In our increasingly digital world, online accounting and tax services are a huge industry: the category of 52 sites had nearly 62 million Unique Visitors (UVs) in February, the height of the tax filing season. How did consumer tax-filing behavior compare to last year’s tax season? Here are some insights I pulled from Compete PRO:
People put off thinking about their taxes. In January 2013, tax sites had four million fewer visitors than in January 2012. The peak of tax season was in February this year per usual, but tax sites had only two million more monthly visitors than the previous February–not making up for the lost traffic in January. The expected traffic drop in March was less severe this year: accountancy and tax services websites had nearly 45 million UVs in March, 12 million higher than the 33 million in March 2012. Traffic remained high in April with 42 million UVs to the category, 10 million more than the previous year.
Intuit’s TurboTax remained the most popular online tool, but TaxAct gained momentum. With the arguably the strongest brand recognition, TurboTax had the most UVs all of tax season and positive YOY growth from January to April. “Turbotax” was the highest referring keyword to the tax and accounting category, responsible for 15% of the incoming search traffic. H&R Block was the second most popular tool; however its UVs were down from last year. TaxAct crept up on H&R Block, with YOY growth in February, March and April. With over 4% of the searches, “Taxact” was the second highest referring keyword to the category for the past three month. The growth was organic, as TaxAct actually had fewer paid search referrals during tax season than the previous year.
Last minute filers visited TurboTax and eFile, the only sites whose traffic increased in April. eFile had the least UVs throughout tax season, however it’s the IRS-recommended electronic filing option–the likely explanation for its bump from last minute filers. A Compete analysis from 2011 revealed eFile had the lowest conversion rate compared to the same four taxes sites. Was eFile more fruitful two years later? Compete data suggests no. eFile visitors viewed the most pages per visit–about the same number as the past two years. People likely spent more time on eFile because they couldn’t find what they were looking for, not because they stayed to complete their tax filing. Comparably, TurboTax visitors viewed fewer pages, but the site is designed so its product easy and quick to navigate. TurboTax takes each visitor through a short survey to determine which edition is best based on that individual’s needs. eFile immediately asks visitors to enter a hefty amount of personal information to sign up before they even know how much it will cost them.
- Tax brands should get competitive earlier, before people are feeling the stress of an approaching deadline. Create content to encourage people to file earlier, instead of procrastinating like many did this year.
- Optimize homepages as they are critical for success. People want all the information they need immediately, without looking for it. Potential customers want to know how a service is different than the competition.
Luckily for all of us, tax season is over. But for tax services providers, the countdown to the 2014 deadline has already begun. Who will be the winner?
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