Guide to the latest 2020 digital stats updates

Analytics & Data Tools & Trends Article
20 mins

What’s the state of play in digital today? Join us as we pick out the key points from a selection of influential digital stats updates, published both before and after coronavirus lockdown measures began in Europe.

We’ll focus especially on what the new statistics mean for marketers, and we’ll summarise the shifts in digital behaviour that matter most.

SimilarWeb 2020 Digital Trends Report

The SimilarWeb 2020 Digital Trends Report draws conclusions about internet and social media trends based on usage data from high-performing websites and brands, logged between January 2017 and December 2019. This includes data about desktop, mobile and Android app users. Since SimilarWeb has based this report on leading brands and websites, its findings don’t necessarily apply to smaller brands or to the whole internet. Nevertheless, the Digital Trends Report provides some useful insight into the situation of the leading online players, both individually and as a group.

Read the report

Web traffic seems to be on the up

In 2019, web traffic across the world’s 100 most visited websites reached an average of 223bn visits per month, an increase of 8% over the year previous.

According to SimilarWeb’s report, this increase was driven largely by traffic growth among the top 10 most-visited websites. These elite sites had an average YoY increase in traffic of 10.7%, while the sites ranked 11-100 had a YoY traffic increase of just 2.3%. So, while web traffic may indeed be rising, it seems a large share of the spoils may be going to the very biggest sites.

The top sites by visits were as follows:

  1. Google
  2. YouTube
  3. Facebook
  4. Baidu
  5. Wikipedia
  6. Amazon
  7. Twitter
  8. Instagram
  9. Yahoo

One interesting outlier performance among the world’s ten most visited websites is a decline in visits to Facebook. The social platform saw visits drop from 27bn per month in 2018 to 24bn per month in 2019. The monthly figure had stood at 30bn in 2017.

Mobile traffic now comfortably exceeds desktop traffic

2019 was the year mobile traffic began to surpass desktop traffic, with an average monthly visit count of 116bn far exceeding the monthly average of 107bn desktop visitors.

While monthly visits by desktop users have fallen slightly over 2017-19, mobile visits have grown steeply, by about 9bn from 2017-18 and a further 8bn from 2018-19.

SimilarWeb projects mobile visits will continue growing at a similar rate over 2019-20, while desktop visits will continue to plateau. If this proves to be the case, mobile visits would reach well over 120bn a year by 2021.

With mobile traffic now accounting for the biggest share of traffic to leading websites, marketers may benefit from increasing their focus on ensuring their brands’ websites deliver an up-to-scratch mobile experience. This has been ‘digital marketing 101’ for years now, but the point still needs to be emphasised.

The value of mobile traffic can differ between websites, and we would urge marketers to look carefully at their own site’s analytics to discover how their conversion rates – for example, the rate of conversions from visits to sales – vary based on whether the visits were via desktop or mobile. If mobile conversions match or exceed conversions from desktop traffic, going after extra mobile traffic should be one of your top priorities. On the other hand, if your desktop traffic has a much higher conversion rate than mobile traffic, we advise allocating your resources more evenly between optimising for the different device types.

Before we move on from this point, it’s worth noting another finding from SimilarWeb’s report: that mobile is overwhelmingly the device of choice for users visiting ‘vice’ category sites, including gambling, dating and adult websites. This demonstrates that while mobile traffic is clearly on the rise, this traffic will be more relevant to some brands than others. Marketers should look into their own audience data to determine whether mobile traffic really is gaining in importance for their own specific brands and sectors.

Attention spans shrinking

One of the most fascinating findings from SimilarWeb’s 2020 Digital Trends Report is that the average web user’s attention span seems to be getting shorter.

Average visit durations have fallen across the 100 most popular websites, from 758 seconds in 2017 to 743 seconds in 2018, and then to 709 seconds in 2019.

Above all, this reflects growth in the share of web traffic coming from mobile devices. Mobile visits have always had considerably shorter average durations than desktop visits. In 2019, mobile visits lasted 432 seconds on average, less than half the 1,009-second average duration of desktop visits.

While a fall in average visit duration is not exactly the same thing as a fall in attention span, it does indicate that web content might have a narrowing window of time to capture users’ attention before they navigate away. With this in mind, it’s important that content should clearly communicate its purpose to users, and then try to accomplish its objective within an appropriate time frame.

YouTube overtakes Facebook in terms of Daily Average Users

In December 2019, YouTube narrowly overtook Facebook in terms of daily average users (DAUs), which is defined as the combined number of users across the YouTube app and website. Over that month, YouTube had 693mn DAUs, while Facebook had 687mn. This represents a monumental shift in favour of YouTube over a two-year period. In January 2018, Facebook’s DAU count of 817mn dwarved YouTube’s far lower (but still giant) 501mn.

As SimilarWeb’s report explains, the journey these two giants have been on has had some twists and turns. Facebook has recently pivoted to focus on getting higher engagement from its existing users, rather than acquiring new users, and this approach saw the platform increase its average daily sessions per user to 13.9 by the final months of 2019, thereby achieving its highest total sessions since April 2018. So, while YouTube may seem destined to have a larger audience than Facebook in the long-run, Facebook might be able to keep pace by getting more engagement out of each user.

Socialbakers Social Media Trends Report Q1 2020

The Socialbakers Social Media Trends Report for Q1 2020 provides insight into how paid advertising, influencer marketing and organic social media engagement have been affected by changes associated with the coronavirus pandemic. The report’s findings are based on information from the Socialbakers database. At least 50 Facebook profiles and 50 Instagram profiles feed into each category used in the report. Socialbakers’ client base covers a wide range of enterprise-level companies and SMEs, including McDonalds, L’Oreal and Desigual.

Read the report

Social ad spend has bounced back quickly

Social ad spend fell sharply in every global region this January, as advertisers faced the dawning reality of the coronavirus crisis. A second dip in March coincided with several countries’ implementation of lockdown measures, leaving the ad spend in Socialbakers’ database significantly lower than it was over the latter months of 2019.

Advertiser confidence now seems to be recovering, as ad spend has rebounded significantly over the first three weeks of April (the end of the time period covered by the Q1 report). During this three-week period, global ad spend increased by 32.3% over where it was in late March. The increase was especially pronounced in Northern America (+47.3%), Latin America (+41.6%) and Southeast Asia (+35.7%).

The revival of social ad spend could be linked to a sense that ecommerce and digital marketing are less vulnerable to adverse effects of the crisis than bricks-and-mortar retail and some traditional marketing mediums. This has been a tough time for everyone – but perhaps the digital marketing industry as a whole hasn’t suffered quite so badly as some others.

Love reacts rocketed on Facebook as coronavirus crisis unfolded

One of the most fascinating findings from the Socialbakers Social Media Trends Report is that the coronavirus crisis seems to have affected the reacts Facebook users are leaving on brands’ posts.

Between late February and late March, by which point most brands had started posting regularly about the coronavirus, Love reacts grew in prevalence from making up under 4% of followers’ reacts to brands’ posts, to making up over 7%.

Meanwhile, the share of Haha reacts on coronavirus-related content seems to have peaked and troughed in-line with the perceived severity of the situation. The share of Haha reacts on coronavirus-related posts was above trend through late February and early March, but then below trend from mid-March onward, perhaps reflecting the changing tone with which brand social media accounts were communicating about the crisis.

HubSpot Not Another State of Marketing Report 2020

Based on insights and data from 3,400 marketers around the world, HubSpot’s Not Another State of Marketing Report is an excellent snapshot of the marketing industry. The report is broken down into sections on content marketing, social media marketing, SEO, email marketing, digital advertising, web strategy, reporting and attribution, conversational marketing and market research, with strong analysis and detail on each topic.

Read the report

Most brands are creating tailored content for multiple audience segments

HubSpot notes that brand content needs to be optimised and personalised in order to perform well. To achieve this, brands will need to tailor content to certain groups within their audience – and according to HubSpot’s research, that’s exactly what they are doing.

Based on HubSpot’s global survey carried out in November and December 2019, only just over a tenth of brands are creating all their content for a single audience segment. Meanwhile, over a third of brands are creating tailored content for three distinct audience segments, and a significant minority are targeting their content more finely still.

Almost every brand has a diverse array of people in its audience. Finding the perfect way to communicate with key groups within that audience could be crucial to content marketing success in 2020.

63% of marketers are looking to make a website upgrade this year

The Not Another State of Marketing Report’s section on web strategy leads with the eye-catching finding that 63% of marketers surveyed said they would be looking to make a website upgrade this year.

It seems that almost two-thirds of marketers intend to improve their brands’ websites in 2020 – but which aspects of their sites should they be looking at? Debbie Farese, HubSpot’s Director of Global Web Strategy, points to accessibility, mobile-friendliness, transparency, disclosure of information and properly interpreting user intent as key areas to focus on.

Over half of marketers are actively trying to rank for Google featured snippets

There has been some controversy over whether or not it’s desirable for web content to rank in Google featured snippets, the so-called ‘0-ranking’ spot at the top of Google SERPs that shows rich results and info cards. Some detractors of featured snippets argue that these results discourage clicks-through since they give the user all the content they need within the SERP, while advocates insist featured snippets are valuable and worth targeting.

Based on HubSpot’s survey, it certainly seems that most marketers now believe snagging the 0-ranking spot is a good thing, with 53% now saying they actively target ranking for Google Featured Snippets.

For guidance on targeting featured snippets, see our guide on how to improve your SEO with schema markup.

How to make sense of all these digital stats

By this point, we’ve covered key findings from three excellent reports: the SimilarWeb Digital Trends Report 2020, the Socialbakers Social Media Trends Report for Q1 2020 and the HubSpot Not Another State of Marketing Report 2020.

If you’ve read all three of these reports – and we recommend you do, if you have the time – you may get a sense that the marketing world is moving at a pace that’s impossible to comprehend, even before we start to consider the impact of the coronavirus. This is a perfectly natural way to feel, and there’s no marketer on Earth who would be able to keep on top of everything that’s going on in our industry.

The lesson here is to be selective with the information you engage with and feed back into your work. We suggest you take a look back through this article and the reports it mentions, then identify the points which are most relevant to the work you do. Rather than reading all the data you can on digital topics, focus on the areas that really matter to you. As digital marketing continues to grow and evolve at an accelerating pace, specialising or honing your core strengths becomes more important by the day.

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