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Online Tax Sites Busy As Procrastinators Near Deadline

  |  April 18, 2005   |  Comments

Robust traffic growth to tax sites this season outpaced U.S. Internet population growth.

According to comScore, there's a spike in traffic to tax sites from late January to mid-February as early filers file their tax returns. Some 29 million users visited tax sites in February. The peak was the week ending February 6th, when 14 million users visited tax sites.

Early filers are outnumbered by late ones, who represent the second major spike in traffic to tax sites. In 2004, 1.9 million users visited irs.gov on April 15th. In 2005, that number hit 2.15 million users.

On a year-over-year basis, comScore found traffic to tax Web sites (including irs.gov, turbotax.com and H&R Block) not only increased over 2004, it outpaced the growth of the US Internet population. For January, growth for tax sites was 12 percent (internet population growth was 6 percent); February 8 percent (internet population growth: 5 percent); and March 24 percent (internet population growth: 7 percent).

On a year-over-year basis for the final 10 days of the tax filing season (April 5 to April 15), traffic to irs.gov increased 28 percent. TurboTax.com overtook HRblock.com among tax sites, growing traffic for the final 10 days by 101 percent (3 million visitors). HRblock's traffic grew 23 percent to 2.4 million visitors.

Tax Data
Click on graphic to view Daily Visitor charts

The most popular tax sites (by traffic) were also among the most visible on search engines. A WebTrends WebPosition Search Ranking study found HRblock.com and TurboTax.com were the most visible tax sites on search engines. WebTrends measured the tax sites' visibility in both paid and organic search results on Google, MSN, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves. Keywords and -phrases searched included: "electronic filing," "tax return," "efile," "taxes," "tax filing," "tax preparation," "tax refund," "tax information," "income taxes," and "tax help." The visibility percentage, as determined by WebTrends, is a reflection of a site's visibility within the first 30 search results for a given keyword/phrase on the search engines queried.

TurboTax was ranked most visible in terms of both organic and paid search at 68.17 percent visibility (organic visibility was 42.17 percent). H&R Block came in second at 60.42 percent visibility (organic visibility - 32.33 percent).

"As far as surprises, ExpressTaxRefund is almost 40 times more visible in paid than natural listings, and CompleteTax is almost four times more visible in paid than natural -- big opportunity for these sites to attract more visitors naturally," WebTrends spokesperson Corey Gault told ClickZ Stats. "It was also surprising to see that a couple of these sites are not doing any paid search campaigns for the targeted keywords and engines, or least aren't bidding enough to be seen in the first three pages of paid search results."

Tax Web Site Search Visablitiy
Web Site Overall Visibility
(paid and natural, %)
Natural Visibility (%)
taxactonline.com 0.00 0.00
freetaxusa.com 0.00 0.00
taxfreedom.com 1.92 4.25
taxslayer.com 1.92 7.67
esmarttax.com 6.83 7.67
taxcut.com 14.42 19.00
completetax.com 43.83 11.83
expresstaxrefund.com 50.75 1.33
hrblock.com 60.42 32.33
turbotax.com 68.17 42.17
All domains 90.00 59.08
  • electronic filing
  • tax return
  • efile
  • taxes
  • tax filing
  • tax preparation
  • tax refund
  • income taxes
  • tax help
Source: NetIQ/ Web Trends April 2005.

Internet services company VeriSign reported for the final month of tax filing (3/15/04 - 4/15/04 v. period 3/15/05 - 4/15/05), e-filing transactions were up 48 percent over last year. April 15th tax day transactions were up 51 percent, with 23 percent of all transactions occurring on Tax Day. The last four days of the tax season saw 50 percent of all transactions. All this activity led to an e-filing dollar volume spend increase of 38 percent, though the average ticket was down by 7 percent. VeriSign said the average ticket spend is lower probably due to competition. Lots of competitors in the e-filing category mean the players can no longer charge premium rates.

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