I guess we’re saying that this is not a full scientific study, but is somewhat more than just a piece of fun.

What we can say, though, is:

  • Notable amongst both winners and losers are businesses that are clearly impacted by lockdown and social distancing. This suggests that the business sector alone is not responsible for poor website performance. In fact, out of 4 sites in the hard-hit travel and tourism sector, 2 actually grew their organic search traffic;
  • There was no discernable performance difference between B2B and B2C websites;
  • 4 out of 5 health and wellness businesses appear in the top 10 performing sites;
  • Of the top 10 sites in 2019 (by traffic volume), only 2 showed a decline in 2020. This suggests that once traffic is well established it takes a lot to break it.
  • 70% of the top sites (by organic search growth) have very regular new content added – for example, posts, pages, or products. This compares with 30% of the worst-performing sites;

Putting the data to one side… our closing thoughts

The lockdown is likely to have increased the overall number of searches people are making. Partly, this will be down to the vast number of ‘covid’-related searches that would never have occurred previously, but also because more people have been at home. People may have more time on their hands or are likely looking for solutions for their changing way of life. Website owners who have content that can satisfy these searches will do better than those who don’t.

We also suspect that the recent trend towards a higher percentage of mobile searches might have slowed a bit this year. More people sitting at home in front of a desktop or laptop screen, instead of on the road or in a busy factory or office, would have contributed to this.

A lot of website owners have spent time improving their content, reviewing their offerings, and doing more marketing during the lockdown. We certainly noticed that these more active websites trended towards the top performing in our study.

Want us to review your website traffic?

Let us loose on your Google analytics to help you make sense of your traffic stats.

Call us on (01793) 740964 or click and fill out our contact form.


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