Healthcare has been all over the news as of late. Between the shutdown of our government and the constant news reports, it’s nearly impossible to not hear about the stalemate on the Affordable Care Act—more commonly known as Obamacare. Despite your thoughts on healthcare reform, it is also hard to deny the impact that the news has had on online consumer behavior.
Because of the macro nature of this analysis, there are a lot of data sets we can look at using Compete PRO to see how exactly Obamacare has affected the “Insurance & Physicians” category—our very own grouping of insurance sites and one of the categories that was most affected by the publicity and recent launch of the healthcare exchanges. Knowing this, we can start the analysis by looking at the category as a whole.
At first glance, and with some top-level knowledge of the current state of healthcare, you can see that healthcare.gov was the site that has been the most affected by Obamacare. Not even ranking in the top 10 in August, the site has seen an impressive 186% month-over-month (MoM) growth of unique visitors (UVs) – bringing the amount of UVs to roughly 2.4 million for the month of September.
There were other sites that saw double-digit growth like individualhealthquotes.com, anthem.com (part of Blue Cross Blue Shield), and ehealthinsurance.com, however their growth pales in comparison and is more than likely due to other influences – where healthcare.gov’s growth is a direct result of Obamacare. One way we can be certain of this is by looking at the recipients of traffic from the broadly matched search term “obamacare.”
As you can see, healthcare.gov sees roughly 2.5% of all traffic from the keyword “obamacare.” Not only does that place healthcare.gov at the top of the list, but it does so in multiples of any other site in the insurance category. Receiving roughly 17 times more search traffic than the second highest site, there is no questioning that healthcare.gov is the site that has been influenced the most and would be the best place for further investigation.
Taking a look at the two-year trend of UVs to healthcare.gov, you can see that the recent publicity has definitely had an impact on the amount of traffic that the site has received. To get an even better picture of their traffic and how and when they received the majority of it, we take a further look using daily reach and attention.
Looking back at the past 30 days, you can see that despite the tremendous increase in traffic during the month of September, the real spike in reach and attention peak on October 1st, the date that the healthcare exchanges were launched. Although this isn’t surprising, it does pique my curiosity to what October’s traffic numbers are going to look like considering the reach on October 1st was roughly nine times higher than the day with the highest reach in September.
As we know from past examples where there were floods of traffic, engagement metrics often drop. However, it seems that with healthcare.gov, this is not the case. In fact, engagement with the site seemed to have increased with the spike in traffic.
Registering above-average engagement metrics for both average stay and pages per visit is not only impressive considering they saw nearly triple the amount of UVs in a MoM snapshot, but a testament to the efficiency of their site—keeping new visitors engaged and preventing them from bouncing. To dive even deeper, we can also look at who they are and how they got there.
As you can see, the demographics are distributed fairly evenly. But how does that compare to the entire US internet population?
For age and gender, the numbers aren’t surprising. There seems to be a slant towards the older population but considering the nature of healthcare, that makes sense. What is surprising however, is the income demographic. Many might expect there to be a slant towards the lower income demographic considering they stand to benefit more from the Affordable Care Act than the wealthier population. Although this slant towards the wealthy could be skewed due to initial curiosity, it could also signify that there is a misconception that only the lower income population stands to gain something from Obamacare—and that people across all income demographics are finding benefits. But how are they getting to the site?
Using the information from the top 10 traffic sources, we can see that roughly one third of their traffic comes from search engines and another 12% of their traffic comes directly. Combining those two traffic sources, we can see that roughly 44% of their visitors showed initiative in getting to the site, whether it was via search or by directly entering the URL. This shows that there is a relatively high awareness of the site and its utility and helps explain the high level of engagement we saw earlier. Since search represents a major portion of the traffic that healthcare.gov receives, we can now take a look at their search referral data to see the intent of the visitor.
Taking a look at all of the keyword data and then grouping them by theme, we can see that there are four major categories of search intent: users that are aware of healthcare.gov and are entering a search related to that, users that are searching for information on Obamacare, users that are searching for information on the Affordable Care Act, and other.
The fact that two-thirds of their search referrals are based on “branded” search terms is an even further reinforcement of the fact that visitors are aware of the site and its utility. Considering that healthcare.gov is the highest recipient of searches including the keyword “obamacare” I am surprised to find that only 16% of searches are related to Obamacare or Affordable Care Act.
In taking a look at a few of the data sets that Compete PRO has available, we can get a pretty clear picture of the behavior of the Internet users that are seeking more information regarding Obamacare. The publicity of it all has led to a fairly substantial increase in the insurance category, with healthcare.gov receiving the most traffic. When taking a look at healthcare.gov’s visitors, we found that not only are they more engaged than they previously were, but they have displayed a relatively high amount of awareness of the site’s utility as shown by the large proportion of direct traffic and branded search referrals. Also, by looking at the demographics we found that the visitors of the site are split between genders, they show a slant towards the older population and they are wealthier than many assume – defeating the popular opinion that Obamacare is only benefiting the underprivileged.
It will be very interesting to take another look once the data for October is published. Not only will it more accurately reflect the behavior and demographics of the visitors who are arriving for the health exchanges rather than information alone, but it will also reflect changes in traffic due to the government shutdown.
If you would like to see the data used to analyze Obamacare and healthcare.gov, or if you would like to perform similar analyses, start your Compete PRO subscription today.
As a senior at Northeastern University, Zach Eberhart is thrilled to join the Compete team as the new Social Media / Marketing Co-op. Majoring in marketing and management information systems, Zach loves everything marketing and technology and has experience in both the agency and startup world. If you like what you read, you can connect with him on Google+ or LinkedIn.