Tuesday, March 25, 2008

5-year statistics for Ancestry.com traffic

After I posted yesterday's graphs showing Ancestry and Rootsweb traffic for the last month, I checked the 5-year charts also.

The Reach, Rank and PageViews charts for http://www.ancestry.com/, http://www.rootsweb.com/, http://www.genealogy.com/ and http://www.myfamily.com/ are shown below.

Aren't those interesting? They show a steady decrease in the Reach (unique visitors per million Internet users), Rank (among all Internet web sites) and Page Views (per million Internet users) of these web sites.

The graphs surely reflect the increased use of the Internet by more people. The statistics are "per million" users of the Internet - not the number of unique visitors or page views on the web sites.

Ancestry's Rank (among all web sites) has decreased from about #300 in 2003 to about #3,000 in 2007. That's a big drop - surely it reflects the increase in the number of web sites, but I have little doubt that the number of visitors and page views of Ancestry has steadily decreased over the last five years.

It appears that Ancestry's traffic has leveled off in the past six months or so, and is trending slightly upward. This is seen also in the Quantcast chart for the last six months at http://www.quantcast.com/ancestry.com/traffic. This seeming correlation between the Alexa and Quantcast charts reinforces my belief that Ancestry has been steadily losing Reach and Page Views over the last five years.

Is the bloom off the genealogy rose? If you check other genealogy web site traffic, you see the same trend downward over the past five years, with the exception of startups like www.WorldVitalRecords.com, www.Footnote.com, www.Geni.com, www.MyHeritage.com, etc. Has the genealogy research community "found everything there is to find" on Ancestry and the other large genealogy sites?

I can't tell exactly how many unique visitors or page views that Ancestry has had over the years because those statistics aren't available on these web sites in those terms.

The other intriguing point about the 5 year charts are the peaks and valleys. The peaks in Ancestry's traffic are probably the release of large new databases - for instance, the 1900, 1910, 1920 and 1930 census, the passenger list databases, the military databases, etc.

I wonder what caused the significant Rootsweb traffic increase in late 2005. It can't be just new Christmas computers because the jump doesn't appear in other years.

My conclusion from all of this is that Ancestry has lost significant traffic over the past five years. That probably translates into reduced market share and advertising rates. The Rootsweb to Ancestry domain migration makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? It makes me wonder when www.Genealogy.com and www.MyFamily.com are going to be brought into the www.Ancestry.com domain also.


John said...

Another possible factor is that a sizable portion of the traffic were on the boards. I know I have seen several surname boards where the last message was a year or two previous.

Jasia said...

Well aren't you the clever one to dig all this up and share it with us! Thanks Randy!

I suspect that with each free alternative database source that comes online Ancestry loses subscribers. Ancestry is primarily helpful to those doing a lot of U.S. research like yourself. The whole Ellis Island crowd of researchers can only really use Ancestry in a limited capacity (2 or 3 generations back), and mostly in search of clues to help us get "over the pond". Once the FHC puts their index of records from countries around the world online... sell your stock in Ancestry-quick! ;-)

Terry Thornton said...

Randy, Does this not also put a new spin on the "snatch and grab" techniques they tried on all of the bloggers last year? That was a gutsy move --- taking copyrighted data without asking and then selling it to new paying customers! If the chart indeed reflects a downward trend of major import in paying customers, last year's fiasco stinks even more.
Thanks for sharing all of this.

jms said...

I'm inclined to agree with John's comment.

A few years ago I checked a number of surname message boards daily (both RW & Genealogy.com) and found enough relevant messages to make that effort worthwhile. Now it is unusual for me to find more than a message a month on the dozen or so I bother to check that often. So, my page views of message boards are down over 90%.

When MyFamily sites were free, I had two, belonged to half a dozen more, checked a couple daily and the rest once a week. Now I belong to one, go there when something is posted, maybe 4 or 5 times a year. So my usage of MyFamily is also down over 90%.

As USGenWeb sites (probably including my county) move off Ancestry's servers, my usage of Ancestry's sites will decline even more.

As for Jasia's comment about selling stock--I had some from when I worked for Ancestry a decade ago. It was redeemed (at a nice profit), along with most other stock holdings as part of the Spectrum deal. So most of the people who held Ancestry stock over the past decade of growth effectively sold it at the end of last year and the new owners will be left holding the bag.


Being a statistic geek, I naturally loved all this nifty information you have dug up for us.

I have often spoken and written about my own love/hate affair with Ancestry. While I deplore Ancestry’s heavy-handed tactics, (their pitch to give back to the genealogical community by voluntarily indexing their records is chutzpah at its finest) I still can’t bring myself to turn my back on the website.

Ancestry is like that Adonis looking fellow your mother always warned you about – you know you shouldn’t succumb to his charms. You remember what your mama said, but somehow when you are with him you tend to throw caution to the wind until eventually he leaves you without a backward glance (probably because your subscription has run out) and then you remember all those words of warning.

Fortunately, or unfortunately for me, all but one branch of my family made it to the US by the end of the 18th century – which means Ancestry has all those lovely little records, family histories, newspaper articles that relate to the American experience. If there was a major event happening in the US, somebody with my bloodline seems to have been there. I ask you, what’s a weak-kneed girl to do?

Ohio Terry

Jordan McCollum said...

I agree with your analysis. Most people would look at these charts and proclaim that genealogy websites are dead; thank you for taking a serious look at these statistics and their meanings.

Compete.com provides absolute counts rather than relative measures, but their free data only goes back for a year. They show Ancestry as being down 8% YOY, but Rootsweb is up 6%: http://siteanalytics.compete.com/ancestry.com+rootsweb.com+?metric=uv

Daily "attention" stats show that Ancestry's attention is up 43% YOY (though the others are down).

I tend to trust Compete more than Alexa, which relies on information collected from a toolbar in users' browsers. Compete collects data from ISPs, panels, a toolbar and more.